Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking warns that humans will need to go beyond the planet Earth if they are to survive as a species.
“We must continue to go into space for humanity,” Hawking told a gathering this week in Los Angeles, California. “We won’t survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet.”
Hawking, 71, has long been a proponent of space exploration.
Speaking at a 2008 ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the U.S. space agency, NASA, Hawking called for a new era in human space exploration, comparable, he said, to the European voyages to the New World more than 500 years ago.
“Spreading out into space will have an even greater effect," Hawking said. "It will completely change the future of the human race and maybe determine whether we have any future at all.”
Hawking was in Los Angeles this week for an appearance at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to see its research on slowing the progression of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Hawking has suffered from the incurable, neurodegenerative condition for 50 years.
Since 1970, Hawking has been almost completely paralyzed by ALS. Confined to a wheelchair, he uses an advanced computer synthesizer to speak.
The renowned scientist has pioneered efforts to unlock secrets of the cosmos, revolutionizing astrophysics and capturing the imagination of millions in the process. He is perhaps most well-known for his book, A Brief History of Time, which has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
Despite his disabilities, he continues to work, write and travel. At the age of 65, he was invited aboard a special zero-gravity jet to fulfill his dream of experiencing the weightlessness of a space-faring astronaut.
“It was amazing," Hawking said at the time. "The Zero-G part was wonderful, and the High-G part was no problem. I could have gone on and on. Space, here I come!”
Born in Oxford, England, in 1942, Hawking studied at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He became a math professor at Cambridge and held that post for more than 30 years. In 2009, he left to head the Cambridge University Center for Theoretical Physics.