New York – A group of scientists and other luminaries involved in high-tech projects revealed a plan on Tuesday to create a fleet of tiny robots to search for alien life in Alpha Century, Earth’s nearest star system located 4.37 light-years away. At an event at the New York-based One World Observatory, Russian philanthropist and tech investor Yuri Milner announced a $100 million research on fast interstellar travel through a program called Breakthrough Starshot, which Stephen Hawkins has joined.

The research and engineering program will seek to build devices weighing less than a gram so they can travel 100 million per hour (or at 20% light speed) and capture more images of the universe in a day than are now captured during a whole year. Breakthrough Starshot is expected to launch the tiny robots within the next two decades.

Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to the Solar System. It is made up of three stars: the Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B and a small and faint red dwarf, Alpha Centauri C, that may be gravitationally bound to the other two. Credit: Wikipedia

Milner hopes this program can serve as a successful follow-up on Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million initiative he created in 2015 alongside Stephen Hawking. The Russian billionaire, who invests in Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Airbnb and Spotify, had said the goal was to begin searching for intelligent alien life.

The Starshot craft would not be launched from the ground, but they would be released from satellites. These light-beam powered robots would be designed like a butterfly with a sail on its back and the research team will include a built-in processor and a camera to capture scientific data in Alpha Centauri.

Lasers will guide the nanocraft and a laser fired from Earth will make it possible for the satellite to propel the Starshot craft into space.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be among the group’s board of directors alongside Milner and Hawking. The ambitious group clearly understand that the goals will not be met in a short period of time.

“This has really been my life’s goal to make this happen, so I can’t think of a better way to spend my last few decades,” said 66-year-old Starshot project’s leader, Pete Worden. He is the former director of NASA’s AMES research program.

The idea came out of NASA’s research

The Starshot project is part of Milner’s Breakthrough Initiative. NASA is not involved in the foundation’s activities, but Worden said the idea of the nanocraft searching for alien life in our nearest star came from the space agency. He noted that it all came out of NASA’s research, which showed him that there existed such a possibility. Worden suggested that his project welcomed NASA, the European Space Agency and the other space agencies settled worldwide.

Source: New York Times