What's a billionaire to do when his private spaceflight dreams tragically and literally crash? Richard Branson, founder of private space tourism and satellite launch company Virgin Galactic, is looking to regain lost momentum, and fulfill the company's promise to move forward. To that end, they're enlisting the help of Professor Stephen Hawking. In February, if Hawking is feeling well enough, he'll unveil Virgin Galactic's new spaceship.
Professor Stephen Hawking is one of the people I admire most in the world, an undisputed genius who has opened our eyes to the wonders of the universe, while also happening to be a kind and delightful man. He is the only person I have given a free ticket with Virgin Galactic, and he is signed up to fly as a Future Astronaut with us if his health permits it.
Professor Hawking has often spoken of his admiration for what Virgin Galactic is doing to democratise space, previously sharing his “respect for enabling more of humanity to experience the true wonder of space”. He wrote on Facebook last year: “I have said in the past ‘Look up at the stars and not down at your feet’, but I believe that ‘looking up’ will no longer be a requirement to see the universe in all its glory.”
It is, at least, an optimistic path forward. Let’s hope the technology rises to the challenge.
Listen to Hawking talk to Virgin Galactic’s future astronauts below: