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The Forefront of Space Exploration

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Recently, President Trump signed a new directive that will return American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972. The intended purpose is to create a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars. As exciting as this is, I have to ask: what’s next?

NASA has stated that in the far future (2069 – 2100) they plan on exploring Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to Earth and contains a planet, Proxima Centauri b, that could contain life. However, NASA does not even have the technology to execute this mission.

One potential method for reaching Alpha Centauri, however, is the robot probe technique, Breakthrough Starshot. Funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, this technology is worlds ahead of any other modern day space exploration equipment. If Yuri Milner collaborated with NASA, the results would be extraordinary. NASA elite personnel and facilities would benefit Milner’s technological advancements and scientists. But, what makes me so excited over Breakthrough Starshot?

First, the probe used in this robot technology is called a StarChip. It is about the size of a quarter and costs about the same as an iPhone. Together, with breakthrough lightsails, nanotech sails that capture light, a nanocraft is formed. Using focused lasers, the nanocraft can accelerate to about 20% the speed of light, 100 million miles per hour (about 1000x faster than the fastest spacecraft today). The nanocraft would rocket past Alpha Centauri only twenty years after launch and send photographs and information back to Earth as light.

This is incredibly exciting. The prospect of exploring another solar system and photographing a planet potentially harboring life has me at the edge of my seat. The nanocraft is truly at the forefront of space exploration technology.

 

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The Forefront of Space Exploration