Stephen Hawking Spearheads Effort to Find Alien Life
Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is teaming with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and other physicists including Freeman Dyson, Ann Druyan, Avi Loeb, and Mae Jemison in a $100 million attempt to find intelligent life in outer space.
The initiative, known as the Breakthrough Starshot Project, is based around the concept of sending small laser-powered spacecraft to the Alpha Centauri star system.
The crafts, each of which would weigh less than an ounce, would be made up of a probe system known as a StarChip and be propelled by a laser device dubbed a Lightsail. The stamp-sized nanocraft would travel at 20% the speed speed of light, traversing the 25 trillion miles to Alpha Centauri in approximately twenty years.
Speaking about the project, Hawking spoke of the importance of the mission, saying:
“The limit that confronts us now is the great void between us and the stars, but now we can transcend it. With light beams, light sails, and the lightest space craft ever built, we can launch a mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation. Today, we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos.”
The famed scientist was less optimistic about the actual odds of the project locating alien life, saying “the probability is low” of such a finding.
While a majority of the discussion understandably dealt with space, Hawking did briefly come down to Earth in order to make a quip about politics.
When asked what alien life might look like, Hawking joked, “Judging from the election campaign, definitely not us.”