Tatiana Plakhova Reaches the Stars with Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner
In Carl Sagan’s classic ‘Contact,’ he says, “The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space.” The universe’s vastness far outpaces the human imagination, and it’s not only likely that there’s other life out there, it’s a statistical certainty. The question isn’t if they’re out there, the question is where they are. And how far away they are. Because of the limits of our current technology, it takes us an incredible amount of time to cross the distances required to find the next living forms. So, Stephen Hawking is teaming up with Yuri Milner to bridge that gap. In an effort called ‘Breakthrough Starshot,’ they’re using non-traditional technologies to rocket our species’ introduction across the stars, and they asked Tatiana Plakhovha to help them announce it with Mark Zuckerberg. She created an image that both Hawking and Zuckerberg shared on their personal Facebook pages explaining the project, and it was a total thrill for Tatiana. “I was happy as a child when I saw my image on Stephen Hawking’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s profiles!,” says Tatiana. “Then people told me this image was shown in all the world news.”
Creating imagery that is true to incredible science while satisfying minds like Hawking and Milner isn’t easy. Tatiana’s work strikes a balance between science fiction and abstraction, but tied to something like Breakthrough Starshot, Tatiana went a little more literal. To spread the Earth’s message, they’re going to create a “fleet” of “nanocraft” that can rocked towards Alpha Centauri at 100 million miles per hour, reaching our nearest star in only 20 years. They’ll achieve this by creating space sails that rather than wind will catch light from an array of laser beams. Tatiana’s image shows these space sails in incredible formation as they’re blown away from the Earth.
As a native Russian, space has always been an interest of Tatiana’s, reaching all the way back to her childhood. “I’m extremely interested in space exploration,” says Tatiana. “Like many Soviet Union children I was deeply inspired by Gagarin’s flight. I even played a game with my friends for a few years; we would sit in my room near the window, pretending that we’re flying in a cosmic ship. That was really fun.” As the future comes closer to us by the day, galactic exploration and travel is almost within reach for us. What was once a child’s game is very much turning into a reality. We just have to grab onto it.