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May 9, 2016 AT 8:00 am

Breakthrough Starshot Aims Aims to Reach Alpha Centauri in 20 Years

Breakthrough-Starshot-speakers

Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner want to send a nanocraft sails blown by light to Alpha Centauri. via KurzweilAI

The Alpha Centauri star system is 25 trillion miles (4.37 light years) away. With today’s fastest spacecraft, it would take about 30,000 years to get there. The program aims to establish whether a gram-scale nanocraft on a sail pushed by a light beam can fly more than 1,000 times faster.

Starchip

Starchip: a gram-scale wafer carrying cameras, photon thrusters, power supply, navigation, and communication equipment, and constituting a fully functional space probe.

Lightsail

Lightsail: Advances in nanotechnology are producing increasingly thin and lightweight materials, promising to enable the fabrication of meter-scale sails no more than a few hundred atoms thick and at gram-scale mass.

light-beamer

Light Beamer. The rising power and falling cost of lasers has led to significant advances in light-beaming technology. Phased arrays of lasers (the “light beamer”) could potentially be scaled up to the 100 gigawatt level.

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