Yuri Milner, the founder of Breakthrough Initiatives, is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, physicist, and Russia’s most influential tech investor. The program is in charge of the most comprehensive search for intelligent alien life.
Yuri has invested in many of the world’s most successful startups, such as Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Spotify, Alibaba, Airbnb, WhatsApp, and Wish, through venture capital firms that he founded. As such, he has funded the group and its projects — Breakthrough Listen, Breakthrough Message, Breakthrough Starshot, Breakthrough Watch, and Breakthrough Enceladus, the latter of which is a collaboration with NASA — through the fortune he accumulated through his investments.
Breakthrough Listen plans to survey the 1,000,000 closest stars to Earth in the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, among the 100 closest galleries to the Earth aside from the Milky Way. This project will use some of the world’s most powerful telescopes, in addition to high-quality data analysis and software programs.
“It’s quite likely that we won’t find anything,” Yuri stated in an interview with the journal Nature. “But in 10 years’ time, there will be even more advances and we can work out the best strategy for the next 10 years of the project, and then maybe the next 10 after that.
Breakthrough Message plans to study the ethics around sending message into space.
“To encourage global discussion on the ethical and philosophical issues of sending messages into space, we pledge not to transmit any message until there has been a wide-ranging debate at high levels of science and politics on the risks and rewards of contacting advanced civilizations,” as stated on the project’s website.
Breakthrough Starshot aims to send a fleet of 1,000 nano starcrafts named StarChip on a journey to the Alpha Centauri star system, which is 4.37 light-years away. Each starcraft will carry navigation gear, miniaturized cameras, photon thrusters, and a power supply.
Breakthrough Watch plans on identifying planets around Alpha Centauri and other stars within 20 light years of Earth to search for “biosignatures,” such as oxygen.