A great conversation with Pete Worden the Executive Director for Breakthrough Starshot. Breakthrough Starshot is a $100 million research and engineering program aiming to demonstrate proof of concept for a new technology, enabling ultra-light unmanned space flight at 20% of the speed of light; and to lay the foundations for a flyby mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation.
The Breakthrough Initiatives were founded in 2015 by Yuri and Julia Milner to explore the Universe, seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth, and encourage public debate from a planetary perspective.
Executive Director, Breakthrough Starshot; former Director of NASA Ames Research Center
Prior to joining the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, Dr. Worden was Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center. He was research professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona. He is a recognized expert on space and science issues and has been a leader in building partnerships between governments and the private sector internationally. Dr. Worden has authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific papers in astrophysics and space sciences. He served as a scientific co-investigator for three NASA space science missions – most recently the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph launched in 2013 to study the Sun. He received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for the 1994 Clementine Mission to the moon. Dr. Worden was named the 2009 Federal Laboratory Consortium ‘Laboratory Director of the Year’ and is the recipient of the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Innovator’s Award.
Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina
Dr. Svetlana is an exoplanetary and astrobiology researcher and physics professor. Svetlana and her team were the first to see reflected light and a blue color of a planet outside the solar system, a paradigm-exploding discovery in exoplanetary research. While employing quantum effects in various molecules, she pioneered and established several innovative research lines in astrophysics, which led to discoveries of new phenomena. Her breadth, vision and fearless attitude toward research set her on the path to search for signs of life on other planets while investigating colorful bacteria and plants of Hawai‘i.
Dr. Jeff Kuhn
Dr. Kuhn is a physicist and astronomer, having received his physics PhD from Princeton in 1981. He helped found the Advanced Technology Research Center of the Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii on Maui in 2003 and was its director until 2012. As a researcher, he’s generated about $14M of federal research grants over the last decade and published more than 200 papers. His innovative optical research has contributed to telescopes now under construction, like the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (for which he is a principal co-investigator). His scientific work has been recognized with an International Senior Humboldt Prize (from Germany) and international research fellowships from Japan, Switzerland, Germany, and France. He serves as an advisor for diverse organizations ranging from the BreakThrough Starshot and Watch committees to advisory Boards for NASA and university programs. He leads the PLANETS consortium.
Kevin is an entrepreneur interested in finding and characterizing life on nearby exoplanets. He spends the majority of his time working on the PLANETS Foundation to scale their fundraising. In addition to finding life in the Universe, Kevin is also interested in developing organizations that prospect and mine asteroids. He has also had a successful career in the Hawaii travel and tourism industry where we founded multiple companies ranging from an online activity brokerage to a retail chain.