Professor Hawking: Humans must colonize space to survive

Humans must establish a base on the moon and colonize Mars within the next 40 years if we're to avoid extinction from global warming or another catastrophe, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said yesterday.

"It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," Hawking said at a news conference in Hong Kong.

"Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.

"We won't find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system," he added.

Space enthusiasts said Hawking's vision is achievable.

"We're pretty sure that everything we need to live is on Mars. There's plenty of water and there's a little bit of an atmosphere," said Dr. David Robertson, director of the Center for Space Physiology and Medicine at Vanderbilt University, reports New York Daily News.

According to The Standard, English-born Hawking graciously overlooked the grammatical error and in his by-now well- known American (although some press accounts have described it as "Norwegian") accented synth-voice told the press pack of his "three very, very attractive children Robert, Lucy and Tim whom I'm very close to, even though they are now grown-up and independent."

He went on to mention that he and Lucy are collaborating on a children's book that he described as "a bit like Harry Potter and the universe, but science, not magic."

Lucy, a journalist accompanying her father on his debut Hong Kong appearance (he has been to the mai nland twice, in 1985 and 2002), then stepped forward to plug the book (and Hawking's original bestseller) as "Harry Potter meets A Brief History of Time" and to say that it was conceived as a way to explain Hawking's work to her eight- year-old son.

Professor Hawking can only talk by blinking as his muscle-wasting disease worsens.

He once used a handoperated computer to control his synthesised voice. But Britain's longest surviving sufferer of motor neurone disease, now uses a system which monitors changes in his cheek muscle as he blinks, allowing him to select words on a screen.

Professor Hawking has become increasingly frail since he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his early twenties.

In 1985 he caught pneumonia in Geneva and doctors wanted to turn off his life-support machine.

His first wife, Jane, with whom he has three children, refused and had him flown back to Britain where a tracheotomy saved his life but took away his voice, informs Daily Mail.