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The privately funded Breakthrough Initiatives project has committed funds to upgrade the Very Large Telescope in Chile in exchange for telescope time to look for Earthlike planets in orbit around Alpha Centauri.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and physicist Stephen Hawking are hoping to find Earth-like planets in our neighbouring star system, Alpha Centauri. Together they will upgrade the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to look for potentially habitable worlds as part of the ‘Breakthrough’ initiatives.
These planets could be the targets for a launch of tiny space probes to track down aliens within our lifetimes, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) said.
This is exactly how astronomy used to function. Rather than get money from the government in exchange for doing the research it wanted done, astronomers obtained funds from wealthy individuals or businesses to build and upgrade their telescopes in exchange for doing the research that interested these funding sources. The difference? The work was privately funded voluntarily, rather than coerced from the public through taxes.