NASA announced today their plans for searching life outside our solar system.
The US space agency plans to send a spacecraft to neighbouring star system Alpha Centauri in 2069 – the 100th anniversary of the first moon landing.
Alpha Centauri, which is “only” 24.9 trillion miles from Earth, consists of three stars: Centauri A, Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri.
It has been the subject of great scientific and public interest ever since an Earth-like planet was discovered orbiting Proxima Centauri last year.
Known as Proxima b, the planet resides in Proxima Centauri’s “habitable zone”, where temperatures are enough to permit liquid surface water.
However, it is regularly blasted by powerful ultraviolet rays and X-rays from the star, so any life that evolved on its surface would have to fight against the radiation.
Astronomers believe there are “almost certainly” other small Earth-like planets capable of harbouring alien life in the Alpha Centauri star system.
But visiting Alpha Centauri would require a spacecraft that can travel at a minimum of 10% of the speed of light – nearly 30 million metres per second.
Even if this could be achieved, the journey would still take 44 years, meaning the spacecraft would not reach Alpha Centauri until the year 2113.