Nanocraft: Exploring Alpha Centauri

We have barely stepped off our planet and a proposal has been made to attempt to step out of our solar system as well.

Breakthrough Initiatives, a company founded by billionaire venture capitalist Yuri Milner has proposed sending a nanocraft to Alpha Centauri. At at a distance of 4.37 light years from Earth Alpha Centauri is our closest star-neighbor.

Our fundamental frame of reference about our place in the universe is about to change in a manner somewhat analogous to what Polynesians must have experienced when their outriggers made landfall on a strange island after days or weeks at sea. It’s not just what they discovered when they got there: it was the fact that there was a “there”. There world was suddenly immeasurably larger, their own size and importance in somehow diminished.

The journey is commensurate with our technology. In some way we face some of the same issues the Polynesians faced. We have to take life with us as we go. Not fishing lines but freezers. Dried grain and fruits in plastic containers and bags instead of baskets and jars. Or maybe synthesized by an advanced 3D printer!

The difference is of course that they were still breathing air and living under the same sun. Their scale was measured in days at sea. The scale we face today is measured in lifetimes.
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