A former British Olympian diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease is to blast off on Virgin Galactic’s first space tourism flight in August.

Jon Goodwin, 80, from Newcastle will become a space visitor 18 years after buying his $250,000 (£194,500) ticket.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014 and hopes his latest out-of-this-world adventure will inspire others to do “abnormal things.”

Mr Goodwin competed as a canoeist in the 1972 Games in Munich and holds multiple records for canoeing expeditions.

The father-of-two said he will be the first Olympian to become an astronaut when the VSS Unity takes off from New Mexico in the USA for a 90-minute trip into space on August 10.

Why Jon Goodwin will be heading to space after first buying the $250,000 ticket 18 years ago

On Sunday (July 30), he told BBC Breakfast it feels “completely surreal” to finally be on the verge of the voyage he booked in 2005.

He said he is “extremely excited” for what will be the “icing on the cake” after a life of doing “exciting things”.

“I always believed it would happen, a lot of people didn’t,” Mr Goodwin said.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: How much would you pay to fly to space onboard Virgin Galactic's tourism flights?How much would you pay to fly to space onboard Virgin Galactic's tourism flights? (Image: Getty)

“I had a lot of faith in the project and went out to the Mojave Desert (in California) a number of times, watched the development, which was really interesting. So, I watched it right from the beginning.”

Speaking about his Parkinson’s diagnosis, he said: “I hope it instils (sic) other people to do what I’m doing, that it doesn’t stop them from doing abnormal things. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Since his diagnosis, Mr Goodwin has climbed up Mount Kilimanjaro and cycled back down.

Virgin Galactic said he will be only the second person diagnosed with Parkinson’s to fly to space.

Those on board will enter sub-orbital space, where they will briefly experience weightlessness and be able to take in extraordinary views of the planet.

He added: “I’m very thankful to Virgin Galactic because when I got Parkinson’s I thought they were going to tell me that I couldn’t do it, but they’ve never consulted me about it, they’ve just assumed I’m fit enough to do it.

@virgingalactic Wait for it! 🚀 You know you’re in space when the pilots say….. #thisissocool #virgingalactic #space #foryou ♬ original sound - VirginGalactic

“My wife’s always fully supportive of whatever I want to do. We have two boys and they’re both coming out to see me whizz into space.

“The two boys think it’s what Dad does, it’s not unusual for them.”

On signing up for the mission in 2005, he explained: “I just saw it… When it came up I was the fourth person to pick up the phone and sign up; there’s now 700 following behind me.

“It was just to have the opportunity to do something very few other people have done – more people have climbed Everest than have gone into space.

“So, I do hesitate on certain things, inasmuch as there’s no toilet on this rocket ship, I have to go back to wearing nappies which I can’t remember the last time I had a nappy on.”

Who else will be visiting space on Virgin Galactic’s first tourism flight?

Keisha Schahaff, 46, and her 18-year-old daughter, Anastatia Mayers, will join Mr Goodwin on the trip, becoming the first mother and daughter to go into space, after winning a coveted place in a prize draw.

The trip will raise funds for Space For Humanity, a non-profit group which seeks to send ordinary citizens into space to give them a “grander perspective” on the challenges facing Earth.