This Plan for Interstellar Space Travel Is So Crazy It Just Might Work

Friday, 08 December 2017 - 12:39PM
Space
Friday, 08 December 2017 - 12:39PM
This Plan for Interstellar Space Travel Is So Crazy It Just Might Work
Image credit: YouTube
Interstellar space travel has always been more sci-fi than science fact, but that may all just changed forever. A new team of expert scientists believes they've found a solution to the question of travelling light years into deep space.
 
Located a mere 25 trillion miles from Earth, the Alpha Centauri star system is our solar system's closest neighbor. Somewhat more than 4.3 light years away, the concept of reaching the distant stars in that system within a current human lifetime might seem farfetched, but the "Breakthrough Starshot" project has a plan that could get around the fact that the average astronaut probably couldn't survive such a trip, for several reasons.
 
The first reason that comes to mind is the impossibility of stocking a craft for a decades-long mission, which would also come with the likely insanity to ensue if stuck in a ship for what would be basically a lifespan. However, all this would be rendered moot when whomever was piloting this hypothetical spacecraft gets bombarded by years and years of cosmic radiation. In fact, even a robotic mission could be knocked out such energy.
 
However, the "Breakthrough" team has a way to minimize the threat—by minimizing the probe.
 
Instead of the expected vehicular-sized, instrument-laden explorer one would expect to have launched, the Breakthrough project would send what it's calling a "starchip"—a nano-sized, wafer-like craft that would be pushed across the reaches of space by a laser that would strike a sail on the chip, propelling it efficiently and quickly to Alpha Centauri in a couple of decades.
 
Before disregarding the idea as too outlandish, you might want to know who's on the Breakthrough board—especially one researcher in particular.
 
Stephen Hawking—yes, that Stephen Hawking—is a project board member.

"The limit that confronts us now is the great void between us and the stars, but now we can transcend it," Hawking explained at a news conference back in April 2016.

"With light beams, light sails and the lightest spacecraft ever built, we can launch a mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation."
 
The technology to make this happen is still yet to exist, but the minds behind the concept see it as more of a "when" than an "if," and when one of those people is perhaps the most respected scientist on the planet, it's easy to have high hopes.

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NASA
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This Plan for Interstellar Space Travel Is So Crazy It Just Might Work
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