Cuckfield astronaut’s ‘mind blowing’ meeting with Professor Stephen Hawking

editorial image

A Future Astronaut from Cuckfield was one of just 12 select few who attended a ‘mind blowing’ meeting with Professor Stephen Hawking.

David Spear, 58, who has a seat booked on a Virgin Galactic commercial flight into space, was quick off the mark to sign up for an ‘astonishing’ trip to Cambridge University with fellow Future Astronauts from around the world.

As well as being given an ‘astonishing’ tour of the university grounds and its resources, the medical practitioner received an inspiring speech from the world-famous scientist who also has a seat booked on a galactic flight.

“He gave a speech he had especially written for us which was mind blowing,” Mr Spear said.

“He predicted the future of mankind is in jeopardy because population is growing exponentially, we are using resources exponentially and if we don’t get into space, mankind as a species may not make it.

“He ended by saying, when people ask ‘why are you doing it?’, tell them it’s for the good of man kind and Professor Stephen Hawking agrees.

“We were astonished.”

On arriving at the university on September 11, they were treated to a tour around the Institute of Astronomy and shown the telescopes responsible for many of the discoveries of the 19th and 20th century.

For lunch, they went to Magdalene College where they met Professor Hawking.

“We waited nervously like school children waiting for the head teacher,” said Mr Spear.

“First Professor Stephen Hawking’s care team brought him in.

“We were asked to introduce ourselves individually.

“I explained my story - I saw the first man going into space when I was five and ever since then I’ve been hooked on the whole idea.”

After, professional photos were taken, then Professor Hawking left and the group were taken to the library where the curator of scientific manuscripts laid out a series of documents including some Isaac Newton’s notebooks from 1684.

“It was just incredible,” said Mr Spear. “We saw his working on the human eye. He wondered how colour was achieved so he stuck a wooden needle in the back of his eye to see what it would do. He drew a diagram of the experiment.”

He continued: “And just when we didn’t think it could get any better, we looked at Charles Darwin’s letters and sketches on the origin or species, from 1840 onwards. Some of these scraps of notes survived and his children had used the reverse side to do sketches of soldiers and horses.”

Virgin Galactic, founded by Sir Richard Branson, aims to become the spaceline for Earth; democratizing access to space for the benefit of life on Earth.

There are 700 people from around the world who are registered Future Astronauts.

They will be the first humans ever to fly into space on commercial flights.

Each astronaut will take part in pre-flight training onsite at Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.

Mr Spear is available to provide talks on space missions. Email him at