For Immediate Release
Atheist Floating to Heavens
HUNTINGTON, West Virginia / KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida — As the number of publicly-declared atheists continues to rise in the US and Canada, a new-generation atheist author will, in his own words, "float like an angel in heaven" on Sunday, December 9, 2007 to draw attention to his unholy cause. David Mills, author of the divisive yet briskly-selling book Atheist Universe, is scheduled to become history's first avowed atheist author to fly into zero gravity.
If the mission proceeds as scheduled, Mills, 48, will fly from Kennedy Space Center aboard G-Force One, the same modified 727 space-plane that ferried renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking into weightlessness on April 26, 2007. Unlike Professor Hawking, who was rewarded for his stellar scientific achievements with a "free ride" aboard G-Force One, Mills is self-financing his own cosmic excursion. G-Force One was also previously employed by Producer Ron Howard and Tom Hanks to film weightless scenes for the movie Apollo 13.
When asked what he hoped to achieve through his expensive voyage, Mills replied, "Religious believers think they're going to float like an angel in heaven after they die. Atheists, by contrast, believe that the only life we're ever going to experience is right here and right now. So I'm floating like an angel on December 9th.
"There are still millions of atheists in our nation who feel alone and isolated. I also want to raise their awareness of the diversity of free-thought organizations that now exist for them: The Richard Dawkins Foundation, The Secular Web, The Rational Response Squad, Atheist Alliance, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, and American Atheists to name just a few." He adds, "I hope this flight boosts public visibility of the atheist movement for non-believers and believers alike and underscores that, together, we must work now on earth to resolve our conflicts, rather than storing our treasures in a nonexistent heaven."
According to Mills, who lives in Huntington, WV, "Many other atheists have certainly preceded me throughout the 45 years of manned-space flight. But I'll be proudly and openly representing the estimated 15 million atheists in the US, many of whom continue to feel underrepresented. Like it or not, there are plenty of us [atheists] out there. We're your next-door neighbors and coworkers."
Mills' book Atheist Universe ignited the explosion of atheist books in 2004-05, when it became Amazon.com's emergent and best-selling title on the subject, a sales ranking that it maintained for over two years. Since that time, however, other, better-known authors have followed with atheist volumes of their own, including Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (The End of Faith & Letter to a Christian Nation), Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great). Dawkins quotes Mills extensively in The God Delusion, describing Mills' anti-Fundamentalist writings as "admirable work." Mills' book showcases a Foreword and personal endorsement by Dorion Sagan, son of the late astronomer Carl Sagan.
Not everyone supports Mills and his floating book tour. A Baptist pastor in nearby Charleston, WV, who asked to voice an observation without identifying himself, said, "This is yet another sorry illustration of Mills' juvenile behavior and immature intellect. He uses cheap stunts and theatrics as a substitute for intellectual substance in his writings. Even if he were the first man on Mars, it wouldn't prove that one word of his book was true. We already knew that Mills' brain was weightless, so now the rest of him will be weightless too. This proves only that he's a lightweight. But the Word of God will stand forever on a solid foundation."
Mills' flight aboard G-Force One will jet steeply over the Atlantic Ocean after leaving the Kennedy Space Center. After achieving the necessary sub-orbital altitude, the G-Force craft will then execute a series of high-speed 45-degree nose-dives back toward Earth, creating the weightless condition NASA uses to train its corps of astronauts. Mills' flight entails 15 such parabolic maneuvers, simulating Zero G (or weightlessness), Lunar (1/6th) gravity, and Martian (1/3rd) gravity for approximately 30 seconds during each earthward tumble.
There are 5 such gravity-escaping aircraft on the planet. Three are owned by the governments of Russia, France and the US. Two are owned by Zero Gravity Corporation of Las Vegas, NV, from whom Mills purchased, without sponsorship, his flight into weightlessness.
When asked about personal fear or trepidation about embarking on such a roller coaster flight—described even by hard-boiled NASA astronauts as the "Vomit Comet"—Mills jokingly replied: "To me, Zero G means zero gods. In the highly unlikely event that the aircraft disintegrates before landing safely back at Kennedy, I'll be at peace. I know in my heart where I'm going . . . to the bottom of the ocean to be pilfered by squid."
# # #