So who is this random Russian guy anyway? Well, he's certainly no stranger to moonshot space plans. Just last year, the billionaire tech investor (who, coincidentally, was named after Yuri Gagarin, the first human to journey into space) poured $100 million into another ambitious project: the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Of course, throwing gobs of money at something doesn't mean it's a sure thing that we'll actually see a trip to the stars happen in our lifetime, but Milner's got quite a team in place already to help steer things in the right direction. In addition to Hawking, he’s recruited Mark Zuckerberg to sit on the board of directors, and the project lead will be the former director of NASA's Ames Research Center. That's not to mention a large cast of other bold-name advisers including Nobel Prize-winning astronomers and even Carl Sagan's widow.
But let's be real, $100 million is basically pocket change when it comes to space travel, especially when it involves something as ambitious as traveling to stars. For his part, Milner says his money's merely meant to fund an initial round of research and development, and hopefully pull together enough excitement to lure in other deep-pocketed investors and possibly even international space programs.