New Delhi: The $100-million revolutionary space programme Breakthrough StarShot, which envisages sending ultralight nano crafts to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri – 25 trillion miles away – will seek India’s participation, executive director of the project S Pete Worden has said.
In an email interview with TOI on Saturday, Worden, former director of Nasa’s Ames Research Centre, said: “For Breakthrough StarShot, our interstellar probe initiative, we note that India is a leader in space exploration, especially with the recent Mars Orbiter Mission. We hope to explore the possibility of working closely with the Indian Space Research Organisation on our StarShot program,” he said.
‘Breakthrough StarShot’, which will turn sci-fi into reality, involves a ground-based light-beamer pushing ultralight nano crafts-miniature space probes attached to light sails-to speeds up to 100 million miles an hour. As against the eight to nine months it takes a spacecraft to fly to Mars, Breakthrough StarShshot will cover the distance in just 30 minutes. And to reach Pluto, as against 10 years, it will take 72 hours. It is estimated that, at this speed, it will take the nano crafts about 20 years to reach the Alpha Centauri system.
The project was announced on April 12, 2016, in New York, by Russian internet billionaire Yuri Milner and world-famous cosmologist Stephen Hawking.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is part of the board and other high fliers in the world of space exploration are part of the project. The announcement coincided with the 55th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight.
Worden said, “We are indeed very interested in working closely with both experts and the public in India. Indeed, last August, I visited the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bengalaru and spoke with the scientists there about our projects. We plan a return visit to India in the next few months for more discussions. There are a number of areas we hope to involve Indian participation. India is a global leader in information technology and processing,”