Hawking just revealed that he’s booked a flight on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, thanks to the latter’s offer to help the renowned physicist and cosmologist make his dream of spaceflight a reality.
“My three children have brought me great joy, and I can tell you what will make me happy: to travel in space,” Hawking said in an interview on Good Morning Britain. “I have already completed a zero-gravity flight which allowed me to float, weightless. But my ultimate ambition is to fly into space. I thought no one would take me, but Richard Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic and I said yes immediately.”
Neither Hawking nor Branson have given specifics about the plan to get the researcher, who suffers from a form of ALS, into space, but as Virgin Galactic has yet to set its plan of regular commercial flights in motion, it could be a while.
The company’s SpaceShipTwo craft is designed to give passengers a taste of real spaceflight without the hassle of becoming a NASA astronaut. The ship is launched from a carrier plane at altitude, cruises out of the planet’s atmosphere where it hangs out for a few minutes as passengers enjoy the view and the feeling of weightlessness, and then descends back to Earth where it lands much like an airliner.