Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian-born billionaire Yuri Milner announced Monday an ambitious bid to combine vast computing capacity with the world's most powerful telescopes to intensify the search for extraterrestrial life.
Hawking, who speaks using a computer-generated voice due to the effects of motor neuron disease, explained the reason for the $100 million project: "We are alive. We are intelligent. We must know."
If all goes well, the massed computer power will generate more data in one day than they normally get in one year.
Milner plans to back the program for at least 10 years although scientists agree it may take longer to find proof that alien life exists.
Hawking said the new program should succeed because it has ample resources: access to time on major telescopes, a huge data capacity, and a long-term
financial commitment that will not be withdrawn.
"If a search of this sophistication finds no proof, that is an interesting result," he said. "It will not prove that we are alone but it will narrow the possibilities and it is likely to produce data that is fascinating in its own right."
Based on new information about the number of other worlds where life couldhave taken hold it is "quite likely" humans are not alone, he said.
"There is no bigger question," Hawking said. "It is time to commit tofinding the answer to search for life beyond Earth."
ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this story.