The space exploration program “Breakthrough StarShot,” which has brought Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, world-famous cosmologist Stephen Hawking and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg together, has announced that they are looking for India’s participation.

The revolutionary space project, which shoots for the stars both figuratively and literally, intends to send nanocrafts — tiny robotic spacecraft no bigger than iPhones, to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, which is 25 trillion miles away. Now it has announced it will seek India’s participation.

“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 Organization on our StarShot program,” said Pete Worden, the executive director of the program and the former director of NASA AMES Research Center, in an interview with The Times of India.

“We are indeed very interested in working closely with both experts and the public in India. Last August, I visited the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bengaluru 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,” said Worden.

The “Breakthrough StarShot” involves a ground-based light beamer pushing ultralight nanocraft to speeds up to 215 million km/h, 20 percent the speed of light. For instance, it takes a spacecraft eight to nine months to fly to Mars; “StarShot” would make it in just 30 minutes. To reach Pluto, it will take 72 hours instead of 10 years. It is estimated that, at this speed, it will take the nanocrafts about 20 years to reach the Alpha Centauri system.

The program was announced on April 12, 2016, in New York, by Russian Internet investor and science philanthropist Yuri Milner and world-renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook is one of the members on the mission’s board. The announcement was made on the 55th anniversary of pioneering space flight of Yuri Gagarin’s, for whom Mr. Milner is named.

The “Breakthrough StarShot” aims to demonstrate the technologies required for interstellar flight and to focus on space exploration and the search for life in the Universe.

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