The overwhelming size and age of the Universe are both indications that earthlings should not be the only living creatures within it. Human exploration has already shown that there are a large amount of habitable planets in other galaxies. Scientists believe that our limited technology is the main reason that we have not been able to access these other intelligent beings in their star systems. They constantly aim at improving space technology so that we will be able to make contact with aliens sooner rather than later.
In 2015, Julia and Yuri Milner, in collaboration with astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, formed the Breakthrough Initiatives Program. Its aims are to ‘explore the Universe, seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth and encourage public debate from a planetary perspective.’ The program consists of three main areas which are simultaneously being developed:
Breakthrough Listen – This is a comprehensive search of the universe, using telescopes and other space exploration devices, which aims at locating the slightest possible artificial radio and/or optical signals. The study currently includes the 100 nearest galaxies to ours, 1,000,000 stars and the plane and centre of our galaxy, the Solar System. The public will have access to all that is observed, as the Breakthrough Initiatives designers believe that space exploration should include the entire world.
The National Astronomical Observatories of China has recently formed a partnership with Breakthrough and this has allowed the world’s largest telescope, FAST, to join others which are already a part of the project, including the Green Bank Telescope in the USA and the Parkes Observatory in Australia.
Breakthrough Message – A competition with the top prize of $1,000,000 has been announced for individuals, or groups, to design a complete message about life on our planet and its people. This should be made with the intention of communicating with any extra-terrestrials that might be found. The public is included in order to create awareness of the mission, and get the general outlook behind space exploration.
Breakthrough Starshot – This branch of the program is in charge of producing technology which will be able to facilitate our expansion. The main aim is enable an unmanned flight to our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, within the next 25-30 years. It is believed that the craft would need to travel at 20% the speed of light in order to get there, and would be transporting Nano craft space robots on its initial voyage.
As our search for aliens continues, the likelihood of projects like the Breakthrough Initiatives arising continues, and with it the possibility of finding them increases.