Stephen Hawking Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg to cooperate in Starshot project to send a probe to Alpha Centauri.
Russian businessman Yury Milner joined forces with Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg to launch the Breakthrough Starshot project, aiming to send a tiny robot to Alpha Centauri in the next 20 years.
The announcement comes on the day of the 55th anniversary of the first manned space flight.
The joint initiative by the well-known Russian Internet investor, the English physicist and the American Facebook co-founder will reportedly cost $100 million.
The automated probe is being sent to Alpha Centauri, and is expected to reach it in 20 years. Called a "nanocraft" due to only weighing a gram, it will be sent 25 trillion miles – or 4.37 light years – by beam of light.
The fastest currently existing spacecraft would take some 30,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri.
Pushed by multiple lasers combined into a single powerful beam, the nanocraft will be able to reach a speed of 20 percent of the speed of light. This means that it will be able to reach Pluto, for example, in a few days, instead of the eight and a half years it took NASA's New Horizons probe.
The "interstellar sail boat," as the Russian billionaire called it, "could capture images of possible planets and other scientific data and send it back home in a beam of light."
"Without new methods of propulsion, we simply cannot get very far," Stephen Hawking said at the press-event, calling the nanocraft "the most pragmatic technology available."