Space probe to Proxima Centauri

In summary, currently it is not feasible to send a space probe to Proxima Centauri due to the long travel time of about 75,000 years using current technology. However, there have been proposals for more efficient methods such as Project Daedalus and Project Longshot, which have travel times of around 50 and 100 years respectively. These projects rely on advancements in fusion technology that have not yet been achieved. Alternatively, there is the possibility of using beamed energy propulsion or Jordin Kare's Sail-Beam, but these require large power supplies that are not currently available. While it may not be possible at the moment, with continued advancements in technology and a shift in mindset, sending a probe to Proxima Centauri
  • #1
Richard87
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Can we send a space probe to Proxima Centauri?
 
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  • #2
Sure could. Unfortunately, if it were anything like the probes we've been sending around our own solar system, it would take about 75,000 years to get there.

For some technology that has been proposed to get the job done a little more efficiently, see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Daedalus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Longshot

These projects have, respectively ~50 and 100 year travel times to a destination like proxima centauri. So it's not really feasible at the moment, but it certainly could be done.
 
  • #4
Richard87 said:
Can we send a space probe to Proxima Centauri?

Not presently, but there are plenty of paper starships to choose from. What sort of mission? Fly-by? Orbital?

Someone mentioned "Longshot" and "Daedalus" which are really the same probes designed with different assumptions - what I mean is they have the same propulsion system and "Longshot" is really just a minature version of "Daedalus". The problem with both is that we don't have an inertial confinement ignition system that we know will work using deuterium/helium-3 propellant. We can fire off D-T reactions, but they make too many neutrons. Somewhat better is D-D fusion which is harder to start, but we have achieved it in bombs.

The really problem is striking the metaphorical match hard enough. Pure deuterium reactions require a large and very quick energy input to remain confined while fusion is happening. The best option is using a small D-T "spark-plug" to start a much larger D-D fusion reaction. To get the highest exhaust velocity - what we need for interstellar probes - the fusion pulse units have to be very large, thus the vehicle itself needs to be large too. Kind of makes sending just a probe kind of pointless.

The alternative is beamed energy propulsion, but that requires a large space-based power supply. Maybe once we build a few terawatts worth of solar power satellites we'll be ready for beamed power probes. Perhaps the easiest - if the right material can be found - is Jordin Kare's Sail-Beam, which uses an ultra-powered laser to rapidly fire off small laser-sails. These transfer their momentum to the star-probe via being blasted into plasma as they approach and running into a magnetic field wrapped around the probe. Viola! Interstellar propulsion. Just needs gigawatts of laser-power.

So can we launch a probe to Proxima Centauri? Not yet. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky theorized about chemical rockets reaching space in the 1890s and in just 60 years or so they did. We haven't done everything he dreamed of yet, but our dreams may only be as far away from their fulfillment. We may just have to get over our fixation on being on just one planet to do it though.
 

Related to Space probe to Proxima Centauri

1. How long would it take for a space probe to reach Proxima Centauri?

It would take approximately 30 years for a space probe to reach Proxima Centauri, assuming it is traveling at a speed of 50,000 km/hour.

2. What type of propulsion system would be used for the space probe?

The most likely propulsion system to be used for a space probe to Proxima Centauri would be a combination of solar sails and ion thrusters. These systems are efficient and can provide a constant acceleration over long distances.

3. What is the current technology that would allow for a space probe to survive the journey to Proxima Centauri?

Currently, there are several technologies that could be used to ensure the survival of a space probe on its journey to Proxima Centauri. These include advanced shielding to protect the probe from cosmic radiation, advanced communication systems, and autonomous navigation capabilities.

4. How would scientists communicate with the space probe once it reaches Proxima Centauri?

The most likely method of communication with a space probe at Proxima Centauri would be through the use of powerful radio telescopes on Earth. These telescopes can send signals to the probe, which would then send data back to Earth.

5. What are the potential benefits of sending a space probe to Proxima Centauri?

Sending a space probe to Proxima Centauri could provide valuable insights into the conditions and potential habitability of exoplanets in the Alpha Centauri system. It could also advance our understanding of space travel and technology, potentially paving the way for future human exploration of other star systems.

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