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Yuri Milner breakthrough mission to Alpha Centauri
post Nov 15 2018, 08:53 AM
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Laser-powered nanocrafts headed to Alpha Centauri:
Breakthrough Starshot is a $100 million research and engineering program aiming to demonstrate proof of concept for a new technology, enabling ultra-light unmanned space flight at 20% of the speed of light; and to lay the foundations for a flyby mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation.

Which are the engineering challenges?

Yuri Milner twitter feed (official?): https://twitter.com/yurimilner

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post Nov 15 2018, 09:48 PM
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Frankly speaking, this approach doesn't look like anything feasible to my eyes.
I'd think, that the only technically feasible way to reach 20% of the speed of light would be a linear motor similar to a linear particle accelerator. The probe would need to be really tiny and robust, and take the role of the accelerated particle. Tiny because of the huge amount of energy required, a back-of-an-envelope calculation returned several tera watts for a one gram probe. And robust due to the incredibly high acceleration, at least.
Provided, such a tiny probe can be accelerated to the presumed velocity, and it won't be destroyed by interplanetary or interstellar matter, how will it be able to send back data over a distance of several light years? The incredibly robust tiny bullet would need to unfold into a huge antenna of presumably an average layer thickness of less than an atom, with a well-defined parabolic shape, and pointed accurately to Earth.
I think, it's less than 1% science and more than 99% fiction in a world with finite ressources.
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post Nov 15 2018, 11:43 PM
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Hard to say for me at this point, though it seems the antenna would be the same thing as the sail, doing double duty.

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