breakthrough starshot

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On April 12th, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, Russian tech billionaire Yuri Milner, and a panel of other scientists and leaders in the tech community announced a joint venture called Breakthrough Starshot. The goal of this initiative, the second scientific endeavor to which Milner has donated $100 million (the first being Breakthrough Listen, an anticipated decade-long search for extraterrestrial intelligence which began last January), is to send a fleet of tiny light sails to Alpha Centauri, our closest star system.

In a 2008 talk, Hawking said that “Spreading out into space… will completely change the future of the human race, and maybe determine whether we have any future at all.” Since then, the Kepler space observatory was launched to seek planets around other stars (there are over 3200 confirmed exoplanets so far), the Curiosity rover wandered Mars, the Voyager 1 probe entered interstellar space, and the New Horizons mission flew past Pluto. Human influence has indeed continued to spread through space, but we have yet to reach the nearest star.

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