It’s still not clear when Richard Branson’s private spaceship company will begin taking passengers into the heavens. More than two years after a tragic accident in the Mojave Desert that killed a Virgin Galactic pilot, the company is still in the process of getting its spacecrafts ready for commercial operations. But one thing’s for sure: When and if passengers do climb aboard, famed scientist Stephen Hawking is going to be among the first of them.
In an interview with Good Morning Britain, Hawking emphatically laid claim to his seat, saying “Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic and I said yes immediately….Since that day, I have never changed my mind.” That statement echoed comments he made last year at the rollout celebration for the spaceship that is replacing the one lost in that 2014 accident. That day, in front of hundreds of Virgin Galactic employees, space travel fans, and reporters, Hawking said (via a video link): “I have long been an enthusiastic supporter of human spaceflight, and in particular, efforts aimed at making this enormous human achievement more accessible. The first private astronauts will be pioneers. The first flights are expensive. But over time, I hope that spaceflight will become within the reach of far more of the Earth’s population.”