While speaking at the Tencent Web Summit in Beijing on Sunday, November 5, the renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking warned that the unrelenting progress of human civilization will lead to the destruction of Earth. He warned that the growing technological sophistication of human civilization and the increasing demand for energy means that Earth could end up a "flaming ball of fire by 2600." He warned that to avoid extinction mankind must become a spacefaring species and leave the planet to colonize other worlds.
Speaking via video link, Professor Stephen Hawking said that the increasing human population and the increasing energy demand of the human civilization could cause the environment that supports life on Earth to collapse catastrophically by 2600 A.D.
According to Hawking, governments and corporations would have to invest in and support projects, such as Breakthrough Starshot, which aim to develop deep space travel technology that would make it possible for humans to reach nearby star systems and colonize their habitable planets.
Hawking recommended the $100 million Breakthrough Starshot project which plans to explore a new space travel technology that could one day enable manned missions to reach our neighboring three-star system Alpha Centauri, about 4.37 light years away. He highlighted the belief by space scientists that our nearest stellar neighbors could have Earth-like planets orbiting in their habitable zone.
However, before we can reach Alpha Centauri, we would first have to overcome the barrier of the staggering astronomical distances. At present, the fastest spacecraft that we can equip for deep space exploration would take about 30,000 years to get to Alpha Centauri. However, Breakthrough Starshot plans to explore the possibility of making nanocrafts propelled by light beams to travel several hundreds of times faster and reach Alpha Centauri in about two decades.