WASHINGTON — Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned Cambridge University professor of theoretical physics, will fly aboard The Zero-G Experience aircraft April 26 to experience brief periods of weightlessness, Zero Gravity Corp. announced March 1.
The Hawking flight has been organized, in part, as a benefit. Several charities and the X Prize Foundation have received two seats to auction off for passengers who want to fly with Hawking.
This Zero-G flight will be conducted especially for Hawking , Peter Diamandis, chief executive and chairman of Zero-G, said in a telephone interview March 1. Zero-G is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that their equipment and procedures are compliant with accommodating disabled individuals.
“I am thankful to Zero Gravity Corporation for making this experience available to the general public, especially for disabled individuals,” Hawking said in a prepared statement.
After a training session, Hawking, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, will board the modified Boeing 727-200 airplane using his wheelchair. He will be accompanied by three physicians, to monitor his health, and three “coaches,” to assist him as he maneuvers through the plane, Diamandis said. When the plane reaches 6,705.6 meters, Hawking will be taken out of his chair and laid on the cushioned-floor as the plane undergoes a parabolic maneuver. He will then be helped to the floor by the coaches and examined by his doctors after the first parabolic maneuver. With their approval — and Hawking’s — more parabolic maneuvers will be conducted.
“As someone who has studied gravity and black holes all of my life, I am excited to experience, first hand, weightlessness and a zero-gravity environment,” Hawking said.