Project Starshot Will Takes Us to Alpha Centauri in 20 Years
There is one particular question which has boggled people’s minds for a very long time. Are we alone? As Arthur C. Clark famously put it in regards with this particular quarrel: “Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” Regardless, we need an answer to this question, in order to better understand the meaning of life in this seemingly infinite universe, and to properly give ourselves a meaning to our own existence.
The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute has been keeping an ear on outer space for decades now, listening for potential transmissions coming from our possible neighbors. Little besides static has ever come out of deep space so far, with the exception of the WOW! Signal. If this was a fluke or the real thing, we currently have no idea, and up until now, this technique was the best we could do in regards with this “question of questions”.
Just the other day, the famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, along with billionaire entrepreneur Yuri Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg have announced their plans for Project Starshot. Not many details are known about the project itself, but the gist of it is that a super light-weight space-probe (no larger than a postage stamp) will be designed and built, capable of achieving an astounding 20% of the speed of light; the maximum velocity allowed by the laws of the universe. Its destination will be the closest star system to our own, Alpha Centaury, situated some 4.37 light years away. That doesn’t sound so much, but given the fact just one light-second is the equivalent of an almost 300,000 kilometer distance, and that one year is comprised 31,536,000 seconds, the 4.37 ly. distance is astronomical to say the least.
Our best so far is the Voyager 1 spacecraft which is presently traveling at about 60,000 kmph and after almost 4 decades since it’s been launched from Earth, it finally reached deep space, 17 light-hours away from us. If it were headed towards Alpha Centauri, it would take it roughly 76,000 years to get there. Making it in just 20, is a technological miracle in its own right.
If Project Starshot will make it to fruition, a man-made object will finally be in visible sight of other planets, other than our own. At present we are able to detect planets in distant star system through various methods, either by looking at their shadows or by analyzing their gravitational pull on their parent star. Actually seeing them is impossible and is left mostly to the imagination of the people who do the scouring. This amazing news will offer us glimpses, never before seen. Sending people over there is still a bit out our reach, but given the fact that humanity was able to discover flight and send a man to the Moon in less than 70 years, is enough to give us hope of it happening much sooner than previously expected.
Below we have a short video with Yuri Milner showing some details about Project Starshot and the craft in question.