Reaching for the stars – 25 trillion miles away!
Alpha Centauri, one of the nearest stars is 25 trillion miles away. It would take 30,000 years to get there with today’s fastest spacecraft. That’s so far and too long making the effort impossible and useless.
Well, things are about to be changed! The renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist Yuri Borisovich Milner teamed up to launch a $100 million research and development program, aiming to establish proof of concept for a ‘nanocraft’ – a fully-functional space probe at gram-scale weight – driven by a light beam.
A spacecraft like this has the potential to reach twenty percent of the speed of light – or travel 100 million miles an hour. At that speed, it could reach Alpha Centauri, our nearest star system, in around 20 years. Even the fastest conventional rocket propulsion system available today would take it 30,000 years.
On the 55th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first great leap into space for the first time in human history, April 12, 2016, Yuri Milner was joined by Stephen Hawking at New York’s One World Observatory to announce the project called Breakthrough Starshot, which will lay the foundations for humanity’s next great leap to the stars.
The main reason to launch this project is to discover if there are earth-like planets with water to sustain life. The only best way to know that is to visit close enough to photograph the planet and send it back to earth.
This new scientific initiative is committed to international collaboration, open access, and open data. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced on his Facebook post today that he will be joining the effort. The project aims to represent all of humanity as one world, stepping out into the galaxy within a generation.
Even though I love tech and science, and excited to hear this kind of new human endeavor, I sometimes wonder how are we expressing humanity by conquering stars while we still have chaos, disorder, suffering, and death in our own planet, and little is being done about it.