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Stephen Hawking, Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri Milner Launch $100M Space Project Called Breakthrough Starshot

Apr 14, 2016 05:24 AM EDT
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New Space Exploration Initiative 'Breakthrough Starshot' Announcement
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 12: (L-R) Professor Stephen Hawking, Theoretical physicist and Mathematician Freeman Dyson, Ann Druyan, Theoretical Physicist Avi Loeb, Dr. Mae Jemison and Dr. Pete Worden attend the New Space Exploration Initiative 'Breakthrough Starshot' Announcement at One World Observatory on April 12, 2016 in New York City.
(Photo : Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Stephen Hawking amazed the community once again. Together with esteemed colleagues, he recently launched a $100-million space exploration project called Breakthrough Starshot, which aims to reach the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, in a span of 20 years.

During the formal launch last April 12, Stephen Hawking, together with the Russian millionaire, scientist and philanthropist Yuri Milner, discussed what Breakthrough Starshot was all about.

In a report by Space.com, Yuri Milner, Breakthrough Initiative and DST Global Founder, said that their project "is a program of research and innovation exploring the questions of life in the universe." He said exploring the universe doesn't mean just the extraterrestrials, it also involves going to outer space to benefit the human race.

Hawking, on the other hand, said that they are transcending limits with Breakthrough Starshot. Hawking said, "I believe what makes us unique is transcending our limits...I lost my voice but I can still speak, thanks to my voice synthesizer. How do we transcend this limit? With our minds and our machines."

Hawking believes that the great divide between Earth and the nearest star system can be transcended by men, and that's what Breakthrough Starshot aims to achieve. He said that Alpha Centauri could be reached using light beams, light sails and the proposed smallest and lightest spacecraft ever built -- a nanocraft called Starchip. The said spacecraft, which is maller than an iPhone, is supposed to reach the nearest star system by traveling for 20 years.

According to New York Times, the Alpha Centauri is 4.37 light-years away from Earth. They said that Milner recognizes the fact that it will take more than his lifetime to prepare the spacecraft as well as its lift-off and return to Earth. The philanthropist said he is content to just witness the take-off of the spacecraft. They also estimated that it might take $5 to $10 billion to complete the project.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, along with Hawking and Milner, will act as the board of directors for Breakthrough Starshot. Pete Worden, NASA's former director of Ames Research Center, will lead the project.

"Today, we commit to this next great cosmos. Because we are human, and our nature is to fly," Hawking said.

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