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CosmosUp | August 16, 2022

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Stephen Hawking & Yuri Milner Will Send A Spacecraft To Alpha Centauri

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Russian billionaire Yuri Milner & World-renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking teamed up in a $100 million space initiative to develop a spacecraft that would send probes to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth.

The new project is called Breakthrough Starshot, its goal is to explore our nearest star-neighbour. If all goes well, scientists could determine whether Alpha Centauri, a star system located 4.3 light years away (40 trillion kilometers) hosts an Earth-like planet capable of sustaining life.

Scientists have long thought that Alpha Centauri is a home to an Earth-like planet. We have never detected it for sure and its almost impossibile to explore the system thus the fastest spacecraft would have to spend 30,000 years to get there. So, sending a probe to Alpha Centauri in a reasonable time will be a really scientific breakthrough.

On Tuesday, at an event organized in New York, Russian billionaire and tech investor Yuri Milner together with physicist Stephen Hawking have announced this thrilling plan. The program’ idea? They proposed to deploy thousands of tiny “nanocrafts” into space, capable of reaching Alpha Centauri in just 20 years … WOW!!!

These nanocrafts are “vehicles” like the space versions of sailboats — called lightsails. They would be wafer-size, and the lasers on Earth would propel them forward, at incredible speeds, 20% the speed of light.

For the first time in human history we can actually do more than observe the stars,

Yuri Milner, said at a 12 April press conference in New York.

We can reach them.

Milner and the scientists team believe that with the rising power and falling costs of lasers, the entire process is practical within a couple of years.

Fifteen years ago, it would not have made sense to make this investment. Now we have looked at the numbers, and it does,

Milner said.

 Advocates are optimistic, citing recent advances in microelectronics and photonics.

It’s an ambitious project, but we don’t see any showstoppers, any dealbreakers, based on fundamental physics,

says Avi Loeb ~ who also advises the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, which also receives funding from Milner.

Basically, the success of this project depends on us.

Author note: If the nanocrafts reach the star system and succeeds in taking some photos, it would take about four years to get data back to Earth. So, is it worth? I don’t know, maybe not with the current technologies. On the other hand, Hawking is optimist as usual:

Today we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos because we are human and our nature is to fly,

He said.

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