Virgin Galactic is still reeling from the tragic loss of a crew member in its 2014 SpaceShipTwo crash, but it’s nearly ready to soldier on. The private spaceflight pioneer is rolling out and naming the second version of SpaceShipTwo on February 19th, roughly 15 months following the accident.
Stephen Hawking has agreed to attend the invite-only unveiling ceremony, as long as he is healthy enough to do so.
Hawking took a zero-gravity flight in 2007, despite suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) since he was 21 years old. The 73 year old has been forced to cancel recent public appearances due to health concerns.
Hawking is the only person guaranteed a free ticket on Virgin Galactic’s first flight, and could venture into space if “his health permits it,” NBC News reported.
“We are very honored that Stephen has agreed to help us unveil our new spaceship in February if he is feeling well enough,” said Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic’s billionaire founder.
“Professor Hawking has often spoken of his admiration for what Virgin Galactic is doing to democratize space,” said Branson, “previously sharing his ‘respect for enabling more of humanity to experience the true wonder of space.'”
Bertha R. Massie