Physicist Stephen Hawking and billionaire Yuri Milner have a vision of interstellar exploration — taking place over the course of not thousands of years, but decades.
Together with a team of scientists, they suggest that within a generation, humans could send a probe to Alpha Centauri — more than 4.3 light-years away, or 25 trillion miles — on a trip that would take just over two decades. That's 1,000 times faster than the current fastest spacecraft, the scientists say.
They're thinking big — by thinking very small.
Instead of sending a car-size or piano-size probe, the 'Breakthrough Starshot' team is proposing a postage-stamp-size spacecraft — a 'starchip.' The project, announced by Hawking and Milner on Tuesday, would engineer a method for such a nanocraft to be propelled through space by a sail, pushed by a powerful laser aimed from Earth."