Home >Science >Health >Nasa remembers Stephen Hawking as a ‘long time friend’

Washington: Stephen Hawking was a brilliant cosmologist, who inspired generations around the world, making some of the most complicated physics of our time accessible to the masses, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) said in honour of the space agency’s ‘long time friend’.

Hawking, known for his work on black holes and relativity, died peacefully on Wednesday in his home near Cambridge University in the UK. He was 76.

“The world lost a giant among men, whose impact cannot be overstated. Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Stephen Hawking," acting Nasa administrator Robert Lightfoot said. “Along with groundbreaking and inspiring work came another attribute that made Stephen a hero not just to younger generations, but also to his peers," Lightfoot said. “A longtime friend to Nasa, Stephen was a passionate communicator who wanted to share the excitement of discovery with all," he said. “His loss is felt around the world by all he inspired with his work and his personal story of perseverance," he added.

Hawking’s best known work found that black holes should glow, emitting what is now known as Hawking radiation. Hawking’s theories have unlocked a universe of possibilities that Nasa and the world are exploring today. Hawking suffered from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which is usually fatal within a few years. He was diagnosed in 1963, when he was 21, and doctors initially only gave him a few years to live.

However, he went on to study at Cambridge and became one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein. “Although humanity has lost one of the most prominent cosmologists and astrophysicists of our time, his work and vision will last forever," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate at Nasa headquarters in Washington. “His ability to communicate to the general public about the importance to study the universe and move science forward is a legacy that will endure to achieve greater heights to explore the solar system and beyond," Zurbuchen said.

In 2007, Hawking took his first flight in microgravity from Nasa’s Kennedy Spaceflight Center. On 21 April 2008, Hawking and his daughter Lucy delivered a lecture as part of Nasa’s 50th anniversary. Speaking of the importance of human spaceflight, Hawking said, “If the human race is to continue for another million years, we will have to boldly go where no one has gone before." Astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata aboard the International Space Station spoke with Hawking during their 2014 mission.

A year later, he made a video congratulating the New Horizons team for their successful flyby of Pluto. “We explore because we are human, and we want to know," he said in the video. The British Royal Society awarded Hawking its prestigious Copley Medal on 30 November 2006, for his contributions to theoretical physics and theoretical cosmology.

The silver gilt medal flew on space shuttle Discovery’s July 2006 mission to the International Space Station, at the initiative of crew member Piers Sellers, a native of Britain. “Thanks to his monumental contributions, the pioneer in all of us is ever the closer to reaching new destinations beyond our planet," said Nasa.

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