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Stephen Hawking in Space

written by: •edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 10/6/2009

Stephen Hawking is blasting off into outer space. Well, actually his digitized DNA will be sent into space to promote the Archon X Prize for genomics, a $10 million prize to the first person or team who can sequence 100 genes within 10 days or less.

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    Without trying to sound too much like a sci-fi geek, Stephen Hawking, the author of 'A Brief History of Time' has been into space before, even if it was a studio in California. He was playing cards with Data in a holodeck suite in an episode of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation.' Einstein was also at the card table. But now a real part of him is going to be sent soaring towards the stars.

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    Operation Immortality

    The project is part of Operation Immortality, a new program to send the best that humanity has accomplished out into the Universe. As well as Hawking's DNA, the digital time capsule will also include messages from people all around the world, and genetic samples from top musicians, athletes, video games players and people like the good professor who have brains the size of a planet.

    Operation Immortality is being organised by NCsoft and the capsule is being loaded at OperationImmortality.com. Players of Tabula Rasa can also have their character's information downloaded and a select few will join Hawking in having their DNA stored in the capsule.

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    Stephen Hawking's genes

    800px-Barack Obama speaks to Stephen Hawking  - released into the public domain by the White House photostream Prof. Hawking would much rather have preferred to send his fully sequenced genome out into the heavens. But currently it's not possible to have a low-cost way of fully sequencing an individual's genes. The professor and his daughter Lucy who is also taking part, hope that their names will encourage more to be done to find cheaper ways of sequencing genomes in the hunt for cures and treatments for genetic disorders.

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    Archon X Prize

    It's hoped that the Archon X Prize does for genomics what the X Prize did for private space research. And that is to galvanise the best brains to come up with a solution to an incredibly difficult, but solvable problem.

    A low-cost method of sequencing genomes would be a major advance in disease diagnosis and a big step towards treating and possibly curing many genetic disorders.