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Hawking reaches for the stars

The Wall Street Journal reports that "British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking will be experiencing weightlessness today onboard Zero-G Corp.'s modified Florida-based Boeing 727, during a flight that is expected to last about one hour.”

Despite suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), Hawking has made contributions to cosmology and quantum gravity, especially black holes, and has written the "runaway" popular science bestseller A Brief History of Time.

He hopes to take a sub-orbital space flight in 2009 on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Hawking believes that "getting a portion of the human race off the ground is imperative for our future as a species. . . We need to engage the entrepreneurial engine that has reduced the cost of everything from airline tickets to personal computers. . .I am hopeful that if we can engage this mass market, the cost of spaceflight will drop, and we will be able to gain access to the resources of space and also to spread humanity beyond the Earth."