Hawking experiences zero-gravity

April 27, 2007 at 12:18 PM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 27 (UPI) -- British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, paralyzed by Lou Gehrig's disease, experienced weightlessness on a stunt flight off the coast of Florida.

The frail 65-year-old theorist, who has been in a wheelchair for about four decades, spun twice through the air Thursday during each of the 25-second spells of zero gravity on a specially equipped Boeing 727, The Washington Post reported.

"It was amazing. ... I could have gone on and on. Space, here I come," Hawking said afterward through a special computer device.

Hawking has said he hopes to fly into space in 2009 on a plane being developed by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, the newspaper said. He has often said the future of mankind lies in space.

"Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers," Hawking said in a statement. "I think the human race has no future if it doesn't go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space."

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