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Category Archives: Futurism

NASA Scientists Need to Live and Work on "Mars Time" – Futurism

Posted: February 22, 2021 at 2:30 pm

The Perseverance rover doesn't care about your nine-to-five.Mars Time

NASAs Perseverance Mars rover is currently approaching the surface of Mars, where its expected to touch down in the next few hours.

Assuming it lands successfully, the Perseverance mission team at NASA is going to need to make some major lifestyle changes, Space.com reports. Most notably? Theyre going to have to start living and working on whats called Mars time, meaning theyll shift their schedule to match whats happening on the Red Planet instead of back home on Earth.

A day on Mars lasts about 24 hours and 37 minutes, meaning that the NASA teams shifts will actually start and end at different Earth times each day, since the two planets arent in perfect sync with one another.

2PM will be our start time and then that will adjust by 40 minutes every day, deputy project manager Jennifer Trosper said during a Tuesday news conference. While it works, we only ask people to do this for three months.

During past rover landings, NASA engineers would often set up cots and sleep at work as they adjusted to their constantly-shifting schedules, Space.com reports. But because of the pandemic, many of the team members will be working from home and have to sort out their calendars on their own.

But thankfully, the engineers will only go through three cycles of Mars time each just over a month on Earth before they can return to a normal working schedule, Space.com reports. Then, theyll finally be able to live on their own planets local time and recover from what Trosper said will feel a whole lot like constant jet-lag.

READ MORE: NASAs Perseverance rover team will have to live on Mars time after landing on the Red Planet [Space.com]

Watch the Perseverance landing: How to Watch NASAs Perseverance Rover Land on Mars

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Jaguar Says All Its Cars Will Be Electric in Just Four Years – Futurism

Posted: at 2:30 pm

Electric Jaguars and potentially even hydrogen-powered ones are coming very soon.Big Shift

British Automaker Jaguar Land Rover Limited announced on Monday that its making an ambitious and speedy transition away from gas-burning cars to go almost entirely electric in the future.

Most prominently, the entire Jaguar brand will go entirely electric within the next four years, according to a company press release about the pivot. In addition, the company will start to launch all-electric Land Rover SUV models in 2024. Both are ambitious timelines, but symbolically important if the iconic automaker can show the switch is possible, it could push the entire industry away from gas-burning cars and toward greener technologies.

Jaguar Land Rover is far from the only company pivoting or at least heavily investing in electric vehicles. President Biden said he wanted to electrify the entire federal fleet of vehicles, and General Motors plans to sell only electric cars, trucks, and SUVs by 2035.

But if all goes according to plan, Jaguar will already be long-done with its electrification by then. The company giving itself just four years to pivot is an ambitious and perhaps lofty goal, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

The cleaner Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles of the future may not be powered by electricity alone, according to the press release. The company is also looking into hydrogen fuel technology as a possible means to power its cars, providing multiple avenues to pursue clean energy.

Of course, these are luxury vehicles that were talking about, so a fleet of electric Jaguars wont do much to make electric car technology more accessible for the average person. That said, progress is progress.

READ MORE: Reimagine Press Release [Jaguar]

More on electric cars: Electric Cars Are About to Become Cheaper Than Gas Ones

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Elon Musk Collaborated With MIT to Track COVID Infections at SpaceX – Futurism

Posted: at 2:30 pm

More than 4,000 SpaceX employees took part in a study, helmed by Elon Musk, to track the spread of COVID-19 throughout the company.

Musk partnered with researchers from Harvard and MIT to develop the antibody testing program, which required volunteer SpaceX employees to submit to monthly blood tests.

This week, the group published a peer-reviewed study Musk, known as an unusually hands-on executive, carries a byline on it in the journal Nature Communications.

The findings shed new light on how the severity of COVID symptoms impact the amount of antibodies each person has,and suggests those who experienced mild symptoms from the virus are less likely to have long-term immunity.

People can have antibodies, but it doesnt mean they are going to be immune, Dr. Galit Alter, co-author of the study and member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, told The Wall Street Journal.

The findings have the potential to help public health officials identify who is most vulnerable to the coronavirus and then prioritize them for vaccinations. Of course, more research is needed before it can be more widely applied.

To really nail this down at a public-health level would require doing reinfection studies and following people for reinfection, Joshua T. Schiffer, associate professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centers vaccine and infectious-disease division, told the WSJ.

SpaceX is continuing to research, test, and monitor its employees for infection and reinfection each month. As the vaccine is distributed throughout the country, itll also examine the impact the vaccine on antibody production.

Hopefully, their boss has changed his own mind on getting the vaccine.

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Could I Defeat NASAs New Mars Rover in Hand-to-Hand Combat? – Futurism

Posted: at 2:30 pm

Watching NASAs Perseverance rover touch down on the Red Planet this week, it was impossible not to be struck by a sense of awe at humanitys scientific achievements in our race to the stars. The spectacle invited us to dwell on our place in the universe and the countless ways in which we reach toward even the most distant frontiers.

It also brought to mind a pressing question. If I were dropped in Jezero crater with a pressurized spacesuit, could I defeat NASAs mighty rover in hand-to-hand or at least hand-to-robot-arm combat?

In the red corner we have the most technologically advanced robot ever to explore beyond Earth. Its bristling with sensors, armed with a fearsome drill and a laser, fueled by a plutonium power system, and ruggedly constructed to withstand the harsh Martian environment.

And in the blue corner we have me, a physically unremarkable representative of a species which likes to think of itself as the apex predator of the nearby planet of Earth.

In reality, I like to think that Perseverance and I would be the best of friends. The rover is a peaceful scientific investigator, searching Mars for signs of ancient life. And its controlled by humans on Earth, which means its subject to a communications delay of up to 20 minutes. But to make things interesting, lets assume that its been reprogrammed to use every tool in its arsenal for maximum autonomous lethality.

I wanted to know if I stood a chance in such a scenario, so I called up Roger Wiens of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, who led the development of Perseverances SuperCam instrument and is broadly familiar with the rovers capabilities.

Wiens suggested that my best bet might be to flip it over like a beetle on its back. But given that Perseverance is approximately the size and weight of my first car in a recent interview with Futurism, NASA head Steve Jurczyk characterized it as a robot the size of a Mini Cooper Id probably struggle, even with the planets weak gravity.

One advantage I would have is speed. My fitness levels are deeply unimpressive, exacerbated by a year spent alternately sitting at my desk and rewatching old episodes of Star Trek from my couch. But even my dumpy, unathletic body could maintain a leisurely pace of 3 mph enough to easily overtake the rovers glacial top speed of just 0.1 mph.

Even if the rover could crush my squishy organic frame beneath its formidable wheels, it would have to catch me first. And as a lifelong specialist in avoiding confrontation, I can run away like a champ.

One strategy would be to use my cunning and construct a trap. I could build a ramp from Martian rocks and sand and lie in wait for the Mars rover to investigate, hoping the steep terrain would tip it over. But Wiens isnt sure about my chances.

That might be a little difficult, he said. Ive seen a model drive right up over a rock that was nearly one meter tall.

Indeed, the rover can make amazing maneuvers over tricky terrain thanks to its suspension system called, and I swear I am not making this up, a rocker-bogie mechanism which keeps its weight evenly distributed over all six sturdy wheels. It can climb over rocks and through depressions, and the chunky tread of its wheels can handle both soft sand and hard rocks.

Another possibility would be to use my highly evolved monkey brain to perform a sneak attack. In the great tradition of early man, I could locate a hefty Mars rock and try to bludgeon the rover into submission.

Wiens thinks that might work, at least to some extent. Most of the hardware which makes up instruments like SuperCam is custom-built to withstand the extreme forces of launch and landing, not to mention the planets frigid temperatures. But certain components, such as the infrared detectors, are commercially built devices and can contain fragile parts.

We dont really expect any Martians to be attacking the rover, Wiens admitted.

So I might have a chance at harming it, because some parts are a bit sensitive if someone is throwing rocks or small pebbles at it, in Wiens analysis. Theres a glass window in front of the SuperCam instrument, for instance, which he thinks I could smash to disorient the rover.

To do that, though, Id need to get close, and that would be hard due to its keen-eyed sensors. The SuperCam instrument alone includes a camera with a zoom powerful enough to spot a human hair from two meters away, and infrared sensors for studying mineralogy via reflected sunlight, which means it could spot me in the dark. It also has a microphone, which will be the first instrument to record the sounds of Mars, so even my footfalls could betray me.

The rover might defend itself by attacking me with its Ingenuity marscopter, with its whirling rotors, which NASA intends to be the first aircraft to fly on a world other than Earth. And what really scares me about melee combat is Perseverances laser, also part of SuperCam, which is designed to fire in brief pulses of five billionths of a second, focused on an area of just a fraction of a millimeter. The laser can fire at targets more than 20 feet away with great accuracy.

It packs a lot of energy into a really small spot, Wiens explained, to turn little pieces of rock into a high-energy plasma so that the camera can detect the color spectrum they give off, revealing their elemental composition.

Thats awesome for analyzing Martian rocks. But its unclear what it would mean for me as the target of the rovers ire. What would happen, I asked, if I put my hand in front of the laser?

It would make a little burn mark, Wiens said. Dont do that.

I might get some protection from the laser with my spacesuit. But the rover would have yet another weapon in the form of its drill, which is designed to bore into rocks in order to collect samples. The Sample Caching System includes a carousel of no less than nine drill bits for different types of sample, which are attached to a seven-foot arm that reaches out to drill into rock or, terrifyingly, into me.

All told, when even one of the scientists who was intimately involved in the design of the rover is skeptical about my chances, Im not feeling confident. Thats a chilling thought, especially when I imagine Im on Mars and its growing dark, and through the thin atmosphere an ominous whisper carries a distant whirring of gears which tells me my ruthless robotic adversary is out there, just waiting for its chance to attack.

Dan Robitzski contributed reporting.

More on NASAs Perseverance rover: NASA Releases Amazing Photo of Rover Parachuting to Mars Surface

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The Universe May Have a Fifth Dimension, According to New Research – Futurism

Posted: February 6, 2021 at 8:42 am

A fifth dimension could finally explain the mysteries of dark matter.5D Everything

A team of German and Spanish scientists says theyve found a natural explanation for dark matter and other unresolved scientific mysteries but their work depends on the existence of a new theoretical subatomic particle and an entire fifth dimension of the universe.

The new particle, a yet-undiscovered type of fermion, would be able to traverse this new dimension and bind dark matter to the luminous matter that makes up everything in the universe we can see or touch, Motherboard reports, in a way that doesnt contradict any of the other models we have on how dark matter behaves. Its seems a bit far-fetched physicists creating new rules for the universe in order to explain their own theory but if it pans out, it could vastly improve our understanding of the cosmos.

The scientists explained to Motherboard that this new particle would likely be similar to and interact with the Higgs Boson, but that it would be too heavy to detect with the current generation of particle accelerators and colliders.

But assuming the particle and the fifth dimension it navigates both exist, it represents a unique window into dark matter, according to the teams paper, published in The European Physical Journal C last month.

If this heavy particle exists, it would necessarily connect the visible matter that we know and that we have studied in detail with the constituents of the dark matter, assuming that dark matter is composed out of fundamental fermions, which live in the extra dimension, a member of the team told Motherboard.

In lieu of a tangible way to prove that this mysterious particle or the fifth dimension exists, the researchers told Motherboard they hope that other scientists keep their model in mind as they continue to study particle physics and cosmology.

This could also eventually lead to an interesting cosmological history of the universe and might lead to the production of gravitational waves, the team told Motherboard. This is an interesting line of research, which we plan to follow in the months ahead.

READ MORE: Scientists Have Proposed a New Particle That Is a Portal to a 5th Dimension [Motherboard]

More on dark matter: Astronomers Find Over 1,200 Dark Matter Hot Spots

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Scientists Are Sticking the Same People With Multiple Vaccines – Futurism

Posted: at 8:42 am

Image by Hakan Nural via Unsplash / Futurism

The United Kingdom is beginning an unusual new experiment. Government scientists want to know what happens if patients mix and match vaccines made by two different pharmaceutical companies.

Right now, the coronavirus vaccines developed by Moderna, Pfizer, and Oxford University all require two spaced-out doses to maximize their protective abilities. Requiring everyone to show up to two appointments and securing enough of the correct vaccine has been a logistical challenge, so the UK government is exploring whether it really matters which vaccine people get for their second injection, according to Axios.

If two doses from different pharmaceuticals are effective, distributing coronavirus vaccines could become far simpler but its far too soon to make any guesses.

If we do show that these vaccines can be used interchangeably in the same schedule this will greatly increase the flexibility of vaccine delivery, Oxford University virologist and project leader Matthew Snape said in a press release.

The experiment will test eight different possible vaccination combinations, according to the press release. Study participants will either get two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, or one of each before the other.

Then, within those four groups, half of the participants will get the two doses four weeks apart and the rest will get them 12 weeks apart. In other words, theyre trying as many combinations as logically possible and tracking what happens.

The work is speculative for now, scientists said in the press release, but they think its worth investigating in hopes of simplifying the vaccine rollout.

This study will give us greater insight into how we can use vaccines to stay on top of this nasty disease, flu expert and Englands Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said in the release.

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It’s Official: Biden Admin Fully Supports the Artemis Moon Program – Futurism

Posted: at 8:42 am

"Certainly, we support this effort and endeavor."To the Moon

Senate Democrats and the White House have reiterated their support for NASAs Artemis program, which has the goal of returning the first human astronauts to the surface of the Moon as soon as 2024.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said during a conference today that the government will work with industry leaders to send another man and a woman to the Moon, which is very exciting. Psakis also called the Moon a waypoint to Mars.

Certainly, we support this effort and endeavor, she added.

In a Wednesday letter signed by 11 Democratic senators, lawmakers urged the Biden administration to fully fund the human landing system initiative.

Developing the next generation crewed lunar lander is an essential step in returning astronauts to the Moon for the first time in half a century, including the historic milestone of landing the first woman on the Moon, reads the letter.

The senators also urged NASA to proceed with the planned selection and to include all necessary funding for [the Human Landing System] in your FY 2022 budget request.

Overall, significant budget constraints have put a squeeze on the space agencys efforts to develop a human landing system capable of lowering astronauts to the Moons surface, as Ars Technica reports.

That tracks with what the new head of NASA, Steve Jurczyk, told Futurism earlier this week: that without full funding for the human landing system, a 2024 Moon landing will be logistically challenging.

READ MORE: Senate Democrats send a strong signal of support for Artemis Moon program [Ars Technica]

More on Artemis: NASA Boss: We Have Every Indication That Artemis Is Safe Under Biden

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The Ocean Is Rising Faster Than Anyone Feared – Futurism

Posted: at 8:42 am

The seas are rising faster than even the most pessimistic scientists estimated.High Tide

Bad news for the roughly 40 percent of humanity that lives near a coastline: A study shows that the sea level is rising faster than even the most pessimistic climate change models predicted.

Scientists from the University of Copenhagen and Norways Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research came up with a new way to measure the sea levels sensitivity to increasing temperature, which they published Tuesday in the journal Ocean Science. And looking ahead, they predicted that the water will rise far higher than experts expected it to, adding an even greater sense of urgency to the fight against climate change.

If we want to stay on track with existing climate models and forecasts, the global economy will need to reduce carbon emissions by an additional 200 billion metric tons which is roughly five years worth beyond what experts had already accounted for in order to meet climate goals over the next century, study coauthor and Copenhagen geophysicist Aslak Grinsted told Bloomberg.

It means our carbon budget is even more depleted, Grinsted said.

The new study says that the sea level could rise by half a meter by the end of the century if temperatures increase by just half a degree Celsius. At two degrees Celsius a level of warming thats likely at this point the seas could rise by a full meter.

The scenarios we see before us now regarding sea-level rise are too conservative the sea looks, using our method, to rise more than what is believed using the present method, Grinsted told Bloomberg.

READ MORE: Sea Levels Are Rising Faster Than Most Pessimistic Forecasts [Bloomberg]

More on sea level: A Melting Antarctica Could Raise the Sea Level More Than Expected

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Startup Tests Spacecraft That Runs on Farm-Grown Rocket Fuel – Futurism

Posted: at 8:42 am

Its biofuel can be grown on a farm.Astronaut Farmer

The space startup bluShift Aerospace successfully launched a low-flying rocket on Sunday using a kind of fuel that the company says can be grown on a farm.

The company plans to become the first private aerospace company to launch a single-engine biofuel-powered rocket, according to Space.com, though theres a long way to go in order to reach that point from its mile-high test. But if it works out, the more-sustainable rocket fuel could go a long way to helping clean up an environmentally-destructive industry.

As far as the test itself goes, Space News senior writer Jeff Foust tweeted that it took three tries to get the rocket off the ground. It never quite reached its goal of one mile in altitude, according to Space.com.

BluShift CEO Sascha Deri told reporters that he felt the flight went perfectly, according to Space.com. The company now wants to ramp up its tests and launch a suborbital rocket later on this year.

It landed right where we were hoping for and where we were planning for, Deri added. It couldnt have been better than that.

The tiny rocket carries just 17 pounds of cargo, according to Space.com, but the test is still a solid showing for the prospects of environmentally-friendlier biofuel. The company claims that its proprietary biofuel is non-toxic, carbon-neutral, and can be cheaply sourced from farms across America, according to Space.com.

Future tests will show whether the fuel and the rockets it propels are ready to make a dent in conventional rocket fuels, but Deri said that hes delighted with the recent test and remains optimistic for the next.

READ MORE: Startup bluShift Aerospace launches its 1st commercial biofuel rocket from Maine [Space.com]

More on biofuel: The Worlds First US-to-Australia Biofuel Flight Was Powered by Mustard Seeds

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Avi Loeb and the Great Unknown – Futurism

Posted: at 8:42 am

It was an otherwise non-notable day in October 2017 when Canadian astronomer Robert Weryk made an astonishing discovery.

Thanks to data from the University of Hawaiis Pan-STARRS1 telescope at the Kaleakala Observatory in Hawaii, Weryk spotted an unusual object, oblong and approximately the size of a football field, screaming through the solar system at 196,000 miles per hour. Strangest of all was that it seemed to be accelerating slightly, pushed by an invisible force that has yet to be fully explained.

Its highly unusual trajectory caused it to slingshot past our Sun, leading scientists to believe that the space object later dubbed Oumuamua, or scout in Hawaiian was the first ever visitor from outside our solar system to be observed directly.

Over the last three years, countless attempts have been made to explain Oumuamuas unprecedented characteristics. Some speculated that it was hydrogen iceberg, while others suggested it was a traveling space rock covered in a layer of organic sunscreen.

To Avi Loeb, astrophysicist and professor of science at Harvard University, the answer could be a tantalizing one. His controversial argument is that Oumuamua may have been a probe sent by an extraterrestrial civilization an explanation thats garnered enormous attention in the media and, unsurprisingly, proved divisive among experts.

In his new book, titled Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, Loeb explores his provocative hypothesis, using the story of Oumuamua to lay the groundwork of a much greater conversation: the struggle to be taken seriously within a scientific community that has historically held the discussion surrounding the search for the existence of terrestrial intelligence at arms length.

During an interview with Futurism, Loeb argued that scientists explanations fell short of explaining Oumuamuas many quirks and eccentricities. The scientific community advocated for something that we have never seen before, he said.

One example of this was what Loeb referred to as the dust bunny hypothesis, which theorized that Oumuamuas odd trajectory could be explained by a very low density.

The problem with that is I dont think something of the size of a football field that is a dust bunny would survive a journey of millions of years through interstellar space, Loeb said, vacuuming up that hypothesis. I mean, I just dont think that it can hold itself together.

To Loeb, scientific explanations that attempted to squeeze Oumuamua into an existing scientific framework just didnt make sense.

The point is, you cant on the one hand say its natural, Loeb argued, and then whenever you try to actually explain it with natural processes, you come up with something that we have never seen before.

And thats how he ended up at aliens.

At the root of Loebs alien theory is that Oumuamua may have been a solar sail sent to us from another star system.

In the simplest terms, a solar or light sail is a form of spacecraft propulsion that turns the low pressure of solar radiation into movement. Earthling scientists have already experimented with the concept; in 2019, the non-profit Planetary Societylaunched a craft called LightSail-2,which uses 340 square feet of an extremely thin layer of reflective polyester film to gradually propel itself.

To Loeb, a solar sail being pushed by starlight could explain Oumuamuas unexpected acceleration. If its solid and isnt a dust bunny, the astrophysicist concluded that the interstellar visitor must also be shockingly thin perhaps, according to his calculations, less than a millimeter thick.

To the astronomer, the solar sail conclusion was following footsteps, just like detective Sherlock Holmes. When you rule out all other possibilities, whatever youre left with must be the truth.

That conclusion is a stretch to many astronomers in the field, who have repeatedly challenged Loebs conclusion.

In a 2019 study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, an international team of researchers argued that they found no compelling evidence to favor an alien explanation for Oumuamua.

Oumuamuas properties are consistent with a natural origin, University of Maryland astronomer Matthew Knight, co-author of the study, toldReuters at the time, and an alien explanation is unwarranted.

Their argument was that Oumuamua is a planetesimal, or a small fragment of a planetary building block that just happened to drift through our star system.

Weryk,who discovered the object in the first place, had no kind words for Loebs hypothesis. Honestly, thats a bit of wild speculation, he told the CBC in 2018.

I think its a remnant from another solar system, Weryk added. Its just something that happened to run into us, and we were very lucky to have been operating the telescope that night and looking in that direction.

These rebuttals appear to have only emboldened Loebs investigations into the alien origins of Oumuamua as well as leading him to make a passionate plea to the scientific community, as outlined in his book, to take SETI research seriously.

To Loeb, its all about reading the stars with an open mind.

My guiding principle is modesty, he told Futurism. If we are not arrogant, if we are modest, we would say that life, the way we have it, must be common.

We now know from the Kepler satellite data that about half of the Sun-like stars have a planet like the Earth, roughly at the same distance, so that it can have liquid water and the chemistry of life as we know it, Loeb said, referring to the habitable zone of a star system within which life can theoretically could be supported.

So we know that the dice was rolled billions of times in the galaxy, he said. And if you arrange for similar circumstances like we have on Earth, you would get a similar outcome.

To Loeb, this simple calculation is conservative, not speculative, and that it should be the mainstream view. But proposing that we are not alone in the universe is seen as a fringe view and the mainstream claims there should be a taboo.

The scientific community can address a topic even if other people address it in a way that is not scientific and doesnt make much sense, Loeb argued.

So my point is the existence of the literature on science fiction or the existence of unsubstantiated UFO reports should not eliminate this subject from being part of the mainstream discussion, he added.

In fact, Loeb contended that it is less speculative than other areas of study, from the study of dark matter to multiverse and string theories.

All of these hypothetical concept for which we have no basis, he said. And you have communities of hundreds of scientists working on giving each other awards and honors and so forth, he added in a slightly derisive tone.

To him, the refusal to believe we are not alone in the universe is a vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies.

When you put blinders on, youre not searching for anyone else, you might think that youre special, he said.

The only way to break that taboo, to break that state of mind, is to find evidence for others, Loeb argued. But, if you dont search, you will never find it, closing the cycle.

Worst of all, a lack of funding for SETI research only ends up deterring young people from entering this field, Loeb said.

So the search for life beyond the Earth must go on and Loeb has plenty of ideas on how to do so.

Arguably the most ambitious plan hes involved with, a project called Breakthrough Starshot, is a proof-of-concept interstellar probe project by Breakthrough Initiativesthat involves sending an army of small light sails called Starchips as far as Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our own at just over four light years away.

TheCentauri system contains a promising planetary candidate called Proxima b, a tantalizingly Earth-like planet.

Four light year may not sound like much on paper, but the distances that the sails would have to cover are immense. Rather than harnessing the solar radiation from the Sun, the project is investigating if we can shoot an extremely powerful laser at these spacecraft from here on Earth to provide enough acceleration.

Its an endeavor that involves near-insurmountable hurdles. In fact, Loeb isnt sure if the Starshot project will materialize in his lifetime and Breakthrough Initiatives estimates that it could take 20 years for the mission to reach Alpha Centauri after launch.

But I think we have to do it as a civilization, Loeb told Futurism. We have to go in that direction and consider how to visit other stars, because currently all our eggs are in one basket here on Earth and we cant ignore the risk from a catastrophe.

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