Stephen Hawking, Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri Milner announce new search for alien life

World Today

In the Glare of Alpha Centauri (Photo by NASA and Marco Lorenzi)

An Internet investor has enlisted famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to help him with a futuristic plan for seeking life in outer space.

Yuri Milner announced the $100 million Breakthrough Starshot Project Tuesday. It’s aimed at establishing the feasibility of sending a swarm of tiny spacecraft, each weighing far less than an ounce, to the Alpha Centauri star system.

Photo by NASA and Akira Fujii / David Malin Images.

Photo by NASA and Akira Fujii / David Malin Images.

Powered by energy from a huge, Earth-based laser, the spacecraft would fly at about one-fifth the speed of light or 100 million miles per hour. Their target would be a planet with potential for holding life. The Alpha Centauri star system is 25 trillion miles (4.37 light years) away.

No such planet has been discovered yet at Alpha Centauri, but experts say one may lurk there. With the current fastest spacecraft, it would take about 30,000 years to get there, the project said.

Known as nanocraft, they estimate it would take 20 years to reach the star system, where they would make observations and send back data.

The program will be led by Pete Worden, the former director of NASA AMES Research Center, and advised by a committee of scientists and engineers, the project said. The board will consist of Hawking, Milner, and Zuckerberg.

Such nanocraft can detect Earth-like planets in ‘habitable zones’ of Alpha Centauri’s three-star system, the project said.

Watch the live announcement here:

Story by CCTV America and the Associated Press.