Missions

Breakthrough Starshot: Focus on the Sail

September 2, 2016

Who knows why and when we’re going to remember things? In the bus on the way to Moffett Field for the second morning of the Breakthrough Starshot meetings, I found myself thinking about Poul Anderson’s The Enemy Stars (1959). I had a paperback edition with a beautiful Richard Powers cover when I was a boy. […]

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Breakthrough Starshot Report 2: Drilling Down to the Basics

August 30, 2016

A lot of things can go wrong when you’re working on a thirty-year project. Consider the charter of the systems subcommittee of Breakthrough Starshot, whose mission is to “…ensure that Starshot engineering activities can and will result in a 0.2c mission to Alpha Centauri.” In the hands of the capable Kevin Parkin, the subcommittee has […]

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At the Breakthrough Starshot Meetings

August 29, 2016

An interesting typo — I had started to write ‘On the plane back from Proxima b,’ still a bit groggy from lack of morning coffee. Let’s correct that to ‘On the plane back from San Francisco.’ I was coming back from the Breakthrough Starshot meetings, most of which took place at Moffett Field, a former […]

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Spacecoaches and Beamed Power

April 29, 2016

If you’re planning to make it to the International Space Development Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico next month, be advised that Brian McConnell will be there with thoughts on a subject we’ve discussed in several earlier posts: A ‘spacecoach’ that uses water as a propellant and offers a practical way to move large payloads […]

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Starshot and the Gravitational Lens

April 25, 2016

Although the idea of a mission to the Sun’s gravitational lens has been in Claudio Maccone’s thinking for a long time, it has never been linked with the financial resources of a concept study like Breakthrough Starshot. The Italian physicist led a conference on mission concepts in the early 1990s and submitted a proposal for […]

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Starshot: Concept and Execution

April 22, 2016

Because I get irritable when I don’t get my walking in every day, I made sure when I arrived in Palo Alto to cram as much as I could into the day before Breakthrough Discuss began. That meant heading out from the hotel just after noon and putting in about five miles. Palo Alto is […]

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The Odds on Starshot

April 13, 2016

Yesterday’s announcement of Breakthrough Starshot brought an email from exoplanet hunter Greg Laughlin (UC-Santa Cruz), whose work has been an inspiration to me since the early days of Centauri Dreams. One of Greg’s new projects, working with Anthony Aguirre (Foundational Questions Institute) and several other colleagues, is a website called Metaculus, which bills itself as […]

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Breakthrough Starshot: Mission to Alpha Centauri

April 12, 2016

Here on Centauri Dreams we often discuss interstellar flight in a long-term context. Will humans ever travel to another star? I’ve stated my view that if this happens, it will probably take several hundred years before we develop the necessary energy resources to make such a mission fit within the constraints of the world’s economy. […]

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The Snowbank Orbit, Redux

April 8, 2016

We haven’t yet found Planet Nine, but the evidence for its existence is solid enough that we can start thinking about its possibilities as a mission target. That work falls in this essay to Adam Crowl, a Centauri Dreams regular whose comments on articles here began not long after I started the site. An active […]

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John Ford Fishback and the Leonora Christine

April 1, 2016

Like the Marie Celeste, the Leonora Christine is a storied vessel, at least among science fiction readers. In his 1967 story “To Outlive Eternity,” expanded into the novel Tau Zero in 1970, Poul Anderson described the starship Leonora Christine’s stunning journey as, unable to shut down its runaway engines, it moved ever closer to the […]

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