Virgin Galactic Launch Event Site Destroyed by Hurricane-Force Winds

By Alesandra Dubin December 11, 2009, 2:27 PM EST

Talk about timing: According to a release distributed today by Virgin Galatic, the site used to house guests of the world's first commercial manned space shuttle launch event at the Mojave Air and Spaceport on Monday has since been destroyed by hurricane-force winds.

Along with Richard Branson and spaceship designer Burt Rutan, more than 800 press people, future astronauts, and V.I.P. guests attended the event, bundling up against gale-force winds to see SpaceShipTwo move down the runway as snow fell. Hours later, local officials called an evacuation ahead of an approaching storm.

“It was absolutely incredible. The rollout of the spaceship had been fantastic and everybody was filled with terrific energy,” said Branson in the release. “We were all in the tents when the evacuation was called. Twenty minutes after the last of the 800 guests had been coached away, the main 200-foot tent literally took off.”

Gusts of up to 116 miles per hour were reported, and local residents commented that the Mojave area had not experienced such weather for more than two decades. The spaceship and its mothership were undamaged, and all guests and crew made it out safely into waiting buses.

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