This is cool: NASA’s most ambitious program ever and they are known for ambitious programs. The idea is to send a robot probe into the Alpha-Centauri solar system – actually a whole bunch of robot probes, each one about the size of a mobile phone. Even the ship to carry them there won’t need to be so big. They don’t need to worry about life support or anything.
The whole thing, they reckon, would take about 50 years, from launch to receiving back pictures and other data. The price tag is estimated at $10 billion, which sounds like a lot, but it’s only a quarter of what Dick Cheney’s company, Halliburton, made off the Iraq War. There are probably a hundred or two individuals on Earth who could finance it out of pocket, and some of them are space buffs.
And what we’d learn from the mission would be priceless. First of all, how to do it. If we can send robot probes to Alpha Centauri, we’ll be able to send robot probes to anywhere. If life actually common throughout the universe, then there is a good chance we’ll find it there. If we don’t, then we’ll be able to compare the planets there to what we’ve got here and figure out ‘why not?’ Either way, it would bring us closer to first contact.
And that, IMO, is a worthwhile goal.