Stephen Hawking 'would be proud' to fly on Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo

Professor Stephen Hawking has announced the world is "entering a new space age" as he helped to unveil the new Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo.

The new spaceplane was unveiled more than a year after a midair crash killed one pilot and left another seriously injured.

Despite the setback, Sir Richard Branson said that after some soul searching the company decided to push ahead with its vision of sending commercial passengers into space.

Prof Hawking, who suffers from the degenerative condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), confirmed that he is still hoping to take a trip into space on a Virgin Galactic rocket.

The astrophysicist, who attended the grand unveiling, said: "A man with the vision and persistence to open up space flight for ordinary, earth-bound citizens, Richard Branson made it his mission to make space flight a reality for those intrepid enough to venture beyond the boundaries of the earth's atmosphere.

"I have had ALS for over 50 years now and, while I have no fear of adventure, others do not always take the same view. If I am able to go - and if Richard will still take me, I would be very proud to fly on this spaceship.

"Space exploration has already been a great unifier - we seem able to cooperate between nations in space in a way we can only envy on earth. We are entering a new space age and I hope this will help to create a new unity."

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