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Aerospace Probe to Alpha Centauri!

  1. Apr 8, 2010 #1
    I Have read alot recently about Alpha centuri having a planet thats identical to earth.

    i qquote

    On January 15, 2010, a team of astronomers released the results of computer simulations indicating that kilometer-size planetesimals can form and accrete into rocky Earth-size planets around Alpha Centauri B despite gravitational perturbations from Alpha Centauri A. The binary system, however, does not offer "favorable" conditions for the formation of gas giants, like Jupiter and Saturn. Star B was chosen for analysis because efforts are underway to detect of an Earth-like planet in or near its habitable zone (between 0.5 and 0.9 AU) using available technology -- more discussion below (Xie et al, 2010; and Jessica Griggs, New Scientist, January 29, 2010). http://www.solstation.com/stars/alp-cent3.htm

    Also you had a thread 2 years ago.

    Given the new increase in aero technology. Could we send a probe to orbit or even land there?

    Virgin can now fly you to the moon nearly! it is possible. why not?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 8, 2010 #2
    It is impossible in your lifetime. The probe would either have to travel at least hundreds of years, or it would have to accelerate close to light speed. I am only aware of one design idea that could do that acceleration and it uses interstellar hydrogen to fuse or annihilate with antimatter. The machine needed to be very big (think ITER big), getting it into orbit alone would be almost impossible, and under a certain speed the whole hydrogen pick up idea wont work, so you would need prohibitive amounts of fuel, and technology of which we don't even know if it will work one day.
    If the probe is fairly slow then it would need energy to send signals back home and I doubt there are batteries that will last that long -- even the nuclear ones. And I have yet to see an electronic device that wouldn't break after a few hundred years.
  4. Apr 8, 2010 #3
    I have been reading alot about this recently and it has intreged me.

    there was Project Orion

    was scrapped in 63' because of the The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion [Broken])

    PROJECT LONGSHOT. This says it would take 100 years.

    Project Daedalus is the most intresting idea.
    It would have the most instant succsess rate and we would advance our knoledge of space pretty rapidly. but who has the money and time to back it up??? i dont know.

    Project Daedalus was Undertaken between 1973 and 1978, We now actuly have the tech to do this so why have we not done it already.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Apr 21, 2010 #4
    Because it would be ridiculously expensive and long-term for relatively little scientific benefit, as most probes aren't designed to slow down at the other end. It increases the launched mass exponentially. Of course, all those things you mentioned have their own problems; Orion relies on an as-yet undemonstrated nuclear pulse propulsion system, Daedalus relies on undemonstrated fusion power generation, and Longshot relies on a--you guessed it--undemonstrated fusion rocket. In short, each of them depends critically on some technology which has not actually been developed and flown yet.

    That is not to say that all of these technologies are equally implausible or would be equally difficult to develop, but that it would be expensive to develop and test just the technologies needed for such a mission. Of course, if some of them don't pan out...you just lost probably a few billion dollars, and aren't any closer to launching a mission.
  6. Jul 7, 2010 #5
    "Project Daedalus" is being updated by its sequel, "Project Icarus", which has a web-site you might want to check out...

    Project Icarus

    ...plus the blog is where "Icarus" designers discuss different aspects of the design and the ideas they're developing more formal papers on...

    http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/blog/ [Broken]

    ...the designers and other members of the "Project" are hoping that their design work will bring the "Daedalus" concept closer to reality. One of their stated goals is to deccelerate the probe, partially or fully, to increase its encounter time with the target system or even put it into orbit.

    Interestingly for this present discussion is the fact that the "Daedalus" stage 1 would have been able to put a probe into orbit around Alpha Centauri within 100 years all by itself. But the probe was planned to use helium-3, which is very rare on Earth and exists only in trace amounts in the Moon's regolith. To mine it would've required balloons in the atmosphere of one of the Gas Giants - Jupiter was chosen because of proximity, but its gravity and radiation belts add to the difficulty. The "easiest" choice would be Uranus, which would be accessible to near-term nuclear-fission powered ramjets - incidentally a good design for long-term probes to those planets.

    One architecture for mining Uranus developed by Plus Ultra Technologies (a now defunct company) would involve two launches of a Titan IV class rocket, one delivering the extraction factory-balloon and the other launching an Earth-Return vehicle. Eventually it could be scaled up to thousands of tons of helium-3 per year, just as "Daedalus" needed, but that gradual development would take several decades. Because of that time-lag due to the choice of fuel, "Project Icarus" is investigating pure deuterium fusion, which produces more neutron energy than D+3He, but there might be ways around that problem.

    A popularization of "Project Icarus" is available from COSM Online...

    Bold British Plan to Visit Another Sun

    ...though it has a few factual inaccuracies, not least of which is the claim that it's "a British Plan", though it's actually International.

    A recent news writeup can be found here...

    Futuristic interstellar space probe idea revisited

    ...which interviews some of the designers. It's a five year project that has just started, so "Watch This Space" as their work is published.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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