Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner are planning to build an Interstellar spacecraft. No really.
At the One World Observatory in New York City today, Milner and Stephen Hawking unveiled Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million research and engineering program seeking to lay the foundations for an eventual interstellar voyage.
“For the first time in human history we can do more than just gaze at the stars,” Milner said. “We can actually reach them.”
The first step of the program involves building light-propelled “nanocrafts” that can travel up to 20 percent the speed of light. At such high velocities, the robotic spacecraft would be able to pass Pluto in three days and reach our nearest neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri, just over 20 years after launch.
If this all sounds like the fantasy of an ambitious millionaire that's because it is but Milner says that he believes that the technology required is not that far away and that we could be deploying our first nanocraft within a generation.
“The Breakthrough concept is based on technology either already available or likely to be available in the near future,” Milner said. “But as with any moonshot, there are major hurdles to be solved.”