Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s foremost theoretical physicists and cosmologists, is getting to achieve one of his dreams. Hawking will head into space—although as of yet, the launch date is still TBD.
“I thought no one would take me, but Richard Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic, and I said yes immediately,” Hawking said in an interview with Good Morning Britain. Hawking suffers from the degenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and is largely paralyzed. In the interview, Hawking also shared that he has previously been on a zero-gravity flight, which gave him the opportunity to float. True space flight, however, is the scientist’s ultimate ambition.
Branson’s Virgin Group currently includes three companies with space bound ambitions. The Spaceship Company designs, manufactures, and tests aerospace vehicles. Virgin Galactic is the arm that focuses on human space flight. Recently, Virgin Orbit broke out from under the Virgin Galactic umbrella into its own company. Virgin Orbit is primarily for launching small satellites into orbit.
Virgin Galactic originally aimed to launch a commercial space flight in 2009, but it has had to deal with a variety of delays and problems.
If Virgin continues to have issues with making its commercial space program viable, perhaps Hawking will be able to instead jump on a SpaceX mission. Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to send two tourists around the moon next year in a weeklong “vacation.” SpaceX, like Virgin Galactic, has had its own fair share of mishaps and catastrophes as it works toward sending humans safely into space.
If all else fails, there’s still the spacecraft that Hawking developed himself. While he wouldn’t be aboard, the “Breakthrough Starshot” project would rocket towards our nearest star neighbor, Alpha Centauri. Its 20-year journey would focus on searching for signs of life in the galaxy.
H/T The Independent