HUMANS could one day travel to Mars is less than an hour, Stephen Hawking has predicted.
Using breathtaking new technology, humans could travel at mind-boggling speeds through our solar system and far beyond.
The British physicist said the human race needed to “boldly go where none has gone before” if it wished to survive for another million years.
Professor Hawking said the world will become dangerously crowded in around 600 years, by which point humans will need to find a new home.
During a speech in Beijing, Mr Hawking said this new home could be Mars – with even far off dwarf planets like Pluto reachable in under a day.
He said regardless of their final destination, humans would need to colonise other planets to survive.
Professor Hawking, 75, said: “I believe we have reached the point of no return. Our earth is becoming too small for us, global population is increasing at an alarming rate and we are in danger of self-destructing.”
He said a new space programme must be introduced “with a view to eventually colonising suitable planets for human habitation”.
The renowned scientist said nanotechnology could help develop a way of sending spacecrafts millions of miles away from earth in a matter of minutes.
He said: “The idea behind this innovation is to have the nanocraft ride on the light beam.
“Such a system could reach Mars in less than an hour, or reach Pluto in days, pass Voyager in under a week and reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years.”
Last year Russian scientist Yuri Milner, in partnership with Prof Hawking, revealed plans to send a nanocraft soaring through space at 100 million miles per hour.
Mr Milner said: “The human story is one of great leaps. Today we are preparing for the next great leap – to the stars.”
He described the nanocraft, which will be powered using a “sail” that is powered by light, as an “inter-stellar sailboat”.
Mr Milner said: “This is a thousand times faster than the fastest space craft today, or a million times faster than a car on the highway.”
Mr Hawking added during the April 2016 event: “Earth is a wonderful place, but it might not last forever. Sooner or later we must look to the stars.”