Stephen Hawking has made a huge announcement today on his Facebook page about the future of space travel. At World One Observatory in New York City, Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking, with the help of Mark Zuckerberg who has joined the board of the initiative called Breakthrough Starshot, have launched a mission to the stars.
What does this mean? Quite literally we are going to send a craft to the stars. Not just any craft but a super tiny baby craft; a ‘nanocraft’ which is being developed by Breakthrough Starshot. The initiative, which also sounds like a super villainous plot to create a death ray, aims to send the gram-scale space probe to Alpha Centauri within the next generation. They plan on doing this by having the tiny robot BE PUSHED BY A LASER TO NEARLY TWENTY PERCENT THE SPEED OF LIGHT! The goal is to travel to our nearest star outside of our own and collect images of nearby planets. This is essentially a search for life on other planets by getting as close as we can within the lifespan of a human life.
Albert Einstein once imagined riding on a light beam, and his thought experiment led him to the theory of special relativity. A little over a century later, we have the chance to attain a significant fraction of that speed: 100 million miles an hour. Only by going that fast can we reach the stars on the time-scale of a human life. -SH
This project, without a doubt, pushes the boundaries of what we once thought was possible. I hope this is something we can achieve within our lifetime and receive stunning images of other worlds outside of our solar system. It’s only the beginning but I have no doubt that with the great minds behind it, we will see this happen.