Looking for alien life – level 3
"In your estimation, what's the probability of finding intelligent alien life in the next 20 years and why?"
"The probability is low. Probably."
With his trademark sense of humour, physicist Stephen Hawking announced plans to search for alien life.
"But the discoveries of the Kepler mission suggest that there are billions of habitable planets in our galaxy alone. And there are at least a hundred billion galaxies in the visible universe. So it seems likely that there are others out there."
They hope to deploy thousands of tiny light-propelled spacecraft into our nearest neighbouring star system, called Alpha Centauri, which is 25 trillion miles away.
Scientists hope the vehicles, which are called Nanocraft, will be able to travel at 20% of the speed of light, which is more than a thousand times faster than current spacecraft. They'll be around the size of a postage stamp with a small sail but, despite their small size, they’ll be able to carry cameras and communications equipment. That means they could send back pictures which will help to determine if the star system contains an Earth-like planets capable of sustaining life.
But before they do that, the crafts would have to go through a difficult journey – first, surviving a launch from a larger spacecraft, then 20 years of travel through interstellar space where there are plenty of obstacles like dust collisions to dodge. It would then take 4 years for the pictures to transmit back to Earth. The project’s called Breakthrough Starshot and could take years to develop ,and there's every chance it may not work. The 100-million-dollar initiative is being financed by billionaire Internet investor Yuri Milner. Last year he and Hawking announced a ten-year-long project called Breakthrough Listen. This involves monitoring radio signals for signs of intelligent life across the universe.
"Today, we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos because we are human and our nature is to fly."
Difficult words: estimation (a judgement, what you think will happen), trademark (habitual), announce (to officially say something), habitable (fit to live on), tiny (very small), sustain (to have), interstellar (through space), dodge (to avoid, to try not to hit), transmit (to send).
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