Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday to join legendary scientist Stephen Hawking and Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist Yuri Milner for a new space initiative to go beyond the solar system and explore other stars for the first time in human history.
“I’m proud to join Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking for a new space initiative to go beyond our nearby planets to explore other stars for the first time in human history,” said Zuckerberg in a Facebook post.
“Our nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is 4.3 light years or about 25 trillion miles away. Even with today’s fastest spacecraft, it would take 30,000 years to get there. That’s too long,” he explains.
He proposed that instead of using large spacecraft burning fuel like people have in all traditional space travel, create a fleet of tiny spacecraft – or nanocraft – that can accelerate to 20 per cent of the speed of light using an array of laser beams from earth’s surface.
“At that speed of 100 million miles per hour, it will only take 20 years to reach Alpha Centauri. This is a completely new way to think about space travel and exploration,” he added.
According to the Facebook chief, recent research has found many stars have planets within a distance where they could have water to sustain life.
“That is, they’re close enough to their star that any water isn’t frozen but not so close that it has all evaporated.
“But just because a planet is in this habitable zone doesn’t mean it has water and is a place we can actually live. For example, Mars has no water, so it would be difficult to ever live there.”
Zuckerberg said there was a high possibility that the closest planet that humans could actually live on is orbiting Alpha Centauri, and the only way to know that for sure is to visit close enough to photograph the planet.
“That is what this project will do.”
Zuckerberg expressed his excitement for the new space project saying: “I’m excited to support this latest initiative with Stephen Hawking, and to help bring human space exploration to the stars.”