You might think that a spacecraft visiting a planet outside of our solar system will only happen in the far future and won’t happen in our lifetimes. Well, Breakthrough Starshot, a project funded by Israeli-Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, will attempt to do just that.
The project was first announced in April 2016 by Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was also involved in the project. The project attempts to get tiny spacecrafts into the Alpha Centauri star system which is 4.3 light years from Earth. The spacecrafts are expected to pass by Proxima Centauri B. Proxima Centauri B is an Earth-sized planet that has a chance of containing life.
The spacecrafts that will be used are about the size of a postage-stamp. They will be called "StarChips". They will have equipment to send data back to earth and a camera to take images. Powerful lasers on earth will power the StarChips to 15-20% of the speed of light. There is a small chance that one of the StarChips will complete the journey to the Alpha Centauri star system. Hundreds of StarChips will be launched in order to make sure that at least one of them will complete the journey.
The StarChips will be launched by the mid 2030s. It will take 15 to 20 years for the StarChips to reach their destination. It will take an additional 4 years to send the data back to earth. This means we are 4 decades away from potentially seeing pictures of a planet in another solar system.