Missions

Hubble Looks at Voyager’s Future

January 11, 2017

Nothing built by humans has ever gotten as far from our planet as Voyager 1, which is now almost 21 billion kilometers from Earth. We’ve talked about the future of both Voyagers before in these pages — Voyager 1 passes within about 1.6 light years of the star Gliese 445 in some 40,000 years, its […]

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Surviving the Journey: Spacecraft on a Chip

December 15, 2016

If Breakthrough Starshot can achieve its goal of delivering small silicon chip payloads to Proxima Centauri or other nearby stars, it will be because we’ve solved any number of daunting problems in the next 30 years. That’s the length of time the project’s leaders currently sketch out to get the mission designed, built and launched, […]

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Up Close at Alpha Centauri

December 6, 2016

In early December the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics offered as part of its fall colloquium series a talk by Harvard’s Avi Loeb, fortunately captured on YouTube as Project Starshot: Visiting the Nearest Star Within Our Lifetime. We’ve looked at Breakthrough Starshot in many posts on Centauri Dreams, including my reports from the last set of […]

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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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