Hawking keen to boldy go as Virgin unveil six-seater space plane, with prices at cool £174,500 a passenger
Sir Richard Branson yesterday revealed his Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo - the craft which will power the next phase of the company's race to launch commercial space flights.
Star guest at the launch was Professor Stephen Hawking, who claimed that the world is "entering a new space age" as he helped to unveil the spacecraft.
The new space plane was made public just over a year since a mid-air 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, 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.
"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."
Seats on the spacecraft, which can carry six passengers, will cost $250,000 - around £174,500. More than 700 people are said to have signed up so far.
As Sir Richard revealed his plans, British astronaut Tim Peake released night-time footage of the UK lights blazing as the international space station orbited across northern Europe.
You can see Major Tim's video on our website at http://goo.gl/y14xnI.