An anonymous reader writes "Well-known cosmologist Stephen Hawking is preparing for a once-in a lifetime trip. His goals are for even higher ground, but right now he's readying for an April zero gravity ride aboard NASA's 'vomit comet'. His ultimate goal is to take a ride on one of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic flights, and this is a 'test run' for that more rigorous experience. Though complex math ain't no thing for Dr. Hawking, his interests here are purely inspirational. 'Hawking says he wants to encourage public interest in spaceflight, which he believes is critical to the future of humanity. "I also want to show," he said in an e-mail interview, "that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit."'"