Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner's Ambitious New Plan Will Take Us to Our Nearest Star

April 12, 2016 | Joanne Kennell

Stephen Hawking photo
Photo credit: Lwp Kommunikáció/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This is a very exciting time in human history!

Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, along with billionaire entrepreneur Yuri Milner, have just announced at the One World Discovery event in New York City that their mysterious new space exploration initiative, called Starshot, will improve interstellar flight in order to go further and get there faster.

How? By leaving the fuel behind. In the live media broadcast, Milner asserted that technology advancements are just over the horizon that will allow spacecrafts to lose their need for fuel, and instead use sails in space.

The new spacecraft will take advantage of microfabrication, nanotechnology, and photonics technology to create a fully-functional sail probe that is light and cheap to produce. Amazingly, when this craft is launched, after just a few minutes, it will be capable of traveling at 20 percent the speed of light, which is 1000 times faster than current spacecraft.

SEE ALSO: NASA’s Giant Space Umbrella Could Help Find Alien Life

Starshot is the latest project in Milner’s search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), which he launched in July 2015 under the title Breakthrough Initiatives. Milner, whose net worth is estimated to be $2.9 billion, has pledged $100 million towards Breakthrough Initiatives, making it the biggest hunt for alien life ever.

“In the last five years, we have discovered that planets in the habitable zone of stars are common,” the Breakthrough Initiatives’ website states.

“Based on the numbers discovered so far, there are estimated to be billions more in our galaxy alone. And there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the visible Universe. Yet we are still in the dark about life. Are we really alone? Or are there others out there? It’s one of the biggest questions. And only science can answer it.”

Hawking has warned about the dangers posed by attempting to contact intelligent extraterrestrials and that an advanced alien race or even nomadic aliens could potentially wipe out humanity by conquering and colonizing any civilization they come across.

However, at the launch of Breakthrough Initiative last year, Hawking said at a media event at the Royal Society in London, “I am here today because I believe the Breakthrough Initiatives are incredibly important. It’s time to search for life beyond Earth. The Breakthrough Initiatives are making that commitment. We are alive. We are intelligent. We must know.”

This is a very exciting time in human history.

You might also like: Scientists Want to Use Lasers to Hide From Alien Civilizations

Editor's note (April 12): The original article said the new spacecraft will travel 20 times faster than current spacecraft. 

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