The British physicist Stephen Hawking expressed on Tuesday its support for a program financed by the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to send a ship to another solar system. The plan, which has a $ 99.2 million budget and is also supported by the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, intends to send a small ship beyond where any other artifact arrived built so far. “The development of the last two decades and future advances make it possible to create it within a generation,” said Hawking the British public broadcaster “BBC”.
The project depends on private organization Breakthrough Foundation, created by Milner to boost various scientific initiatives that governments and public institutions considered too ambitious to dedicate them funds. “Astronomers believe there is a reasonable chance that a planet similar to Earth orbit at some of the stars of the Alpha Centauri system. We’ll know more in the next two decades thanks to telescopes that are on the ground and in orbit,” said Hawking.
The Breakthrough Foundation organized a group of researchers to evaluate the technical possibilities to manufacture ships able to reach another star in time that lasts a generation and send information again. The closest star system to Earth is 40 trillion kilometers away, a space that a ship built with current technology it would take 30,000 years to go. The project director Pete Worden said that “a few years ago would not even have been possible to travel to a star at that speed.”
His group of scientists designed a mechanism that could allow go over some of the current technical limitations. His idea is to put into orbit small spacecraft the size of a microchip equipped with a kind of “solar sail”, an alternative method of propelling the use of motors. Thanks to the push provided by a powerful laser on Earth, these tiny ships could reach 20% of the speed of light, according to the calculations Worden group.