As our billionaires have grown bigger pockets, they have grown bigger visions as well. As outworldly as it gets, our billionaires are setting their sight to an interstellar future and it starts now.
Breakthrough Initiatives, a program to search for alien signals from space is funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and backed by over two dozen scientists.
Artist’s impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri (ESO Observatory)
Under the umbrella of the Breakthrough Initiatives is Breakthrough Starshots, which has been quietly funded by Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg. This earmarked the research program for the launch of 1,000 nanoscale "Starchips" into the interstellar space.
In a speed of 100 million miles per hour, these surviving Starchips shall reach Proxima B, the recently discovered Earth-sized planet of the nearest star, in 20 years.
The nanocraft will be the size of a postage stamp but complete with cameras, communications package, navigational and autonomous AI computer programs, power supply, etc. Its propulsion system called a "Lightsail" will only be few atoms thick and few grams of weight.
But to travel in those great distance and over decades, the Starshot team has to be certain on the conditions of the Alpha Centauri system once Starchips reach the area. They have to thoroughly examine the Alpha Centauri system while the technology for the “StarChip” nanocraft is in development.
They signed a deal with European Southern Observatory to upgrade their Very Large Telescope (VLT) that will scan the Alpha Centauri system.
“For the first time in human history we can do more than just gaze at the stars,” Yuri Milner explained. “We can actually reach them.”
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