Missions

Interstellar Flight: Risks and Assumptions

October 8, 2014

The interstellar mission that Dana Andrews describes in his recent paper — discussed here over the past two posts — intrigues me because I’m often asked what the first possible interstellar mission might be. Sure, we can launch a flyby Voyager-class probe to Alpha Centauri if we’re willing to tolerate seventy-five thousand years in cruise, […]

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Starflight: Near-Term Prospects

October 6, 2014

If our exoplanet hunters eventually discover an Earth-class planet in the habitable zone of its star — a world, moreover, with interesting biosignatures — interest in sending a robotic probe and perhaps a human follow-up mission would be intense. In fact, I’m always surprised to get press questions whenever an interesting exoplanet is found, asking […]

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Sprites: A Chip-Sized Spacecraft Solution

July 17, 2014

In mid-June, NASA announced the award of two contracts with Deep Space Industries in conjunction with the agency’s plans to work with private industry in the exploration and harvesting of asteroids. One of these contracts caught my eye immediately. It involves small payloads that can ride along to supplement asteroid missions, and it’s in the […]

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Sagan’s Andromeda Crossing

June 25, 2014

When Carl Sagan and Iosif S. Shklovskii discussed travel to another galaxy in Intelligent Life in the Universe (Holden-Day, 1966), they considered the problem from the standpoint of the technologies then under discussion by theorists like Robert Forward and Robert Bussard. As I mentioned yesterday, the authors found hibernation interesting, drawing on the ideas of […]

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Deep Time: Targeting Another Galaxy

June 24, 2014

Interstellar flight isn’t about possibility as much as it is about time. We know we can launch a payload to another star if we’re willing to burn up enough millennia — about seventy — to get there in the form of a Voyager-style flyby. That’s with today’s technology, and we can extrapolate how the time […]

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New Horizons: The KBO Hunt Continues

May 27, 2014

Of the many interesting questions Nick Nielsen raised in last Friday’s post, the one that may be most familiar to the interstellar community is the question of potential breakthroughs. What happens if an unexpected discovery in propulsion makes all the intervening stages — building up a Solar System-wide infrastructure step by step — unnecessary? If […]

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The Infrastructure Problem [1]

April 25, 2014

Nick Nielsen today tackles an issue we’ve often discussed in these pages, the space-based infrastructure many of us assume necessary for deep space exploration. But infrastructures grow in complexity in relation to the demands placed upon them, and a starship would, as Nick notes, be the most complex machine ever constructed by human hands. Are […]

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Optimal Worldship Populations

April 8, 2014

Although we tend to focus on propulsion as the major obstacle to reaching another star, the biological problems that go along with journeys lasting decades or even centuries are equally daunting. If we could devise methods that would get us to Alpha Centauri within a century, we’d still face the need to keep a crew […]

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From Brown Dwarfs to NEOWISE

December 23, 2013

I will admit to an obsession with small, dim stars, one that goes far enough to take in those not-quite stars called brown dwarfs, objects too small to ignite hydrogen fusion. The WISE mission showed us that, at least in our Sun’s neighborhood, brown dwarfs aren’t as common as we once thought, with perhaps one […]

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The Stars in their Courses

December 2, 2013

Here’s hoping Centauri Dreams readers in the States enjoyed a restful Thanksgiving holiday, though with travel problems being what they are, I often find holidays can turn into high-stress drama unless spent at home. Fortunately, I was able to do that and, in addition to a wonderful meal with my daughter’s family, spent the rest […]

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