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Stephen Hawking, Mark Zuckerberg, and Yuri Miler are reaching far into the unknown with Starshot, at least, that’s what they’re planning. The trio is working on a new project that will revolutionize both the way in which we explore space, but also the way in which we see Alpha Centauri, our neighboring solar system. The ultimate purpose of the Starshot project is to find life in the known Universe.
The idea on which the project is based was considered before, but for a Mars spacecraft. After analyzing the specifics, NASA engineers realized that the craft would face too many unpredictable dangers, and renounced the idea of a laser-propelled spacecraft.
But what about laser-propelled probes the size of a smartphone? Hawking believes that the phone-sized probes are not only buildable with current technology, but they might reach Alpha Centauri in one piece, sending back information that the telescopes and the present probes couldn’t.
Moreover, all of this could be accomplished in the next twenty years, making Hawking’s dream a possibility during the lifetime of many generations. We might find signs of alien life on Alpha Centauri at the same time we step foot on Mars.
On the eve of the 55th anniversary of the pioneer flight made by Yuri Gagarin, one of the smartest humans on the planet, Stephen Hawking, social media guru, Mark Zuckerberg, and one of the world’s richest individuals, Yuri Milner, announced that the Starshot project was officially launched.
The first and main investor of the project is Miller, who brought $100 million into the development of Hawking’s technology. With this, and additional funds, a team of researchers will try to build small probes that will be sent to the nearest solar system to gather any data that may show traces of other life forms.
The probes will be equipped with photon thrusters, cameras, communication and navigation equipment, and a power supply. They will fly with the aid of a unique propeller targeted by Earth-bound lasers. The scientists are using laser propulsion systems because laser beams disintegrate slower in space, giving a more powerful boost to the crafts.
According to a professor pf physics at Harvard University, Abraham Loeb:
“This method we’re talking about was conceived as soon as the laser was invented. The problem back then was that people thought that they needed to take humans along.”
He continues by saying that
“Just to give you an example, to get to Pluto it would take three days instead of the 9 years it took New Horizons to get there. If we launch at a fifth of the speed of light, it’ll get there the same week.”
Humankind is reaching far into the unknown with Starshot. And Seth MacFarlane narrated our long, scientific journey perfectly in the video below.
Image source: Wikimedia