A New Age in Flight

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo is a reusable, winged spacecraft designed to carry up to eight people (including two pilots) into space, and the link between Hawking and Virgin Galactic isn’t exactly new. Just last year, Hawking unveiled the name of the SpaceShipTwo craft, the VSS Unity. During a four-minute recorded video, Hawking explained that the Unity: “will help bring new meaning to our place on Earth and to our responsibilities as its stewards, and it will help us to recognize our place and our future in the cosmos — which is where I believe our ultimate destiny lies.”

Ultimately, Hawking has long been an advocate of commercial spaceflight, and to this end, he notes that he greatly admires Virgin Galactic’s role in democratizing space, specifically, he clarified his “respect for enabling more of humanity to experience the true wonder of space.”

I have said in the past ‘Look up at the stars and not down at your feet’, but I believe that ‘looking up’ will no longer be a requirement to see the universe in all its glory.In Hawking’s interview with Good Morning Britain, he focused on the importance of the unifying power of space exploration, especially in terms of bringing together governments from across the globe and inspiring future generations.

As Alan Stern, head of the New Horizons mission to Pluto, famously stated, enterprises like this are worthy for a number of reasons, but that, for him, two stick out in particular: “Beyond the obvious—that we’re creating new knowledge—we create a greater society. We do something which is, in the case of great exploration, historic. It’s something people read about, not just days and weeks later, but decades and centuries later. It makes a mark for our time of what we aspire to be, which is a greater society.”

In short, the things that we invest in (whether that is sports, or war, or science) are a direct reflection of both the values that we hold and the society that we are currently building. And as is clear from this revelation, Hawking truly believes in going where no one’s gone before—or at least, only a very few people.