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14 April, 2016

Stephen Hawking joins project to build tiny exploration spacecrafts

World-renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking on Tuesday teamed up with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a 100-million-U.S.-dollar effort to make tiny spaceships capable of interstellar space travel.

Hawking and Milner made the joint announcement at a press conference held at One World Observatory in New York City Tuesday. The project, dubbed "Breakthrough Starshot," is a research and engineering program that aims to build laser beam propelled "nanocrafts" that can travel at 20 percent of lightspeed -- more than 1000 times faster than current fastest spacecraft.

According to Milner, once the "nanocrafts" are built, they could reach Alpha Centauri, a star 4.37 light-years away, approximately 20 years in a fly-by mission. Alpha Centauri is one of the closest star systems to the solar system and the current fastest spacecraft would have to spend 30,000 years to get there.

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