“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.
“Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed …
“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.”
– Neil Armstrong

“We commit to the next great leap into the cosmos, because we are human and our nature is to fly.”

-Stephen Hawking

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – For those of us who remember watching Neil Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind,” who have savored Star Trek and science fiction for decades, who spent hours peering at the stars to track Sputnik in orbit, space has never lost its allure. We dream. We pray for a better future “out there.”

Now we have “StarShot.”

An entrepreneur with the help of the remarkable Stephen Hawking could be on the verge of taking interstellar flight into new, much faster realms.

“We commit to the next great leap into the cosmos,” Hawking said at the StarShot news conference on Tuesday, “because we are human and our nature is to fly.”

Thrilling. Chilling. Exciting. Yet daunting.

They need help from entrepreneurs. Perhaps you are one of them.

Perhaps with your help our children and grandchildren will live to hear or read a text message: “Alpha Centauri dead ahead …”

Is this really possible?

Defining the moonshot

Here’s how AP Science Writer Malcolm Ritter described the news made by Hawking and science entrepreneur Yuri Miller in New York on Tuesday:

“With famed physicist Stephen Hawking at his side, an Internet investor announced Tuesday that he’s spending $100 million on a futuristic plan to explore far outside our solar system.

“Yuri Milner said the eventual goal is sending hundreds or thousands of tiny spacecraft, each weighing far less than an ounce, to the Alpha Centauri star system. That’s more than 2,000 times as far as any spacecraft has gone so far.

“Propelled by energy from a powerful array of Earth-based lasers, the spacecraft would fly at about one-fifth the speed of light. They could reach Alpha Centauri in 20 years, where they could make observations and send the results back to Earth.”

Hype or real possibility?

Raleigh resident and accomplished space writer Paul Gilster believes so – although it’s “quite a stretch.”

Gilster writes extensively about space in his widely read blog “Centauri Dreams.”

An appropriate title, is it not, for the excitement now being created by the StarShot project?

“Could an Alpha Centauri flyby mission be developed and launched within a single generation? I think it’s quite a stretch, but it’s the best-case scenario Milner mentioned in a phone conversation over the weekend,” Gilster wrote.

“He’s enough of a realist (with a first-rate physics background) to know that the challenges are immense. Even so, he sees no deal-breakers.”

Other entrepreneurs – Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk perhaps the best known – along with Milner are now driving mankind’s reach for the stars.

The Mission: To go …

Here’s the mission of Starshot:

“The story of humanity is a story of great leaps – out of Africa, across oceans, to the skies and into space. Since Apollo 11’s ‘moonshot’, we have been sending our machines ahead of us – to planets, comets, even interstellar space.

“But with current rocket propulsion technology, it would take tens or hundreds of millennia to reach our neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri. The stars, it seems, have set strict bounds on human destiny. Until now.

“In the last decade and a half, rapid technological advances have opened up the possibility of light-powered space travel at a significant fraction of light speed. This involves a ground-based light beamer pushing ultra-light nanocrafts – miniature space probes attached to lightsails – to speeds of up to 100 million miles an hour. Such a system would allow a flyby mission to reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years from launch, and beam home images of possible planets, as well as other scientific data such as analysis of magnetic fields.

“Breakthrough Starshot aims to demonstrate proof of concept for ultra-fast light-driven nanocrafts, and lay the foundations for a first launch to Alpha Centauri within the next generation. Along the way, the project could generate important supplementary benefits to astronomy, including solar system exploration and detection of Earth-crossing asteroids.”

Yet Milner and his team are appealing for help. They need ideas. Thinking. They need entrepreneurs who can look past this quarter’s sales report and expenses to dream of the possible – and make the seemingly impossible real.

Entrepreneurs do this time after time.

Alpha Centauri, here man comes – with your help.

Dream big.

Read more at:

  • Starshot web site:


  • Paul Gilster’s blog:

Breakthrough Starshot: Mission to Alpha Centauri