March 2012

Interstellar (Precursor) Mission & Vehicle Design

March 30, 2012

by Marc Millis Tau Zero’s first graduate student project has been completed. Berkeley Davis, a 2nd Lt. at the United States Air Force Institute of Technology, Dayton Ohio, completed his Masters thesis on a deep space probe to perform Claudio Maccone’s gravitational lens mission (FOCAL). For those unfamiliar with FOCAL, it is a mission to […]

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ESO: Habitable Red Dwarf Planets Abundant

March 29, 2012

Red dwarfs are all over the news thanks to an announcement by the European Southern Observatory. Results from a new HARPS study show that tens of billions of planets not much larger than Earth are to be expected in the habitable zones around this class of star. The finding reinforces the growing interest in M-class […]

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An Interstellar Reminiscence

March 28, 2012

by A. A. Jackson Although it was probably science fiction that got Al Jackson into interstellar flight, he remembers discovering the work of Eugen Sänger back around 1960 and becoming energized to seek out the few scientific papers on relativistic rocket designs that were then available. With a firm background in engineering, he turned to […]

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Catalyzed Fusion: Tuning Up the Ramjet

March 27, 2012

Long-time Centauri Dreams readers have learned to tolerate my eccentricities (or, at least, they’re kind enough not to dwell on them). One of them is my love of poking around in old books related to space travel, which is how Benjamin Field’s A Narrative of the Travels and Adventures of Paul Aermont Among the Planets […]

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A Brief Window: The Bussard Ramjet in the 1960s

March 26, 2012

It’s fascinating to watch how expansive ideas take hold in the public imagination. The idea of a starship that could scoop up particles from the interstellar medium came to Robert Bussard while he was at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and, as we saw recently in our articles on slowing down a starship, became the basis […]

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Century of the Starship

March 23, 2012

I once thought about putting together a collection of classic papers on interstellar flight. It would start with early work by the likes of Les Shephard, Eugen Sänger and Carl Wiley (whose groundbreaking paper on solar sails appeared not in a scientific journal but in Astounding Science Fiction). The book would proceed with the key […]

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Crowd-Funding the Exomoon Hunt

March 22, 2012

I’ve been trying to figure out why exomoons — moons around planets that orbit stars other than our own — have such a fascination for me. On the purely scientific level, the sheer amazement of discovery probably carries the day, meaning that I grew up in a time long before we had confirmation of any […]

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Starship Surfing: Ride the Bow Shock

March 21, 2012

We’ve been looking at slowing down a starship, pondering ways the interstellar medium itself might be of use, and seeing how the stellar wind produced by the destination star could slow a magsail. A large solar sail could use stellar photons, but the advantage of the magsail is that it’s going to be effective at […]

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Interstellar Space: Uses of the Medium

March 20, 2012

One of the first things we need to do in terms of interstellar exploration is to get a spacecraft built for the purpose to travel outside the heliosphere and give us solid measurements on the interstellar medium. The Voyagers are doing their best but they were never designed for what has become their interstellar mission, […]

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Braking Against a Stellar Wind

March 19, 2012

This morning I want to pick up on the ‘problem of arrival’ theme I began writing about on Friday, and we’ll look at interstellar deceleration issues a good bit this week. But I can’t let Monday start without reference to the Icarus results from Gran Sasso that finds neutrinos traveling at precisely the speed of […]

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