Russian billionaire pledges $100 m to find extraterrestrial life

Russian billionaire pledges $100 m to find extraterrestrial life
Yuri Milner unveils Breakthrough Listen with Stephen Hawking (Photo: Getty)

20 July 2015

Russian tech billionaire Yuri Milner has announced an $100 million initiative to find life on other planets.

Milner unveiled the Breakthrough Listen initiative with physicist Stephen Hawking in a webcast from London’s Royal Society earlier today.

“This was once a dream,” said Milner. “Now it is a truly scientific quest.” Hawking added that it was “time to commit to finding the answer to search for life beyond Earth.”

The $100 million will be spent over the next decade on funding optical and radio surveys of around a billion planets in our own galaxy as well as listening for signals from 100 other galaxies. The research will be carried out by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), a Berkeley-based project founded in 1960.

Milner said that Breakthrough Listen would collect more data for SETI in one day than has been collected in any year previously. “We will have the most powerful and enduring search that’s ever been launched,” confirmed SETI founder Frank Drake.

Milner trained as a physicist before making his money in internet startups, founding Mail.ru and investing early on in Facebook, Twitter and Groupon. He set up the Breakthrough Prize programme in 2012 to honour pioneering achievements in maths and sciences.