Stephen Hawking Has A Crazy Plan To Find Life On Other Planets, And It Just Might Work
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has a plan to find alien life and habitable planets in our neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri. To do it, he’s enlisted the help of billionaire investor Yuri Milner and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to form the Breakthrough Starshot project, a philanthropic initiative that seeks to launch thousands of tiny, light-propelled starcraft on a voyage to the distant stars.
The starcraft, dubbed “nanocrafts,” will be about the size of a postage stamp, and will embark upon a quest to find an Earth-like planet within the “habitable zones” of Alpha Centauri, which is some 4.37 light-years (or 25 trillion miles) away. Their goal is to reach Alpha Centauri in twenty years—quite ambitious, as it would take well over 30,000 years to reach the star system using conventional spacecraft technology.
But the nanocrafts have a distinct advantage: they don’t rely on traditional systems of propulsion, which require fuel and can’t achieve cosmically significant speeds. Instead, the craft will utilize a propulsion system called a lightsail, which should make them over a thousand times faster than any current spacecraft.
Each nanocraft will be equipped with a camera and photon thrusters, as well as navigation and communication equipment. Though it would take nearly four years for information sent from Alpha Centauri to reach Earth, Hawking and the team of investors and scientists working on the project believe that long wait will be worth it.
“Earth is a wonderful place, but it might not last forever,” Hawking said in a statement. “Sooner or later, we must look to the stars. Breakthrough Starshot is a very exciting first step on that journey.”
VIDEO: Breakthrough Starshot Simulation
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