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Stephen Hawking wants to make an Interstellar Starship

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In a joint announcement at the One World Observatory in New York City today, Milner and Stephen Hawking unveiled Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million research and engineering program seeking to lay the foundations for an eventual interstellar voyage. The first step of the program involves building light-propelled “nanocrafts” that can travel at relativistic speeds—up to 20 percent the speed of light. At such high velocities, the robotic spacecraft would pass Pluto in three days and reach our nearest neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri, just over 20 years after launch.

“For the first time in human history we can do more than just gaze at the stars,” Milner said. “We can actually reach them.”

The technology behind the billionaire’s ambitious proposal—of which prototypes were revealed today—includes a “Starchip,” a gram scale wafer carrying cameras, photon thrusters, power supply, navigation, and communication equipment. Propelling that miniature science laboratory is a “Lightsail,” a meter-sized sail that’s only a few hundred atoms thick and weighs a couple of grams. The light sail will be launched away from the Earth by a phased array of lasers, which Milner envisions carrying a combined power of over 100 Gigawatts, similar to the power needed to lift the Space Shuttle off Earth.

By directing that much energy at an object weighing just a few grams, we can theoretically accelerate said object up to 100,000,000 miles per hour—a thousand times faster than the fastest spacecraft today. The idea is to launch a small fleet of craft toward Alpha Centauri, allowing us to perform many, many New Horizon-like flybys of our nearest neighbor’s potentially habitable real-estate.




Click the link for the rest of the article. My first thought after reading the headline was that they wanted to make a star trek style enterprise ship. But instead its a fleet of nanoships. This sounds amazing and plausible. :D


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