Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner (a Russian billionaire) are teaming up on a lavish, 100 million dollar hunt for alien life. This hunt will rely on the creation and implementation of stamp-sized spacecrafts to explore a greater expanse of the universe. link
The project is called "Breakthrough Starshot" and is based on the idea that an earth-like planet, according to astronomers, could exist within habitable zones of Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to earth and is located (roughly) 25 trillion miles away which translated to 4.37 light years.
The tiny light-propelled spacecraft, aptly called nanocrafts, have the goal of reaching this star system within twenty years.
Each and every nanocraft is designed to fly at 20% the speed of light on a sail pushed by a light beam. Each craft will carry cameras, photon thrusters, and the necessary light-sail. They are expected to have another 4 years to transmit any information gleaned back to earth, making any data roughly 24 years away.
Doesn't sound efficient? Well, it would make it over 1000x faster than today's fasted spaceship. If we only used conventional spacecraft tech to reach the star system it would take 30,000 years.
This picture comes from Flickr User Nuzznez and is licensed under Creative Commons.