Yuri Milner’s Eureka Manifesto and Breakthrough Initiatives: Exploring the Future of Space Science Research

When joining the Giving Pledge in 2012, Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner promised to invest in science and scientific research at scale. Over the years, he has contributed many of his investments to space science. As he explains in his book Eureka Manifesto, “life in the Universe” is the scientific field with “perhaps the biggest mismatch between its level of profundity and its level of funding.”

To address this mismatch, Yuri Milner founded the Breakthrough Initiatives in 2015. So far, the Giving Pledge signatory has committed many hundreds of millions of dollars to the programs.

This is how two of the Breakthrough Initiatives — Breakthrough Listen and Breakthrough Starshot — are furthering space science research.

Breakthrough Listen

The first of the Breakthrough Initiatives, Breakthrough Listen is a research program looking for proof of extraterrestrial intelligence. The $100 million project uses some of the world’s most powerful instruments to detect radio signals that could originate from alien civilizations.

Announced in 2015, Breakthrough Listen began working with the Green Bank Telescope in the U.S. and the Parkes Observatory in Australia. Over the years, Listen has also worked with:

  • The FAST radio telescope in China (2016).
  • Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK (2017).
  • The VERITAS array in the U.S. (2019).
  • NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite team (2019).
  • The MeerKAT array in South Africa (2022).

Listen is also leveraging the power of artificial intelligence in the hunt for intelligent life beyond the stars. The Breakthrough Initiative has applied machine learning techniques to detect radio signals and drive data analysis.

Breakthrough Starshot

Breakthrough Starshot is a $100 million research and engineering project focused on achieving interstellar travel. Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner announced the program in 2016. Yuri Milner’s fellow Giving Pledge philanthropist Mark Zuckerberg has also joined the program’s board.

Starshot plans to design a nanocraft that could reach Alpha Centauri (Earth’s neighboring star system) within 20 years of launch. To succeed, the mission must first overcome several tricky engineering challenges. Starshot has listed these challenges online for consideration by experts and members of the public.

The Breakthrough Initiative will also establish a research grant program. Plus, it will make other funding available to support relevant scientific and engineering research and development.

In 2017, Starshot successfully flew the smallest spacecraft ever launched. In 2018, the program held a bidder’s briefing for developing the Starshot Sail.

A Better Society Through Science and Collaboration

The Breakthrough Initiatives’ goals of exploration and innovation align with Yuri Milner’s vision for a society unified by scientific progress. This vision is the subject of Eureka Manifesto, a short book that the Giving Pledge signatory published in 2021.

Eureka Manifesto argues that we need a mission for our civilization and that this mission could be to explore and understand our Universe. There are many reasons why we should pursue the mission:

  • To solve the world’s natural and man-made challenges.
  • To advance technological progress.
  • To develop an enlightened civilization that may one day span the galaxy.

Eureka Manifesto also includes a plan to help make this mission the focus of human society. The plan involves investing in fundamental science and space exploration, like the Breakthrough Initiatives. But Yuri Milner also suggests:

  • Celebrating scientists as heroes.
  • Using artificial intelligence to accelerate scientific progress.
  • Focusing education on humanity’s role in the Universal story (which contains the history of the Universe, Earth, and human evolution).
  • Kindling a new Age of Enlightenment, in which people value knowledge and critical thinking.

These imperatives could help us foster a society that champions scientific curiosity, collaboration, and innovation for the benefit of all.

Read, download, or listen to Eureka Manifesto.






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