: AFP: Russian billionaire, Hawking unveil plan to reach Alpha Centauri

11:07 Apr. 13, 2016

AFP: Russian billionaire, Hawking unveil plan to reach Alpha Centauri

Stephen Hawking announce the new Breakthrough Initiative focusing on space exploration and the search for life in the universe, New York, April 12, 2016 (AP Photo)

Super-compact space vehicle is to created as a result of cooperation

Billionaire Russian investor Yuri Milner and British cosmologist Stephen Hawking on Tuesday (April 12) announced an ambitious new space initiative for a mission to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth.

Read also Russia's space industry hit by Western sanctions

Milner and Hawking are spearheading the "Breakthrough Starshot" team of scientists working on the bold research program to create a fleet of super-compact, ultra-light space vehicles or "nanocraft."

The goal is to send the light-propelled mini space vehicles -- each no bigger than a cell phone -- to Alpha Centauri, which is 4.37 light years away, or 25 trillion miles, from Earth.

Read also Dr. Andrij Zhalko-Tytarenko in UT Opinion: Ukrainian Space. Going in Circles

They estimate it could take about 20 years to reach the star system from the time of the launch -- rather than the 30,000 years it would take with today's fastest spacecraft.

"Space travel as we know it is slow. How do we go faster and how do we go further? How do we make this great leap?" Milner, who is planning to initially commit 0 million to the project, told a press conference in Manhattan.

Read also Ukrainian students present drones and anti-crash systems at tech expo

"For the first time in history, we can do more than just gaze at the stars. We can actually reach them," added the 54-year-old Russian philanthropist, whose fortune is estimated at .9 billion by Forbes.

"It is time to launch the next great leap in human history."

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