Famed cosmologist and physicist Stephen Hawking will travel aboard Virgin Galactic into outer space.
The news was revealed when he was interviewed on Good Morning Britain, where he stated that Richard Branson, who founded the Virgin Group, offered to take him to space for free, and he “said yes immediately.” At 75, he will be the second-oldest person to ever travel to space, after Buzz Aldrin, who was 77 at the time of his historic trip to the moon. In addition, he will be the very first person with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) to travel to space. In most cases of ALS, affected people do not live within five years of the disease’s beginning. However, Hawking was diagnosed at 21, and although he is paralyzed, he is completely alive and well 50 years later. He communicates using a cheek muscle attached to a communication device.
In 2014, Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft, the VSS Enterprise, suffered an accident in the Mojave Desert that killed one of their pilots and injured another. Since then, they have been working to develop safer and better commercial spacecraft and hope to bring people to space via commercial flights in the near future. The date on which Hawking will go to space is currently unknown.
In the interview, he compared the joy of being able to go to space to the joy his three children bring him. He also discussed President Donald Trump, who he had called a demagogue on a previous occasion. Although America “is still a place I like and admire in many ways, I fear that I may not be welcome,” he said. He also believes that Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, should be replaced. “Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent,” he said. Trump has stated multiple times that he thinks climate change is a hoax.
Hawking’s trip to space won’t be his first time in a low-gravity environment. In 2007, he went on a zero-gravity flight on a Boeing 727 jet, which he greatly enjoyed, and he is excited to experience it again. “I thought no one would take me,” Hawking said of finally having the ability to achieve his lifelong dream.