As news of Hawking’s death spread online, NASA posted a clip from a 2014 interview between Hawking and astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata, who were aboard the International Space Station, and it captures the kind of wonder that even after decades of scientific discovery that Hawking still felt.
Having experienced floating in microgravity in 2007, Hawking compared it to becoming a superhero.
“For me, this was true freedom,” Hawking told them. “People who know me well say that my smile was the biggest they’d ever seen. I was Superman for those few minutes. I can only imagine what it’s like for you, Rick and Koichi, to fly like Superman for six months.”
Remembering Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist and ambassador of science. His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we & the world are exploring. May you keep flying like superman in microgravity, as you said to astronauts on @Space_Station in 2014 pic.twitter.com/FeR4fd2zZ5— NASA (@NASA) March 14, 2018
The full clip is even more illuminating as Hawking asked Mastracchio and Wakata if they could convince the Russians to let him take a ride to the International Space Station on the Soyuz. But he also feared for the future of Earth, noting that if an asteroid hit the planet that “not even Bruce Willis could save us.”
“If our species is to survive, it is imperative we voyage out into the blackness of space with a determination to colonize new worlds across the cosmos,” Hawking said.