Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner are building miniature sized robots the size of a smartphone and sending them to Alpha Centauri - 4.37 light years away. “For the first time in human history we can do more than just gaze at the stars. We can actually reach them.”

Milner explained how breakthroughs in microfabrication, nanotechnology, and photonics have allowed us to build smaller, lighter, and more powerful spacecraft than ever before. Starshot will accelerate nanocraft to 20% the speed of light giving them the ability to make it to Alpha Centauri in only 20 years.

Stephen Hawking had this to say, “The limit that confronts us now is the great void between us and the stars, but now we can transcend it. With light beams and lightsails and the lightest spacecraft ever built we can launch a mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation. Today we commit to this next great leap into the Cosmos because we are human and our nature is to fly.”

Each nanocraft will carry a StarChip and be able to send photos and other information back to Earth. The vast space between Earth and Alpha Centauri is full of comets and asteroids. We could learn a great deal from these objects that have so far been too distant to study.

Watch the video below: