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At a space summit in Seattle last year, the wealthy Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner wowed the audience with a radical plan to search for life beyond Earth. Rather than focusing on Mars, he proposed focusing on Enceladus (en-SELL-uh-duss), a small icy moon of Saturn. And rather than waiting to see if NASA might go there, he said he wanted to tackle the challenge himself through his nonprofit Breakthrough Starshot Foundation.

“We formed a little workshop around this idea: Can we design a low-cost, privately funded mission to Enceladus, which can be launched relatively soon?” Milner said. It would be the first private mission ever to deep space.

Now the answer to Milner's question is taking shape. In September, Breakthrough quietly signed an agreement with NASA in which the space agency will provide access to its space-exploration expertise, “establishing a collaborative partnership and cooperating on Breakthrough’s implementation of its privately funded flyby Enceladus Mission.”

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