While there is a huge gap distancing us from the stars, it is high time someone launched a genuinely transcending project that would be brave and ambitious at a time. This proves human thrive to fly and explore the unknown. Photographing Alpha Centauri will show whether humans will ever be able to live there. That is what the new “Breakthrough Starshot” project aims at.
Mark Zuckerberg’s initiative on sending tiny space probes to explore stars is rather impressive not only because of the staggering $100 million cost. The idea is to use ground-based laser light beamers from Earth that would enable the travel of ultralight nanocrafts to the nearest at about 100 million miles per hour. This is another global ambition recently announced by Facebook founder in cooperation with the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
The “Breakthrough Starshot” is a brave new project aiming to build tiny space probes ‘nanocrafts’ capable of traveling at approximately 20 percent of light speed by means of laser beams retrieved from Earth. The explorers will try to save fuel and send nanocrafts into space for exploration by investigating light weight probes. Featuring the project, Zuckerberg states: “Our nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is 4.3 light-years or about 25 trillion miles away. Even with today’s fastest spacecraft, it would take 30,000 years to get there.” The maximum speed will enable the nanocrafts reaching the Alpha Centauri star system in two decades. Then, according to Zuckerberg, the nanocrafts will explore Goldilocks Zone planets holding water in their liquid condition, which is neither cold nor hot, and therefore understand whether it is possible to maintain life on the planet (Breakthrough Initiatives 1). Tiny spacecraft (holding photon thrusters, cameras, and communication and navigation equipment) will explore Alpha Centauri the nearest star system in about 20 years (Lee 1-2).
The joint venture utilizes a postage stamp sized spacecraft to discover and explore the nuances of extraterrestrial intelligence. The project assumes not only looking at the stars, but reaching them as well. This will mark the revolutionary leap towards the stars, according to Milner. Owing to light propulsion, the spacecraft will not deploy engines or fuel. With that staggering difference, the interstellar space exploration will turn into sailing through the star system thousands of times faster than rockets.
According to Professor Stephen Hawking, the necessity of the project is crucial while Earth is not eternal, therefore humans should somehow explore the stars. In this regard, the “Breakthrough Starshot” journey will make a rather promising start. Today, we may only guess about the outcomes of this brave new initiative. For the time being, it holds all chances of revolutionizing human perceptions about star system and the existence of alien civilizations (Cuthbertson 1-2). For now, it is anybody’s guess what the picture we will obtain in the end.
- Breakthrough Initiatives. “Are we alone?” 2016. Web. http://breakthroughinitiatives.org/AreWeAlone
- Cuthbertson, Anthony. “These tiny spaceships will hunt for alien life,” Newsweek. 2016. Web. http://europe.newsweek.com/space-starshot-starchip-aliens-yuri-milner-breakthrough-447370?rm=eu
- Lee, Seung. “Mark Zuckerberg launches $100 million initiative to send tiny space probes to explore stars,” Newsweek. 2016. Web. http://europe.newsweek.com/mark-zuckerberg-joins-100-million-initiative-send-tiny-space-probes-explore-447513?rm=eu