Breakthrough Starshot

Breakthrough Starshot is a research and engineering project by the Breakthrough Initiatives to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of light sail spacecraft named StarChip,[1] to be capable of making the journey to the Alpha Centauri star system 4.37 light-years away.

A flyby mission has been proposed to Proxima Centauri b, an Earth-sized exoplanet in the habitable zone of its host star, Proxima Centauri, in the Alpha Centauri system.[2] At a speed between 15% and 20% of the speed of light,[3][4][5][6] it would take between twenty and thirty years to complete the journey, and approximately four years for a return message from the starship to Earth.

The conceptual principles to enable this interstellar travel project were described in "A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight", by Philip Lubin of UC Santa Barbara.[7][8] Sending the lightweight spacecraft involves a multi-kilometer phased array of beam-steerable lasers with a combined coherent power output of up to 100 GW.[9]

Press Conference at ESO HQ2
On 24 August 2016, ESO hosted a press conference to discuss the announcement of exoplanet Proxima b at its headquarters in Germany. In this picture, Pete Worden giving a speech.


The project was announced on 12 April 2016 in an event held in New York City by physicist and venture capitalist Yuri Milner, together with cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who was serving as board member of the initiatives. Other board members include Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The project has an initial funding of US$100 million to initialize research. Milner places the final mission cost at $5–10 billion, and estimates the first craft could launch by around 2036.[4] Pete Worden is the project's executive director and Professor Avi Loeb (Harvard University) chairs the Advisory Board for the project.[10]

In 2017 Stephen Hawking told the audience at Starmus Festival:

Our physical resources are being drained at an alarming rate. We have given our planet the disastrous gift of climate change. Rising temperatures, reduction of the polar ice caps, deforestation and decimation of animal species. We can be an ignorant, unthinking lot. We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth.[11]


Management and Advisory Committee[12]

  • Pete Worden, Executive Director, Breakthrough Starshot; former Director of NASA Ames Research Center
  • Avi Loeb, Chairman, Breakthrough Starshot Advisory Committee; Harvard University
  • Jim Benford, Microwave Sciences
  • Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winner, Stanford University
  • Bruce Draine, Princeton University
  • Ann Druyan, Cosmos Studios
  • Freeman Dyson, Princeton Institute of Advanced Study
  • Lou Friedman, Planetary Society, JPL
  • Robert Fugate, Arctelum, LLC, New Mexico Tech
  • Giancarlo Genta, Polytechnic University of Turin
  • Olivier Guyon, University of Arizona
  • Mae Jemison, 100 Year Starship
  • Joan Johnson-Freese, US Naval War College
  • Pete Klupar, Director of Engineering, Breakthrough Starshot; former Director of Engineering, NASA Ames Research Center
  • Jeff Kuhn, University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy
  • Geoff Landis, SA Glenn Research Center
  • Kelvin Long, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society
  • Greg Matloff, New York City College of Technology
  • Claire Max, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Kaya Nobuyuki, Kobe University
  • Kevin Parkin, Parkin Research
  • Mason Peck, Cornell University
  • Saul Perlmutter, Nobel Prize winner, Breakthrough Prize winner, UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
  • Roald Sagdeev, University of Maryland
  • Ed Turner, Princeton University, NAOJ


The Breakthrough Starshot program aims to demonstrate a proof-of-concept for ultra-fast, light-driven nano-spacecraft, and lay the foundations for a first launch to Alpha Centauri within the next generation.[13] Secondary goals are: Solar System exploration and detection of Earth-crossing asteroids.[14] The spacecraft would make a flyby of, and, possibly photograph any Earth-like worlds that might exist in the system.

Target planet

In August 2016, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced the detection of a planet orbiting the third star in the Alpha Centauri system, Proxima Centauri.[15][16] The planet, called Proxima Centauri b, is orbiting within the habitable zone of its star, and it could be a potential target for one of the projects of Breakthrough Initiatives.

In January 2017, Breakthrough Initiatives and the European Southern Observatory entered a collaboration to search for habitable planets in the nearby star system, Alpha Centauri.[17][18] The agreement involves Breakthrough Initiatives providing funding for an upgrade to the VISIR (VLT Imager and Spectrometer for mid-Infrared) instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. This upgrade will greatly increase the likelihood of planet detection in the system.


Solar Sail (14914129324)
A solar sail concept

The Starshot concept envisions launching a "mothership" carrying about a thousand tiny spacecraft (on the scale of centimeters) to a high-altitude Earth orbit and then deploying them. A phased array of ground-based lasers would then focus a light beam on the crafts' sails to accelerate them one by one to the target speed within 10 minutes, with an average acceleration on the order of 100 km/s2 (10,000  ɡ), and an illumination energy on the order of 1 TJ delivered to each sail. A preliminary sail model is suggested to have a surface area of 4 m × 4 m.[19][20] An October 2017 presentation of the Starshot system model[21][22] examines circular sails and finds that the beam director capital cost is minimized by having a sail diameter of 5 meters.

Earth-size planet Proxima Centauri b was discovered in 2016 orbiting within the Alpha Centauri system habitable zones, compelling the Breakthrough Starshot to try to aim its spacecraft within 1 astronomical unit (150 million kilometers or 93 million miles) of it. From this distance, a craft's cameras could potentially capture an image of high enough quality to resolve surface features.[23]

The fleet would have about 1000 spacecraft, and each one (dubbed a StarChip), would be a very small centimeter-sized vehicle weighing a few grams.[1] They would be propelled by a square-kilometre array of 10 kW ground-based lasers with a combined output of up to 100 GW.[24][25] A swarm of about 1000 units would compensate for the losses caused by interstellar dust collisions en route to the target.[24][26] In a detailed study in 2016 Thiem Hoang and coworkers[27] found that mitigating the collisions with dust, hydrogen and galactic cosmic rays may not be quite as severe an engineering problem as first thought.[28]

Technical challenges

Light propulsion requires enormous power: a laser with a gigawatt of power (approximately the output of a large nuclear plant) would provide only a few newtons of thrust.[25] The spaceship will compensate for the low thrust by having a mass of only a few grams. The camera, computer, communications laser, a plutonium power source, and the solar sail must be miniaturized to fit within a mass limit.[25][29] All components must be engineered to endure extreme acceleration, cold, vacuum, and protons.[26] The spacecraft will have to survive collisions with space dust; Starshot expects each square centimeter of frontal cross-section to collide at high speed with about a thousand particles of size at least 0.1 μm.[25][30] Focusing a set of lasers totaling one hundred gigawatts onto the solar sail will be difficult due to atmospheric turbulence, so there is the suggestion to use space-based laser infrastructure.[31] According to The Economist, at least a dozen off-the-shelf technologies will need to improve by orders of magnitude.[25]


StarChip is the name used by Breakthrough Initiatives for a very small, centimeter-sized, gram-scale, interstellar spacecraft envisioned for the Breakthrough Starshot program,[1][32] a proposed mission to propel a fleet of a thousand StarChips on a journey to the Alpha Centauri star system, the nearest extrasolar stars, about 4.37 light-years from Earth.[33][4][34][3][35][36] The journey may include a flyby of Proxima Centauri b, an Earth-sized exoplanet that is in the habitable zone of its host star.[2] The ultra-light StarChip robotic nanocraft, fitted with lightsails, are planned to travel at speeds of 20%[1][4][34][3] and 15%[3] of the speed of light, taking between 20 and 30 years to reach the star system, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival.[4] The conceptual principles to enable practical interstellar travel were described in "A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight", by Philip Lubin of UC Santa Barbara,[7] who is an advisor for the Starshot project.

In July 2017, scientists announced that precursors to StarChip, named Sprites, were successfully launched and flown through Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle by ISRO from Satish Dhawan Space Centre.[37] Sprites will also be flown on the KickSat-2 mission scheduled for November 2018.


Each StarChip nanocraft is expected to carry miniaturized cameras, navigation gear, communication equipment, photon thrusters and a power supply. In addition, each nanocraft would be fitted with a meter-scale lightsail, made of lightweight materials, with a gram-scale mass.[1][32][33][4][35][36][38][39]


Four sub-gram scale digital cameras, each with a minimum 2-megapixels resolution, are envisioned.[1][40]


Four sub-gram scale processors are planned.[35][41]

Photon thrusters

Four sub-gram scale photon thrusters, each minimally capable of performing at a 1W diode laser level, are planned.[32][42][43]


A 150 mg atomic battery, powered by plutonium-238 or americium-241, is planned.[4][36][44]

Protective coating

A coating, possibly made of beryllium copper, is planned to protect the nanocraft from dust collisions and atomic particle erosion.[36][45]


The lightsail is envisioned to be no larger than 4 by 4 meters (13 by 13 feet),[1][46] possibly of composite graphene-based material.[1][33][4][36][39][47] The material would have to be very thin and be able to reflect the laser beam while absorbing only a small fraction of the incident energy, or it will vaporize the sail.[1][4][48]

Other potential destinations

The table below lists possible target stars for similar photogravitational assist travel.[49] The travel times are for the spacecraft to travel to the star and then enter orbit around the star (using photon pressure in maneuvers similar to aerobraking).

Name Travel time
Proxima Centauri 121 4.2 0.00005
α Centauri A 101.25 4.36 1.52
α Centauri B 147.58 4.36 0.50
Sirius A 68.90 8.58 24.20
Procyon A 154.06 11.44 6.94
Vega 167.39 25.02 50.05
Altair 176.67 16.69 10.70
Fomalhaut A 221.33 25.13 16.67
Denebola 325.56 35.78 14.66
Castor A 341.35 50.98 49.85
Epsilon Eridani 363.35 10.50 0.50
  • Successive assists at α Cen A and B could allow travel times to 75 yr to both stars.
  • Lightsail has a nominal mass-to-surface ratio (σnom) of 8.6×10−4 gram m−2 for a nominal graphene-class sail.
  • Area of the Lightsail, about 105 m2 = (316 m)2
  • Velocity up to 37,300 km s−1 (12.5% c)

Other applications

The German physicist Claudius Gros has proposed that the technology of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative may be utilized in a second step to establish a biosphere of unicellular microbes on otherwise only transiently habitable exoplanets.[50][51] A Genesis probe would travel at lower speeds, about 0.3% of the speed of light. It could hence be decelerated using a magnetic sail.[52]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gilster, Paul (12 April 2016). "Breakthrough Starshot: Mission to Alpha Centauri". Centauri Dreams. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b Chang, Kenneth (24 August 2016). "One Star Over, a Planet That Might Be Another Earth". New York Times. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrough Starshot". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Overbye, Dennis (12 April 2016). "Reaching for the Stars, Across 4.37 Light-Years; A Visionary Project Aims for Alpha Centauri, a Star 4.37 Light-Years Away". New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  5. ^ Stone, Maddie (12 April 2016). "Stephen Hawking and a Russian Billionaire Want to Build an Interstellar Starship". Gizmodo. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  6. ^ Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrough Initiatives - Breakthrough Starshot". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  7. ^ a b Lubin, Philip (2016). "A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight". Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 69: 40. arXiv:1604.01356. Bibcode:2016arXiv160401356L.(file available at University of California, Santa Barbara here Archived 17 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 16 April 2016)
  8. ^ Hall, Loura (7 May 2015). "DEEP IN Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration". NASA News. Retrieved 2016-04-22. NASA is pleased to hear that Professor Lubin has received external funding to continue the work started in his NIAC study.
  9. ^ "Breakthrough Initiatives". Retrieved 2017-12-25.
  10. ^ "Starshot Leadership".
  11. ^ "Stephen Hawking Says Earth Is Under Threat And Humans Need To Leave". Newsweek. October 20, 2017.
  12. ^ Breakthrough Starshot, Leaders, Management and Advisory Committee
  13. ^ "Breakthrough Initiatives". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  14. ^ Scharf, Caleb A. "Can Starshot Work?". Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  15. ^ "Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star - Pale Red Dot campaign reveals Earth-mass world in orbit around Proxima Centauri". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  16. ^ Witze, Alexandra (25 August 2016). "Earth-sized planet around nearby star is astronomy dream come true". Nature. 536 (7617): 381–382. Bibcode:2016Natur.536..381W. doi:10.1038/nature.2016.20445. PMID 27558041.
  17. ^ "VLT to Search for Planets in Alpha Centauri System - ESO Signs Agreement with Breakthrough Initiatives". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Breakthrough Initiatives". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  19. ^ Lightsail, Integrity under thrust.
  20. ^ Lightsail | Stability on the beam.
  21. ^ TVIW (2017-10-20), 2. Breakthrough Starshot System Model, retrieved 2017-10-29
  22. ^ Parkin, Kevin. "Starshot System Model".
  23. ^ "Breakthrough Initiatives". Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  24. ^ a b "Breakthrough Starshot: Concept". 12 April 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  25. ^ a b c d e "A new plan to send spacecraft to the stars: replace rockets with lasers". The Economist. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  26. ^ a b Emspak, Jesse (15 April 2016). "No Breakthrough Yet: Stephen Hawking's Interstellar 'Starshot' Faces Challenges". Space. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  27. ^ Hoang (2017). "The Interaction of Relativistic Spacecrafts with the Interstellar Medium". The Astrophysical Journal. 837 (1): 5. arXiv:1608.05284. Bibcode:2017ApJ...837....5H. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aa5da6.
  28. ^ Timmer, John (24 August 2016). "Just how dangerous is it to travel at 20% the speed of light?". Science. Ars Technica. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  29. ^ "Potential Challenges for Starshot". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  30. ^ "Interstellar Dust". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  31. ^ The Andromeda Study: A Femto-Spacecraft Mission to Alpha Centauri. Andreas M. Hein, Kelvin F. Long, Dan Fries, Nikolaos Perakis, Angelo Genovese, Stefan Zeidler, Martin Langer, Richard Osborne, Rob Swinney, John Davies, Bill Cress, Marc Casson, Adrian Mann, Rachel Armstrong. Initiative for Interstellar Studies. arXiv, 2017.
  32. ^ a b c Greene, Kate (13 April 2016). "What Will Make Interstellar Travel a Reality?". Slate. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  33. ^ a b c Clery, Daniel (12 April 2016). "Russian billionaire unveils big plan to build tiny interstellar spacecraft". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aaf4115. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  34. ^ a b Stone, Maddie (12 April 2016). "Stephen Hawking and a Russian Billionaire Want to Build an Interstellar Starship". Gizmodo. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  35. ^ a b c Domonoske, Camila (12 April 2016). "Forget Starships: New Proposal Would Use 'Starchips' To Visit Alpha Centauri". NPR. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  36. ^ a b c d e Emspak, Jesse (15 April 2016). "No Breakthrough Yet: Stephen Hawking's Interstellar 'Starshot' Faces Challenges". Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  37. ^ Staff (26 July 2017). "In Quest To Reach Alpha Centauri, BreakThrough Starshot Launches World's Smallest Spacecraft - First Prototype 'Sprites' – Precursors to Eventual 'StarChip' Probes – Achieve Low Earth Orbit". Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  38. ^ Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrough Starshot: Potential Challenges". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  39. ^ a b Staff (16 April 2016). "Starship enterprise". The Economist. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  40. ^ Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrouth Starshot: Gram-Scale Starchip Components - 4 Cameras". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  41. ^ Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrouth Starshot: Gram-Scale Starchip Components - 4 Processors". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  42. ^ Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrouth Starshot: Gram-Scale Starchip Components - 4 Photon Thrusters". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  43. ^ Gilster, Paul (21 October 2013). "Laser Travel by Photonic Thruster". Centauri Dreams. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  44. ^ Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrouth Starshot: Gram-Scale Starchip Components - Battery". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  45. ^ Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrouth Starshot: Gram-Scale Starchip Components - Protective Coating". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  46. ^ Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrough Starshot: Lightsail, Integrity under thrust". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  47. ^ Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrouth Starshot: Gram-Scale Starchip Components - Lightsail - Structure". Breakthrough Initiatives. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  48. ^ Patel, Neel V. (15 April 2016). "The Starshot Breakthrough Light Beam Is Really a Million Lasers, Which Is Insane". Inverse. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  49. ^ Heller, René; Hippke, Michael; Kervella, Pierre (2017). "Optimized trajectories to the nearest stars using lightweight high-velocity photon sails". The Astronomical Journal. 154 (3): 115. arXiv:1704.03871. Bibcode:2017AJ....154..115H. doi:10.3847/1538-3881/aa813f.
  50. ^ Claudius Gros: Developing Ecospheres on Transiently Habitable Planets: The Genesis Project, Astrophysics and Space Science, Vol. 361, pp 1–14 (2016).
  51. ^ Jessica Boddy: Q&A: Should we seed life on alien worlds?, Science, 9. September 2016.
  52. ^ James Romero, "Should we seed life through the cosmos using laser-driven ships?", New Scientist, 13 November (2017).

External links

100 Year Starship

The 100 Year Starship (100YSS) is a joint U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) grant project to a private entity. The goal of the study is to create a business plan that can foster the research and technology needed for interstellar travel within 100 years.

2069 Alpha Centauri mission

NASA introduced in December 2017 a mission concept to launch an interstellar probe by the year 2069 to search for biosignatures on planets around the stars in the Alpha Centauri system. The mission concept is as yet not funded, unnamed and the technology to get there does not exist yet.A preliminary mission concept suggests using solar sails propelled by high energy lasers to increase propulsion. The proposed launch would be on the 100th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.


AIMStar was a proposed antimatter-catalyzed nuclear pulse propulsion craft that uses clouds of antiprotons to initiate fission and fusion within fuel pellets. A magnetic nozzle derives motive force from the resulting explosions. The design was studied during the 1990s by Penn State University. The craft was designed to reach a distance on the order of 10,000 AU from the Sun, with a travel time of 50 years, and a coasting velocity of approximately 960 km/s after the boost phase (roughly 1/300th of the speed of light). The probe would be able to study the interstellar medium as well as reach Alpha Centauri. The project would require more antimatter than we are capable of producing. In addition, some technical hurdles need to be surpassed before it would be feasible.

Avi Loeb

Abraham "Avi" Loeb (Hebrew: אברהם (אבי) לייב) is an Israeli American theoretical physicist who works on astrophysics and cosmology. Loeb is the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University. He serves as Chair of the Harvard Astronomy department (since 2011), Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Breakthrough Starshot project – which aims to launch lightweight spacecraft towards the nearest stars using a powerful laser (since 2016), founding director of Harvard's Black Hole Initiative – the first interdisciplinary center worldwide dedicated to the study of black holes (since 2016), and director of the Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC) (since 2007) within the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Loeb is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the International Academy of Astronautics. As of July 2018, he was appointed as chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy (BPA) of the National Academies, which is the Academies' principal forum for issues connected with the fields of Physics and Astronomy including oversight of their decadal surveys. In December 2012, TIME magazine selected Loeb as one of the 25 most influential people in space. In 2015, Loeb was appointed as the Science Theory Director for the Breakthrough Initiatives of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. In 2018, he attracted media attention for suggesting that alien space craft may be in our solar system, using the anomalous behavior of 'Oumuamua as an example. In 2019, Loeb reported together with his Harvard undergraduate student, Amir Siraj, the first discovery of a meteor that originated outside the Solar System.

Billionaire space race

The billionaire space race is the intense rivalry in NewSpace by recent space entrepreneurs, who entered the space industry as billionaires from other industries, particularly computing. This private industry space race of the 21st century involves sounding rockets to the ignorosphere (mesosphere and thermosphere), orbital launch rockets, and suborbital tourist spaceflights.Amongst the billionaires entering into New Space, are:

South-African-Canadian-American billionaire Elon Musk, behind SpaceX and a project to colonize Mars.

American billionaire Jeff Bezos, behind Blue Origin and establishing a true industrial base in space.

American billionaire Paul G. Allen, behind Vulcan Aerospace and reducing the cost to launch payload to orbit.

British billionaire Richard Branson, behind Virgin Galactic/Virgin Orbit; and space tourism, low cost small orbital launchers, and intercontinental suborbital transit.

Russian billionarie Yuri Milner, backing the Breakthrough Starshot project for an interstellar probe.

Breakthrough Initiatives

Breakthrough Initiatives is a science-based program founded in 2015 and funded by Julia and Yuri Milner, also of Breakthrough Prize, to search for extraterrestrial intelligence over a span of at least 10 years. The program is divided into multiple projects. Breakthrough Listen will comprise an effort to search over 1,000,000 stars for artificial radio or laser signals. A parallel project called Breakthrough Message is an effort to create a message "representative of humanity and planet Earth". The project Breakthrough Starshot aims to send a swarm of probes to the nearest star at about 20% the speed of light. The project Breakthrough Watch aims to identify and characterize Earth-sized, rocky planets around Alpha Centauri and other stars within 20 light years of Earth. Breakthrough plans to send a mission to Saturn's moon Enceladus, in search for life in its warm ocean, and in 2018 signed a partnership agreement with NASA for the project.

Breakthrough Prize

The Breakthrough Prize is a set of international awards bestowed in three categories by Breakthrough Prize Board in recognition of scientific advance. The awards are part of several "Breakthrough" initiatives founded and funded by Yuri Milner, along with Breakthrough Initiatives and Breakthrough Junior Challenge.

Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics

Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

Breakthrough Prize in Life SciencesThe Breakthrough Prize was founded by Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, Yuri Milner, Julia Milner, Jack Ma, and Pony Ma. Committees of previous laureates choose the winners from candidates nominated in a process that’s online and open to the public.Laureates receive $3 million each in prize money. They attend a televised award ceremony designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists. As part of the ceremony schedule, they also engage in a program of lectures and discussions. Those that go on to make fresh discoveries remain eligible for future Breakthrough Prizes.

Future of space exploration

The future of space exploration involves both telescopic exploration and the physical exploration of space by unmanned robotic space probes and human spaceflight.

Near-term physical exploration missions have been announced by or are being planned by both national and private organisations, focussed on obtaining new information about the solar system. In the longer term there are tentative plans for crewed orbital and landing missions to the Moon and Mars, establishing scientific outposts that will later make way for permanent and self sufficient settlements. Further exploration will potentially involve expeditions and settlements on the other planets and their moons as well as establishing mining and fueling outposts, particularly in the asteroid belt. Physical exploration outside the solar system will be robotic for the foreseeable future.

Helix (album)

Helix is the fifth studio album by the Swedish-Danish heavy metal band Amaranthe. It is also the first album featuring the band's new clean male vocalist Nils Molin (Dynazty), since the departure of the band's former clean male vocalist Jake E.

Interstellar Probe (1999)

Interstellar Probe is the name of a 1999 space probe concept by NASA intended to travel out 200 AU in 15 years. This 1999 study by Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is noted for its circular 400 meters diameter, solar sail as a propulsion method (1 g/m2) combined with a 0.25 AU flyby of the Sun to achieve higher solar light pressure, after which the sail is jettisoned at 5 AU distance from the Sun.

Interstellar probe

An interstellar probe is a space probe that has left—or is expected to leave—the Solar System and enter interstellar space, which is typically defined as the region beyond the heliopause. It also refers to probes capable of reaching other star systems.

There are five interstellar probes: Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11 and New Horizons. As of 2019, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are only probes to have actually reached interstellar space. The other three are on interstellar trajectories.

The termination shock is the point in the heliosphere where the solar wind slows down to subsonic speed. Even though the termination shock happens as close as 80–100 AU, the maximum extent of the region in which the Sun's gravitational field is dominant (the Hill sphere) is thought to be at around 230,000 astronomical units (3.6 light-years). This point is close to the nearest known star system, Alpha Centauri, located 4.36 light years away. Although the probes will be under the influence of the Sun for a long time, their velocities far exceed the Sun's escape velocity, so they will eventually leave forever.

Interstellar space is defined as that which lies beyond a magnetic region that extends about 122 AU from the sun, as detected by Voyager 1, and the equivalent region of influence surrounding other stars. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in 2012.Interstellar Probe is also the name of a proposed NASA space probe intended to travel out 200 AU in 15 years, studied in 1999.In April 2016, scientists announced Breakthrough Starshot, a Breakthrough Initiatives program, to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of small centimeter-sized light sail spacecraft, named StarChip, capable of making the journey to Alpha Centauri, the nearest extrasolar star system, at speeds of 20% and 15% of the speed of light, taking between 20 and 30 years to reach the star system, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival.

Project Dragonfly (space study)

Project Dragonfly is the first conceptual design study that assesses the feasibility of a laser-propelled interstellar probe, conducted by the Initiative for Interstellar Studies. Contrary to past unmanned interstellar mission studies such as Project Daedalus and Project Icarus the focus is particularly on a small spacecraft. The project was founded in 2013 by the Initiative for Interstellar Studies (i4is). A subsequent design competition was launched in 2014. The objective was to design a spacecraft that is capable of reaching Alpha Centauri within 100 years using existing or near-term technologies and a beam power below 100 GW. Four teams presented their designs at the final workshop at the British Interplanetary Society in London in July 2015. The teams consisted of students from Cairo University, Cranfield University, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, Paul Sabatier University, Technical University of Munich, and University of California, Santa Barbara. The team of the Technical University of Munich won the competition. The design of the University of California, San Diego has subsequently evolved into the design for Breakthrough Starshot of the Breakthrough Initiatives. Results of the competition have subsequently been published in peer-reviewed journals. The competition has been accompanied by a Kickstarter campaign that was supported by notable space artists such as David A. Hardy.

Project Longshot

Project Longshot was a conceptual interstellar spacecraft design. It would have been an unmanned probe, intended to fly to and enter orbit around Alpha Centauri B powered by nuclear pulse propulsion.

Proxima Centauri b

Proxima Centauri b (also called Proxima b or Alpha Centauri Cb) is an exoplanet orbiting in the habitable zone of the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, which is the closest star to the Sun and part of a triple star system. It is located about 4.2 light-years (1.3 parsecs, 40 trillion km, or 25 trillion miles) from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus, making it the closest known exoplanet to the Solar System.

Proxima Centauri b orbits the star at a distance of roughly 0.05 AU (7,500,000 km; 4,600,000 mi) with an orbital period of approximately 11.2 Earth days, and has an estimated mass of at least 1.3 times that of the Earth. Its habitability has not been established, though it is unlikely to be habitable since the planet is subject to stellar wind pressures of more than 2,000 times those experienced by Earth from the solar wind.The discovery of the planet was announced in August 2016 by the European Southern Observatory. The planet was found using the radial velocity method, where periodic Doppler shifts of spectral lines of the host star suggest an orbiting object. From these readings, the radial velocity of the parent star relative to the Earth is varying with an amplitude of about 1.4 metres (4.5 feet) per second. According to Guillem Anglada‐Escudé, its proximity to Earth offers an opportunity for robotic exploration of the planet with the Starshot project or, at least, "in the coming centuries".Without the inclination of its orbit known, the exact mass of Proxima Centauri b is unknown. If its orbit is nearly edge-on, it would have a mass of 1.27+0.19−0.17 Earth masses. Statistically, there is a roughly 90% chance that the planet's mass is less than 8.1+1.2−1.0 Earth masses.

Solar sail

Solar sails (also called light sails or photon sails) are a proposed method of spacecraft propulsion using radiation pressure exerted by sunlight on large mirrors. A useful analogy may be a sailing boat; the light exerting a force on the mirrors is akin to a sail being blown by the wind. High-energy laser beams could be used as an alternative light source to exert much greater force than would be possible using sunlight, a concept known as beam sailing.

Solar sail craft offer the possibility of low-cost operations combined with long operating lifetimes. Since they have few moving parts and use no propellant, they can potentially be used numerous times for delivery of payloads.

Solar sails use a phenomenon that has a proven, measured effect on spacecraft. Solar pressure affects all spacecraft, whether in interplanetary space or in orbit around a planet or small body. A typical spacecraft going to Mars, for example, will be displaced thousands of kilometers by solar pressure, so the effects must be accounted for in trajectory planning, which has been done since the time of the earliest interplanetary spacecraft of the 1960s. Solar pressure also affects the orientation of a craft, a factor that must be included in spacecraft design.The total force exerted on an 800 by 800 meter solar sail, for example, is about 5 newtons (1.1 lbf) at Earth's distance from the Sun, making it a low-thrust propulsion system, similar to spacecraft propelled by electric engines, but as it uses no propellant, that force is exerted almost constantly and the collective effect over time is great enough to be considered a potential manner of propelling spacecraft.

Space exploration

Space exploration is the discovery and exploration of celestial structures in outer space by means of evolving and growing space technology. While the study of space is carried out mainly by astronomers with telescopes, the physical exploration of space is conducted both by unmanned robotic space probes and human spaceflight.

While the observation of objects in space, known as astronomy, predates reliable recorded history, it was the development of large and relatively efficient rockets during the mid-twentieth century that allowed physical space exploration to become a reality. Common rationales for exploring space include advancing scientific research, national prestige, uniting different nations, ensuring the future survival of humanity, and developing military and strategic advantages against other countries.Space exploration has often been used as a proxy competition for geopolitical rivalries such as the Cold War. The early era of space exploration was driven by a "Space Race" between the Soviet Union and the United States. The launch of the first human-made object to orbit Earth, the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1, on 4 October 1957, and the first Moon landing by the American Apollo 11 mission on 20 July 1969 are often taken as landmarks for this initial period. The Soviet space program achieved many of the first milestones, including the first living being in orbit in 1957, the first human spaceflight (Yuri Gagarin aboard Vostok 1) in 1961, the first spacewalk (by Aleksei Leonov) on 18 March 1965, the first automatic landing on another celestial body in 1966, and the launch of the first space station (Salyut 1) in 1971.

After the first 20 years of exploration, focus shifted from one-off flights to renewable hardware, such as the Space Shuttle program, and from competition to cooperation as with the International Space Station (ISS).

With the substantial completion of the ISS following STS-133 in March 2011, plans for space exploration by the U.S. remain in flux. Constellation, a Bush Administration program for a return to the Moon by 2020 was judged inadequately funded and unrealistic by an expert review panel reporting in 2009.

The Obama Administration proposed a revision of Constellation in 2010 to focus on the development of the capability for crewed missions beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), envisioning extending the operation of the ISS beyond 2020, transferring the development of launch vehicles for human crews from NASA to the private sector, and developing technology to enable missions to beyond LEO, such as Earth–Moon L1, the Moon, Earth–Sun L2, near-Earth asteroids, and Phobos or Mars orbit.In the 2000s, the People's Republic of China initiated a successful manned spaceflight program, while the European Union, Japan, and India have also planned future crewed space missions. China, Russia, Japan, and India have advocated crewed missions to the Moon during the 21st century, while the European Union has advocated manned missions to both the Moon and Mars during the 20th and 21st century.

From the 1990s onwards, private interests began promoting space tourism and then public space exploration of the Moon (see Google Lunar X Prize).

Starlight (interstellar probe)

Project Starlight is a research project of the University of California, Santa Barbara to develop a fleet of laser beam-propelled spacecraft and sending them to a star neighboring the Solar System, potentially Alpha Centauri. The project aims to send organisms on board the spacecraft.


A starship, starcraft or interstellar spacecraft is a theoretical spacecraft designed for traveling between planetary systems, as opposed to an aerospace-vehicle designed for orbital spaceflight or interplanetary travel.

The term is mostly found in science fiction, because such craft is not known to have ever been constructed. Reference to a "star-ship" appears as early as 1882 in Oahspe: A New Bible (1882).Whilst the Voyager and Pioneer probes have travelled into local interstellar space, the purpose of these uncrewed craft was specifically interplanetary and they are not predicted to reach another star system (although Voyager 1 will travel to within 1.7 light years of Gliese 445 in approximately 40,000 years.) Several preliminary designs for starships have been undertaken through exploratory engineering, using feasibility studies with modern technology or technology thought likely to be available in the near future.

In April 2016, scientists announced Breakthrough Starshot, a Breakthrough Initiatives program, to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of small centimeter-sized light sail spacecraft, named StarChip, capable of making the journey to Alpha Centauri, the nearest extrasolar star system, at speeds of 20% and 15% of the speed of light, taking between 20 and 30 years to reach the star system, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival.

On November 8, 2018, Elon Musk announced that SpaceX was renaming the Big Falcon Rocket, a fully reusable launch vehicle and spacecraft system, to Starship. Though the spacecraft will not possess any reasonable interstellar capability, Musk defended the name by claiming that "later versions will."

Yuri Milner

Yuri Borisovich (Bentsionovich) Milner (Russian: Ю́рий Бори́сович Бенцио́нович Ми́льнер; born 11 November 1961) is an Israeli-Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist. Milner is Russia's most influential tech investor as the founder of investment firms Digital Sky Technologies (DST) now called Group and DST Global. Through DST Global, Milner is an investor in Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Flipkart, Spotify, Zocdoc, Groupon,, Xiaomi, OlaCabs, Alibaba, Airbnb, WhatsApp, Nubank, Wish and many others.

Milner's personal investments also include a stake in 23andMe, Habito, Planet Labs, minority stake in a real estate investments start-up, Cadre, founded by Jared Kushner, and others.

In September 2017 Forbes included Milner to the list of 100 greatest living business minds. Milner was named one of the World's Greatest Leaders by Fortune magazine in March 2017, was listed in the "Titans" category of Time magazine's 2016 Time 100. Foreign Policy magazine included Milner on its "Power List" – an inaugural list of the 500 most powerful people on the planet in May 2013. Milner was included in Bloomberg Markets' 2012 50 Most Influential list. In Fortune's 2010 list of the world's fifty most prominent businessmen, Milner was ranked 46th. That same year Russian business magazine Vedomosti recognized him as "Businessman of the Year".

Main topics
and programs
The Alpha Centauri system
Proposed missions concepts

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