"Project Starshot" is worthy of admiration for chutzpah aloneby Philip Ball / April 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
I’m usually sceptical about eye-catching space missions bankrolled by rich men and launched in the presence of Stephen Hawking. So I’m surprised to find myself intrigued by Yuri Milner’s Project Starshot. Milner is a Russian billionaire entrepreneur who founded the Breakthrough Foundation, which funds ambitious research to explore the universe and “seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth.” He is putting $100m into the project of developing a fleet of tiny spacecraft. The idea is to send them to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, and have them transmit back images and data within (some of) our lifetimes.
Alpha Centauri is 4.4 light years (about 40 trillion km) away, which means that to get there in 20 years, as Milner envisages, will require the vessels to travel at a quarter of the speed of light (up to 60,000km a second), thousands of times faster than a typical spacecraft travels in our solar system at the moment. To do this, Milner proposes that we should use light power.