You know when you’ve been training impossibly hard for years and years to become an astronaut and then some jammy nerd pops his head around the corner and takes your place on the rocket? Annoying isn’t it? Well, that’s exactly what’s just happened, because Stephen Hawking – noted amateur when it comes to experience of being in space – is going into space, just because he’s mates with Richard Branson.
OK, so he’s only going on one of those mooted Virgin Galactic flights that Branson is developing – people heading up in one of them don’t actually have to do the whole “astronaut” thing. They’ve just got to be really fucking rich. Or be mates with Rick Branny, like Hawking is.
Really though, if anyone deserves to go into space for free, it’s probably Stephen, isn’t it? Like, he’s the biggest space dork on the planet – God help you if you get stuck next to him at a dinner party, because he does not shut up about space. Just let him bloody go there – something’s got to make him zip it, no?
Also, he’s done the whole weightlessness thing before, when he went up in one of those special planes that allow you to experience zero-gravity, back in 2007. So he ain’t no amateur, OK, bozo?
Here he is being interviewed by some sort of primordial blob, which has presumably made the opposite journey that Stephen will be taking. He talks about the proposed space flight at around 9.15:
Passengers on Virgin Galactic have to pay $250,000 for a ticket, which, to be fair, is about the same as London to Liverpool if you don’t pre-book. A trip involves rocketing up in an eight-seated spacecraft to an altitude of 50,000ft, at three times the speed of sound – thankfully there are no speed cameras in the sky. Then, once you’re in space, you’ll experience weight-loss, cop the earth from above, have a bit of a fly about and potentially join the 76-mile-high club, before returning to earth.
Unfortunately you’ll only have a few minutes up in space, which is a shame, but really, any longer listening to Hawks bang on about planets and black holes, and you’ll want to get back to Wetherspoon’s ASAP.
Supposedly, around 700 people have signed up so far, and Branson is saying that he wants the first flight to depart by the end of 2017. Of course, nothing has been properly tested and this sounds like the most terrifyingly unstable thing in the history of travel, but hey, each to their own. I’ll stick to my sick micro-scooter with flames on the handle-bars, thank you very much.