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The human race is doomed unless we find a way to escape our planet and live elsewhere within the next 200 years, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned.
Speaking at the Starmus Science Festival in Trondheim, Norway, he also criticised Donald Trump for his ‘wrong’ decisions on climate change.
Professor Hawking said: ‘When we have reached similar crises in our history, there has usually been somewhere else to colonise.
‘Columbus did it in 1492 when he discovered the New World. But now there is no new world. No Utopia around the corner.
‘We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds.
‘The Earth is under threat from so many areas that it is difficult for me to be positive.’
‘It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth.’
Professor Hawking said that he hoped that tiny spaceships propelled by beams of light could reach Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to earth, within his audience’s lifetime.
Professor Hawking has championed the ‘Breakthrough Starshot’ as a project to send a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in 20 years.
Backed by Russian Internet billionaire Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg, the microscopic spacecraft would travel at a fifth of the speed of light.
The nanocraft, powered by a sail pushed by a light beam, could potentially travel the distance over 1,000 times faster and make the journey in 20 years.
Professor Hawking said that he hoped a ‘new space age’ would change people’s behaviour on Earth.
‘Spreading out into space will completely change the future of humanity,’ he said.
‘I hope it would unite competitive nations in a single goal, to face the common challenge for us all.
‘A new and ambitious space programme would excite (young people), and stimulate interest in other areas, such as astrophysics and cosmology’.
Starmus festival, hosted by NTNU, Norway, Trondheim, www.starmus.com. Starmus is the world’s most ambitious science and arts festival with Professor Stephen Hawking as keynote speaker, 11 Nobel laureates and Buzz Aldrin, Oliver Stone, Brian Cox and Neil deGrasse Tyson.