May 26, 2022

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Future space travel on laser-powered spacecraft

The space travel Among the most fascinating and adventurous science projects: If we had not returned to the Moon after 1972, we would have sent many more men and women – scientists but also tourists, thanks to SpaceX and Elon Musk – into orbit around the Earth. Practically every major and major space agency has either sent their own rover to Mars, or attempted to do so.

We’re planning space missions – without humans on board, of course – also to Venus and even Jupiter. But the future of space exploration could be Small laser-powered spaceships.

ships of the future

Scientists are studying a more sustainable and less invasive way to explore space: they’re designing spaceships in my nail about size A cell phonewhich can fly through the solar system using Laser propelled sails. Thus it can be achieved Much faster speeds And therefore , Destinations much further.

The problem with all rocket engines in use today is that fuel They carry with them has mass. Long flights require a lot of fuel, which makes spacecraft heavy: a detail that in turn requires more fuel, which makes it heavier, and so on – a dog chasing its tail.

a “light navigation” It may be the only way to transport a spacecraft to another star During a person’s life. Scientists have suggested that Little pressure exerted by the light It could have an important effect. In fact, many experiments have shown that spaceships They can rely on sunlight to move If the nacelle is light enough and has a large enough sail.

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This is why the space mission was launched Starshot hackWho are planning to launch? Swarms of spacecraft about size chip from the direction of Alpha Centauri, each with ultra-thin and incredibly reflective sails, powered by the most powerful lasers ever made. The plan is to fly them to 20% of the speed of lightand reached Alpha Centauri in about 20 years.

The great challenge of this mission is Laser construction needed for propulsion. It requires a large ground laser field of one square kilometer with a capacity of 100 gigawatts – that will be a long way The most powerful laser made on Earth.

Long time space exploration

Today, space missions Very long: Modern spaceships usually take years to travel within the solar system. For example, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took approx 10 years to reach Pluto.

It will be even longer Travel beyond the limits of the solar system: There is talk even thousands of years. For example, alpha the centaur, the closest star system to Earth, is about 4.37 light-years away from Earth — in other words, more than 41 trillion kilometers, 276,000 times the distance from Earth to the Sun. NASA’s Voyager 1 probe, which was launched in 1977 and left the solar system in 2012, will take about 75,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri And we must make sure that the trend stays true for thousands of years.