(ORDO NEWS) — The first travelers among the stars will not be humans. Tiny creatures such as tardigrades (also known as water bears) may come in replacement . Or it could be nematodes (roundworms) such as C. elegans.
Small creatures aboard tiny spacecraft powered by lasers. So thinks a group of scientists who published an article in the January 2022 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Acta Astronautica.
Scientists want to know … What does it take to send life to the nearest star?
Target: Proxima Centauri.
Proxima Centauri is the closest star to Earth. But in the vastness of space, “proximity” is a relative concept. Proxima Centauri is about 4.22 light years distant, each light year equal to approximately 9 trillion km. Scientists have already found two planets orbiting Proxima Centauri.
The Starlight program is part of NASA’s interest in directed energy to accelerate small spacecraft to relativistic speeds. The goal is to make the first interstellar missions possible.
This program was launched in 2009 with initial funding from the University of California, Santa Barbara and the NASA Space Grants Consortium with funding from NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts. NASA calls this effort DEEP-IN (Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration) and DEIS (Directed Energy Interstellar Exploration).
Therefore, scientists have focused on the technology required to travel to Proxima Centauri during human life. Consider the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has been traveling for 44 years and is now about 22 billion kilometers from the Sun and beyond our solar system.
It is only 21 light-hours away, unlike Proxima, which is more than 4 light-years away. Using Voyager 1 technology, it will take us 80,000 years to get to Proxima Centauri.
This is where the small space probes that scientists describe in their research come to the rescue. They will receive a boost from a laser installation on Earth or on the Moon, which will accelerate them to speeds between 20% and 30% of the speed of light. This is 20-30% of the speed of 300,000 km per second.
At these speeds – about 161 million kilometers per hour – a miniature spacecraft can reach Proxima Centauri in about 20 years.
Just as dogs and monkeys paved the way for humans to travel into space, studying nematodes and tardigrades in interstellar space can help us understand how humans can achieve the same feat.
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