“The limit that confronts us now is the great void between us and the stars, but now we can transcend it.” – Stephen Hawking
This afternoon, a press conference at One World Observatory in New York solidified intent to pursue interstellar exploration.”Intent” is far too modest – stitch together Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, Mark Zuckerberg and Stephen Hawking’s visionary spark – voila, Breakthrough Starshot is off and running. I can tell you what Starshot is, but won’t claim to understand the science.
Starshot is a spacecraft unlike any seen before. Ponder a vessel no larger than your cell phone, load hundreds into a “mother-ship” and launch that ship into space. Next, open the hatch. Witness a transformation from chrysalis to butterfly, as each craft unfolds wafer thin “sails”. Blink in wonder as laser beams fill those sails, in less than 2 minutes 600,000 mile away traveling at one fifth the speed of light. 4.37 light years away the Alpha Centauri star system beckons – that’s 40 trillion kilometers, a 30,000 year journey using conventional technology. Starshot nanobots could do it in 2o.
With projected launch capabilities in 20 years, plus another 20 across the cosmos, Alpha Centauri won’t be realized in my lifetime. Much as I’d like to lay eyes on Alpha Centauri, today is one of my happiest days. My children will realize Apha Centauri and beyond, my grandchildren might set foot on a planet or moon in Alpha Centauri’s solar system. I know in my heart anything is possible.
The announcement coincides with the 55th anniversary of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin’s Vostok 1 mission in 1961. ( Yuri Milner was named in honour of Gargarin) –
“The human story is one of great leaps,” Milner said in a statement. “Fifty-five years ago today, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Today, we are preparing for the next great leap — to the stars.”