Richard Branson invited the renowned physicist to voyage into space on a Virgin Galactic trip. The trip will be a major milestone in space tourism.
A dream come true:
Eager customers for Virgin Galactic suborbital flights will be joined by World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking.
On Monday, the physicist and cosmologist gave an interview with the British program “Good Morning Britain” where he said he’s been wanting to go to space since he experienced a weightless flight aboard a plane that flies parabolic loops to simulate zero gravity.
Hawking, who speaks with a computerized voice from his wheelchair, said: “My ambition is to fly into space. I thought no one would take me, but [Virgin founder] Richard Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic.”
For more than a decade, Virgin Galactic has been targeting to fly tourists into space aboard SpaceShipTwo. SpaceShipTwo to be lifted to 50,000 feet aboard a carrier ship, called WhiteKnightTwo, then it will be released. SpaceShipTwo will then fly into suborbital space, giving tourists a long enough time to experience five minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth.
A fatal test flight in October 2014 as well as Technical difficulties have postponed the first tourist launch date of Virgin Galactic forward indefinitely. Test flights were resumed in 2016. The wait list is a reported700 people, tickets reportedly cost $250,000.
Defying the odds:
Hawking’s condition is called ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The condition causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Hawking was diagnosed in 1963 and was expected to live two years. However, four decades later he still remains an active physicist.
Zero Gravity Corp. co-founder Peter Diamandis described in 2016 the difficulties in flying Hawking on the 2007 flight. The Federal Aviation Administration also expressed concern that he was not able-bodied enough to participate, despite being certified by multiple doctors to fly.
Diamandis later wrote: “To maximize the chance of a safe flight, we set up an emergency room onboard G-FORCE ONE and supported Professor Hawking with four physicians and two nurses accompanying him on the trip (monitoring heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, etc.)”
Diamandis hoped to fly two 30-second weightless arcs with Hawking on board, but the physicist did so well that he experienced eight.
Diamandis noted: “On the heels of this successful flight with Hawking showing a disabled individual could safely fly in Zero G, I was very proud that we next had the amazing opportunity to fly six wheelchair-bound teenagers into zero gravity. These were kids who had never walked a day in their lives, yet they got to soar like Superman on their flight.”