Billionaires Will Need One Heckuva Giant Space Laser For Their Probe To Alpha Centauri
There?s an inspirational story out this week about the cool stuff billionaires spend their money on. Internet billionaire Yuri Milner is teaming up with astro-genius Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg to invest $100 million to design a fleet of postage-stamp-sized space probes and launch them in the direction of Alpha Centauri. That star system is the closest to us at 4.37 light years. That?s 26 trillion miles.
Now considering all the advances in electronics we?ve seen in the past 20 years I have no doubt that these supernerds will devise the perfect space probe to communicate with our Centaurian neighbors and beam back pictures. They figure they can fit computers, cameras and a power source into a 1-gram package, or five to a teaspoon.
Building the probes doesn?t seem to be the hard part here. The hard part is this: how do you fuel them in such a way that you can get them to Alpha Centauri in a reasonable amount of time. NASA launched the Voyager space probes in the 1970s. In their 40-year journey the two Voyagers have zoomed past Pluto and are now 12 billion miles from the Sun. If they could maintain that pace the Voyagers might reach Alpha Centauri in about 2,500 years.
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