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For Yuri Milner, the Russian Internet entrepreneur and billionaire philanthropist who funds the world’s richest science prizes and searches for extraterrestrial intelligence, the sky is not the limit—and neither is the solar system.
Flanked by physicist Stephen Hawking and other high-profile supporters today in New York, Milner announced his most ambitious investment yet: 0 million toward a research program to send robotic probes to nearby stars within a generation.
What is certain is that the mainstream scientific community that works on research you are not supposed to laugh about—research that has a giggle factor of zero, let’s say—keeps making major mistakes in giggling about the wrong things.” “We are serious people,” Loeb continues.
“We will find whether this project is doable or not, and if it is not, we will admit that and move on.” Following Lubin’s tweaked roadmap, most of Milner’s 0 million is meant to fund research grants to develop solutions to about 20 major technical obstacles identified by the project.
Things like warp drives and wormholes are on the ‘imaginary’ axis—these are what I would call fictional solutions, because no one knows how to do them.” The laser propulsion concept Lubin detailed in his roadmap rates high on his "real" axis, he says, because “it is both realistic and realizable.” Lubin’s roadmap laid out myriad obstacles that any laser-propelled interstellar mission would have to overcome, such as linking many smaller lasers into a kilometer-scale array and engineering lightweight, gossamer-thin sails strong enough to endure the array’s gigawatt-scale pulses as well as persuading policy makers to allow the construction of a laser system that could in principle be used as a weapon.
The probes will also need to transmit observations back to Earth using onboard lasers with just a few watts of power—a problem potentially solvable by using the giant Earthbound laser array as a receiver.
"If this mission comes to fruition it will tell us as much about ourselves as about Alpha Centauri," Milner said at the press conference.
“Strip an i Phone from its case and interface, and the electronics—including the camera and the communications device—weigh on the order a gram,” Loeb says.“The human story is one of great leaps,” Milner said in a statement released shortly before the announcement.“55 years ago today, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.“Any revolution in science or technology has an initial phase where people laugh at it,” Loeb says.“Sometimes the laughter is inspired by valid criticisms of an argument, but can also be because something appears very different and strange….