Can we fly to another star within 30 years ?

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Can a miniature spacecraft reach Alpha Centauri in 30 years ?
An ambitious new project is aiming to make interstellar travel a reality within just three decades.

Launched by billionaire Yuri Milner and supported by Professor Stephen Hawking and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the $100 million project aims to send miniature spacecraft the size of a computer chip across trillions of miles of space to neighboring solar systems.

Using current technology it would take over 30,000 years to reach the nearest star Alpha Centauri, but by scaling down the size of a spacecraft and by using a powerful laser to give it a push up to 20% of the speed of light, this figure could be feasibly reduced to as little as 30 years.

There is still a long way to go – especially in miniaturizing all the components the spacecraft would need including cameras, sensors and other instruments – but with enough research and funding there is confidence that achieving something like this may actually be possible.

“The human story is one of great leaps,” said Milner. “Fifty-five years ago today, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Today, we are preparing for the next great leap – to the stars.”

Professor Andrew Coates of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory has also weighed in on the idea by indicating that while difficult, sending a miniature spacecraft to the stars would not be impossible.

“There would be significant difficulties to solve such as ruggedisation for the space radiation and dust environment, instrument sensitivity, interaction of the high power accelerating laser with the Earth’s atmosphere, spacecraft stabilisation and power provision,” he said.

“But it is a concept worth looking at to see if we could really reach another star system within a human lifetime.”

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