Stargazing

Stephen Hawking plans space travel on Richard Branson’s tab, maybe with a new ‘voice’

In 2007, Stephen Hawking took a spin in zero gravity. Now he’s accepted an invitation to travel to space aboard Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceliner.
In 2007, Stephen Hawking took a spin in zero gravity. Now he’s accepted an invitation to travel to space aboard Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceliner. Facebook video screen grab

Stephen Hawking is heading into space.

The renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist revealed last week that he has accepted an invitation to take a free ride into space aboard Richard Branson’s commercial spaceline, Virgin Galactic.

The 75-year-old scientist said he never expected to have that experience.

“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 the televised interview.

“I thought no one would take me, but Richard Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic, and I said yes immediately.”

According to The Wrap, Branson, a longtime fan of Hawking’s, extended the invitation two years ago.

“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,” Branson said at the time.

“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.”

Hawking was 21 when he was diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that paralyzed him over the years. His health had always been a consideration for his journey into space, still years away. Virgin Galactic has not set a start date for its commercial “space tourism” flights.

According to science and technology website Futurism, Hawking would be the first person with ALS to go into space. He wouldn’t be the oldest person in space, though; John Glenn went into space at age 77.

“I have already completed a zero-gravity flight, which allowed me to float, weightless,” Hawking said in his TV interview.

Hawking took that flight in 2007 aboard a specially modified Boeing 727-200 aircraft called G-FORCE ONE.

After more than 40 years of being immobile and bound by a wheelchair, he floated free — with four doctors and two nurses on hand in case he needed help.

“It was amazing. The zero-G part was wonderful. I could have gone on and on. Space, here I come,” he said on “Good Morning Britain.”

Maybe, when the day comes, he’ll travel into space with a new voice?

Hawking has used the same computerized voice for more than 30 years. In a new NSFW video made for the UK charity Comic Relief, Hawking auditioned a slew of celebrities who wanted to be his new “voice.”

Miss Piggy auditioned.

It was just for fun.

Liam Neeson tried out by performing monologue from his movie “Taken.”

“Listen to my voice,” Neeson said in his pitch. “It’s deep, it’s sexy, it’s got a tinge of … physics.”

Hawking was unimpressed, as he was with cantankerous chef Gordon Ramsay’s so-called “soothing, calm voice” and Anna Kendrick’s “intelligent ... kind of” sound.

Lin-Manuel Miranda rapped. Andrew Lloyd Webber sang a Hawking-themed version of the hit song “Memory” from “Cats.”

“I feel like I’m the best man for the job. The reason being, I’ve been to space before,” came the pitch from “Star Wars” star John Boyega.

Hawking snarked at all but one.

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