Fly me into space, says Hawking

Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson promised yesterday to help top scientist Professor Stephen Hawking achieve his dream and fly into space. He spoke after the wheelchair-bound genius ended a BBC radio interview by calling on Virgin Galactic to help him get there.

Sir Richard with a model of Spaceship TwoVirgin were clearly taken by surprise by the broadcast and spent the next few hours scrabbling around as they decided how to respond.

But eventually, Sir Richard announced: “Obviously we would be honoured to have Stephen fly with Virgin Galactic.

“We have a great medical team and we are planning to have our Chief Medical Officer sit down with Stephen and we will do everything in our power to make his dream of going to space possible.

“But at the end of the day it will be Stephen’s decision and it goes without saying we would be delighted to have him on board”.

Professor Hawking had told the BBC that his next goal was to fly into space and said: “Maybe Richard Branson will help me.”

Branson’s company Virgin Galactic is aiming to fly its first commercial passengers on sub-orbital trips into space aboard Spaceshiptwo within two years.

Hawking, who is confined to a Dalek-like chair with motor neurone disease, said his illness had taught him not to look too far ahead but to concentrate on the present. He said: “I am not afraid of death but I am in no hurry to die.

“I have so much I still want to do. My next goal is to go into space. Maybe Richard Branson will help me.”

Earlier in the interview by John Humphries, Professor Hawking said that moving out into space was vital to save mankind.

He said: “The long term survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet. Sooner or later disasters such as an asteroid collision or a nuclear war could wipe us all out.

“But once we apread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe. There isn’t anywhere like the Earth in the solar system. For that we have to go to another star.”

He said rockets could be developed that brought matter and anti-matter together. They would annihalate each other in a flash of radiation.

“If this radiation were beamed out the back of a spaceship it would act like a rocket and could drive the spaceship nearly to the speed of light.

“With that it would be possible to reach the nearest star in six years, although it wouldn’t seem to long for those on board.”

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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