Stephen Hawking Announces $100m Interstellar Voyage To Detect Alien Life

Could detect the 'fingerprints of life' on other planets.

Stephen Hawking has announced a breakthrough mission to boost interstellar travel, which could detect "fingerprints of life" on other planets.

Bryan Bedder via Getty Images

The mission dubbed Breakthrough Starshot was announced by Russian billionaire, Yuri Milner, who has worked on similar 'Breakthrough' initiatives to find extra terrestrial life.

Breakthrough Star Voyage

It is essentially a $100 million programme looking at high speed "nanocrafts" that could ultimately take us to the Alpha Centauri star system.

"For the first time in human history we can do more than gaze at the stars," Milner said.

The star system is 4.37 light years away, which translates to around 25 trillion miles.

Avi Loeb, a professor of science at Havard University, said the voyage could help us detect the "fingerprints of life on other planets".

According researchers, three major areas in science including microfabrication, nanotechnology and photonics, have allowed us to reach for the stars.

Three technologies powering the nanocraft.
Three technologies powering the nanocraft.
Breakthrough Starshot mission

Sailing in space is not a new idea. Carl Sagan was an early proponent of solar sailing.

However, this is the closet we have come to practically overcoming the limitations we have faced in the past.

"This is the lightest spacecraft that will ever be built," Hawking told the press conference.

It includes a starchip containing cameras and sensors and it can be mass produced "at the cost of an iPhone" Milner added.

Their idea involves using a powerful laser beam to move the "nanocraft," which is estimated to be as light as sheet of paper, through space.

The "Starchip" will attached to a "Lightsail," that will form the interstellar sail boat.