...today a 14 year old took Hawking's place during preliminary preparations for a Zero G flight tomorrow. The student , who is the same height and weight as Stephen Hawking, told reporters that every stage of the flight was re-enacted.
"On Thursday, the 65-year-old genius, who has a degenerative nerve disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, will roll his high-tech wheelchair out to a converted Boeing 727, take off from Kennedy Space Center's shuttle landing strip and be guided into position for what's basically a roller-coaster ride in the sky. During the top half of the plane's parabolic ups and downs, Hawking and his fellow fliers will be able to float in the air for about 15 to 20 seconds at a time.
It will the first time in decades that Hawking has been in the air free of his wheelchair - and that poses lots of logistical challenges: Exactly how will he get onto the plane, into his seat, then into a preparatory prone position atop a specially designed mattress? What will it feel like when his coaches and a nurse gently lift him up for a zero-G float? Where should his assistants, doctors and camera operators be placed? How close should the other fliers get?"
And where will the eighth grader be when Hawking goes into flight? In school, he says.
After the flight Hawking said "It was amazing...space here I come."
"Many people have asked me why I am taking this flight. I am doing it for many reasons," he said before the flight. "First of all, I believe that life on Earth is at an ever increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn't go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space."