RSAA Colloquia / Seminars / Feast-of-Facts: Wednesday, 06 February 2019, 11:00-12:00; CSO Common Room

Pete Worden

"The Breakthrough Initiatives: A Privately-Funded Search for Life in Universe"

The shape of scientific space exploration is shifting. The Breakthrough Initiatives may represent a new trend with its scientific philanthropic search for signatures of life in the universe. Major pursuits in space sciences used to be solely in the public’s domain, however, with the emergence of philanthropic actors, the field is now inhabited by nongovernmental organizations and individuals of financial means. The history of funding for large astronomy observatories has been no stranger to private parties. However, the funding of space-based objects for scientific pursuits is new. With a reduction in cost and complexity to access space, development of inexpensive and ubiquitous technologies, coupled with recent discoveries of the cosmos, age-old scientific puzzles beckon to be solved. Accordingly, the Breakthrough Initiatives seek to decipher some of humanity’s grandest questions via several novel philanthropic space science initiatives On July 20, 2015 at the Royal Society in London, UK, Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking launched the Breakthrough Initiatives. At the press conference S. Pete Worden was introduced as the Chairman for the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. In this capacity he leads the Breakthrough Initiatives. On April 12, 2016 in the One World Observatory in New York, NY, Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking announced the Breakthrough StarShot Initiative to develop and launch Earth’s first interstellar probe within a generation. And on Jan 9. 2017 in Santiago, Chile a third Initiative, Breakthrough Watch was announced to search for a life-bearing planet in the nearest star systems - in particular the Alpha Centauri system. The Initiatives are the subject of this talk.