Zuckerberg And Hawking Team Up To Help Launch A Space Program To Find Alien Life In Space

By Victor Thomson , Apr 19, 2016 05:00 AM EDT

The British physicist Stephen Hawking and the American founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg have teamed up with the Russian-born billionaire Yuri Milner to support a project aimed to search for life in the Universe.

As reported by Voice of America, an international team of businessmen and scientists launched last week a project they hope can answer the question whether life exists outside our planet. The team announced plans for a very ambitious space exploration program with the goal to find alien life.

Their project called Breakthrough Starshot will design and build thousands of robotic space exploration vehicles. The first goal of the project is to explore Alpha Centauri, our nearest star located at around 4.37 light years away from Earth. A spaceship part of the Starshot project will travel 20 years to get to Alpha Centauri.

The technology envisioned as part of the Breakthrough Starshot project is like something from a science fiction movie. Extremely small vehicles will be powered through space by crews on Earth using powerful laser beams. These laser powered spacecrafts would travel much farther than anything built to date.

The Russian-born billionaire Yuri Milner announced that he is funding the project with $100 million to get started. Estimates say the total cost of the Breakthrough Starshot project will be in the range from $5- to 10-billion.

Milner even showed to reporters in New York a model of the spacecraft. The so-called "nanocraft" will be composed of a "starchip" and a sail. The starchip is actually a computer chip containing photon thrusters, cameras, communication and navigation equipment and power supply. Its size is no bigger than a large postage stamp and it will cost e around the same as an iPhone.

A "mothership" would be launched on Earth's orbit to release thousands of the nanocrafts. The crews on Earth would fire laser beams on the nanocrafts' light sails, pushing them to travel at around 20 percent of light speed. 

According to Forbes, this new propulsion technology is cheap and innovative. The idea was presented by a team of scientists last year, in a white paper . The solar sail concept could combine with an advanced laser array to create a "laser sail"-based spacecraft.

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