Nanocraft: Exploring Alpha Centauri

We have barely stepped off our planet and a proposal has been made to attempt to step out of our solar system as well.

Breakthrough Initiatives, a company founded by billionaire venture capitalist Yuri Milner has proposed sending a nanocraft to Alpha Centauri. At at a distance of 4.37 light years from Earth Alpha Centauri is our closest star-neighbor.

Our fundamental frame of reference about our place in the universe is about to change in a manner somewhat analogous to what Polynesians must have experienced when their outriggers made landfall on a strange island after days or weeks at sea. It’s not just what they discovered when they got there: it was the fact that there was a “there”. There world was suddenly immeasurably larger, their own size and importance in somehow diminished.

The journey is commensurate with our technology. In some way we face some of the same issues the Polynesians faced. We have to take life with us as we go. Not fishing lines but freezers. Dried grain and fruits in plastic containers and bags instead of baskets and jars. Or maybe synthesized by an advanced 3D printer!

The difference is of course that they were still breathing air and living under the same sun. Their scale was measured in days at sea. The scale we face today is measured in lifetimes.
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A big MAC may be the answer to landing on Mars and orbiting Neptune

In 2014 MSNW LLC of Redmond Washington suggested that a magnetic field around ionized gas could be used to slow a spacecraft down sufficiently to eliminate the need for a thermal protection system, or as it’s more commonly known, a heat shield.

On an infinitely smaller scale MSNW was proposing to create the same sort of magnetic field around a spacecraft that exists around the Earth as a result of its rotating core of iron and nickel.Mag00002
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The Russian space agency & ESA teaming up to go to the Moon

According to the BBC the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, will lead a robotic mission to the south pole of the Moon in 2025. The original launch date of 2020 has been pushed out for budgetary reasons.

The European Space Agency will participate in the mission.

Roscosmos and the ESA hope to find water, helium-3 and other chemicals which could be used to create fuel for missions within the solar system and support a permanent human settlement.

Dr. James Carpenter, ESA’s lead scientist for the project described the reasons the Moon’s south pole was chosen as the landing site:

“The south pole of the Moon is unlike anywhere we have been before. The environment is completely different, and due to the extreme cold there you could find large amounts of water-ice and other chemistry which is on the surface, and which we could access and use as rocket fuel or in life-support systems to support future human missions . . . “

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