Breakthrough Starshot Sends Chip Craft To The Stars

Physics superstar Stephen Hawking and billionaire Yuri Milner have a vision of interstellar exploration taking place over the course of not thousands of years, but decades.


(Breakthrough Starshot)

Together with a team of scientists, they suggest that within a generation, humans could send a probe to Alpha Centauri more than 4.3 light-years away, or 25 trillion miles on a trip that would take just over two decades. That's 1,000 times faster than the current fastest spacecraft, the scientists say.

They're thinking big by thinking very small.

Instead of sending a car-size or piano-size probe, the "Breakthrough Starshot" team is proposing a postage-stamp-size spacecraft a "starchip." The project, announced by Hawking and Milner on Tuesday, would engineer a method for such a nanocraft to be propelled through space by a sail, pushed by a powerful laser aimed from Earth.

The idea of laser cannon can be found first in science fiction in Larry Niven's 1966 short story Neutron Star. However, the term "laser cannon" was used earlier. In a 1962 book titled Report on Laser Design Study, we find "results of the design analysis indicate the feasibility of proceeding with the construction of a LASER cannon system at once."

The basic idea for the laser cannon/light sail propulsion system belongs to Robert L. Forward, who published a short paper Ground-Based Lasers For Propulsion In Space in 1961.

And who first suggested that space travel could be accomplished by means of light pressure? Amazingly, Jules Verne suggested it in 1867 - see the article on light pressure propulsion.

Update: I was poking around and recalled that Larry Niven had a more specific term for a lasers that launched or accelerated space craft: he called them launching lasers in his 1971 story The Fourth Profession. End update.

Via NPR.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/10/2016)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
'Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.

Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1936.

Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.' - Jack Williamson, 1933.

Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...' - James Blish, 1957.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Las Vegas Humans Ready To Strike Over Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot... had to be compensated.'

You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.'

Elon Musk Seeks To Create 1941 Heinlein Speedster
'The car surged and lifted, clearing its top by a negligible margin.'

Somnox Sleep Robot - Your Sleepytime Cuddlebot
Science fiction authors are serious about sleep, too.

Real-Life Macau or Ghost In The Shell
Art imitates life imitates art.

Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.'

First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.

VirtualHome: Teaching Robots To Do Chores Around The House
'Just what did I want Flexible Frank to do? - any work a human being does around a house.'

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Workshop
SF writers have thought about this since the 19th century.

Nanorobots Roam Your Bloodstream, Cleaning It
Too bad they won't have lasers, though...

Galini 3D Printed Sleeping Pod Tiny Houses
'The houses are prefabricated units...'

MIT Boffins Create Psychopath AI On Purpose
There's a lesson in this for neural net AI engineers everywhere.

Skin Electronics 3D Printed
'June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry...'

Artificial Sensory Neurons For Prosthetics, Robots
Great for humans and robots!

China Uses Artificial Intelligence To Grade Student Papers
Looks like the City Fathers are starting to take over China's education system.

Electronic Tongues Will Rule The Kitchen
'Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.