Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner are teaming up in a $100 million hunt for alien life that will rely on a fleet of postage stamp-sized spacecraft to explore the universe. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will also join Milner and Hawking on the board of Breakthrough Starshot, a philanthropic initiative to focus on space exploration and the search for life in the universe. Astronomers believe an Earth-like planet could exist within the “habitable zones” of Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to Earth, located 25 trillion miles (or 4.37 light-years) away.

Breakthrough Starshot hopes to launch thousands of the tiny, light-propelled spacecraft — called nanocrafts — with the goal of reaching the star system in twenty years. Each nanocraft is designed to fly at twenty percent the speed of light, on a sail pushed by a light beam, making it over a thousand times faster than today’s fastest spacecraft. With conventional spacecraft technology, it would take 30,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri. READ MORE