Friday, 27 April 2007 13:13

Weightless Hawking like kid in candy store

By
Just take a peek at the glee on Hawking’s face as he enjoys what few humans have ever managed to experience: the surprisingly sublime and gravity-free sensation of weightlessness.

After years of writing about the universe, world-renowned physicist, cosmologist and best-selling author Professor Stephen Hawking has finally had the closest thing to an out-of-this-world experience most of us will ever experience – a zero G flight thanks to Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) and sponsors ‘Space Florida’ and ‘The Sharper Image’.

 

While it was obviously the first time gravity expert Hawking has ever had the chance to ‘go weightless’, there was no hiding his glee and happiness at the experience, as seen in the photo and in Hawking’s comments. He said that: “It was amazing. The zero-g part was wonderful. I could have gone on and on – space here I come!”.

 

He added that: “I recommend the experience to everyone and I hope that many will follow me and experience weightlessness. There are a few people and organizations I would like to thank. First I’d like to thank Zero Gravity Corporation, The Sharper Image and Peter Diamandis for arranging this for me. Second, I’d like to thank Space Florida and the NASA Kennedy Space Center for being my host. The Space Shuttle Landing Facility is the first step to the moon and Mars. It is very special for me, to fly into weightlessness from here.”

Image
Stephen Hawking goes weightless!
Naturally, the CEO and Co-Founder of ZERO-G, Dr Peter H. Diamandis, was thrilled to have taken Hawking for a ride, as it were. He said that: “Professor Hawking’s expression said it all - the grins of sheer joy and excitement he displayed were unmistakable and no different than the giddiness and fun that all of our flyers experience. For me personally, and for all of us at ZERO-G, it has been a complete honor and thrill to give Professor Hawking this opportunity to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams.”

 

Instead of taking the flight in his trademark wheelchair, Hawking was placed flat on his back, on the specially padded floor in the center of the large open cabin at the start of each parabola. He then floated up into the center of the cabin. ZERO-G co-founders Dr. Peter H. Diamandis (pictured right), and astronaut Byron Lichtenberg were positioned alongside of Hawking as he floated weightless (pictured left) with the assistance of nurse practitioner Nicola O’Brien, then carefully guide him slowly back down to the floor during the return to normal gravity. The onboard flight’s crew and staff included four physicians, two of which are members of Hawking’s own medical team.

 

The Hawking flight was also organized as a benefit for several charitable organizations, namely Easter Seals (www.easterseals.com); the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation (www.starlight.org); the X PRIZE Foundation (www.xprize.org) and Augie’s Quest (www.augiesquest.org). ZERO-G donated two seats aboard the Hawking flight to each group, for them to then auction off. Altogether, the charities raised $144,000, which included $75,000 raised by the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation for the two

tickets it auctioned on eBay. In addition to the flight itself, the donors and other passengers that participated also enjoyed a Space Florida-sponsored dinner and lecture by Professor Hawking at the JW Marriott in Orlando on Wednesday evening, April 25.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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