In what not only sounds like, but most certainly IS the plot to several science fiction inflected horror movies, great science minds have teamed up with a billionaire philanthropist to unleash something truly special this week – a privately funded initiative to explore our nearest star system within one generation.
Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner are the scientist and the billionaire respectively, and their uncanny plan has a suitably cool-sounding name, Breakthrough Starshot. The plan, unveiled by the world’s most famous physicist and Milner earlier this week, is to spend $100 million getting probes to visit Alpha Centauri by using an array of thousands of tiny nano-crafts propelled by light sails that could allow them to travel at an eye watering 20% of the speed of light.
Even at this speed, if all goes to plan the probes would take twenty years to get near their destination, and another 4 years for their information to reach us. So keep that calendar prepped for 2040, and get your own peak at our solar neighbours.