A Russian billionaire has enlisted Stephen Hawking to help him launch a futuristic plan for seeking life in outer space.
Still, it’s exciting.
And as Hawking warns in a press statement:
“Earth is a lovely place, but it might not last forever”.
The limit that confronts us now is the great void between us and the stars.
Breakthrough Stars announced that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has joined its board, along with Hawking and Milner, who first met at a physics conference 30 years ago, when Zuckerberg was one year old.
Breakthrough Stars, costing a cool $100 million, aims to build an ultra-light “light sail”, carrying a nanocraft, that can be propelled by lasers and travel at 20% the speed of light. Though nothing has been overheard during the past decades, scientists, now far from being disappointed, are determined to send interstellar fact-finding probes to find alien life forms beyond our solar system.
The tiny aircraft, with ultra-thin light sails, would be accelerated to 20 percent the speed of light by ground-based lasers, boosting them to a cruise velocity of some 59,867km per second within a few minutes. Milner and Hawking, a British astrophysicist, also teamed in 2015 on a 10-year project called the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, which searches for intelligent extraterrestrial life.Instead of sending just one tiny spacecraft, the idea is to send hundreds or thousands – so many could be lost along the way, without the mission’s being useless.
The extremely ambitious space project is expected to reveal deep space secrets and allow us to take pographs of distance worlds for the very first time. The executive director will be Pete Worden, former director of NASA Ames Research Center. “The human story is one of great leaps”, he said.
“The Breakthrough concept is based on technology either already available or likely to be available in the near future”, Milner said. That means it would take around 20,000 years to send a craft like it to Alpha Centauri.”Can we literally reach the stars, and can we do it in our lifetime?”Even after it reaches Alpha Centauri, the team feels that it would take another four years for the spacecraft to collect and beam back information to the earth.