Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A 20 Year Trip to Alpha Centauri

So the plan is to create thousands of spacecrafts, each with the weight of a paper clip and carrying a computer, a camera, a laser communication system, and a plutonium engine. That's the easy part. The hard part is to blast them, up in space, with millions of lasers from down here on the ground, all in perfect synchronization through Earth's roiling atmosphere.

Accelerated to 50,000 miles per second, or one quarter the speed of light, they'll pass Mars' orbit in ten minutes, and catch up to Voyager 1's position in three days, finally reaching Alpha Centauri in under 20 years(!), where they'll take photos, and beam home prints for our perusal four years later.

If we can make this happen 20 years from now, and I watch it with the lasagna, there's a chance I'll be able to see close-up images of exo-planets within my lifetime.

This was all announced yesterday, so even Wikipedia hasn't caught up, but The Economist offers pretty rich coverage.

I never did get my jetpack, but between this and the craft beer boon, I've decided I like the future. I was going to mention "video phone" along with jetpack, until I remembered my iPhone does FaceTime (and, come to think of it, I loathe Facetime, which, hmm, has me rethinking a few things).

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