Centauri dreams: imagining and planning interstellar by Paul Gilster

By Paul Gilster

I wrote this publication simply because i wished to benefit extra approximately interstel­ lar flight. now not the superstar Trek inspiration of tearing round the Galaxy in a major spaceship-that used to be evidently past latest tech­ nology-but a extra practical undertaking. In 1989 I had videotaped Voyager 2's come across with Neptune and watched the drama of robot exploration time and again. i began to wonder if lets do whatever comparable with Alpha Centauri, the closest megastar to the sunlight. each person appeared to agree that manned flight to the celebs was once out of the query, if no longer completely then for the indefinitely foreseeable destiny. yet definitely lets do whatever with robotics. And if shall we work out a theoretical solution to do it, how a ways have been we from the particular know-how that may make it take place? In different phrases, what was once the country of our interstellar know-how at the present time, these suggestions and structures that would translate right into a Voyager to the celebs? discovering solutions intended speaking to humans inside and out of NASA. i used to be stunned to profit that there's a huge literature of interstellar flight. not anyone is familiar with evidently how one can propel an area­ craft speedy sufficient to make the interstellar crossing inside a time scale that will healthy the normal suggestion of a project, yet there are candidate platforms which are less than energetic research. a few of this attempt starts off with small structures that we will use close to the Earth and later wish to increase to deep area missions.

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It was in October of 2002 that astronomers at the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas announced the find. Presenting their results to the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, the Texas team said the planet they had discovered orbited the CHAPTER 2 42 larger star of the Gamma Cephei binary system, about forty-five light years from Earth in the constellation Cepheus. 6 times as massive as the Sun at a distance of 2 AU. Interestingly enough, the second, smaller star of this system is about 25 AU away from the larger star, comparable to the distance of Uranus from the Sun, and not far off the mean distance between Alpha Centauri A and B.

Deep Space 1 also carried an optical navigation system that gave promise of autonomous operations, allowing a distant probe to compute and correct its own course rather than waiting on signals that might take days, or much longer, to reach the vehicle from Earth. Add a raft of other tests, including status monitoring systems for on-board condition reports, concentrated solar arrays that cost less but generate power more efficiently than conventional systems, and "agent" software that is designed to allow a spacecraft to operate without human intervention, and you have a design for the future.

I drove immediately to Berkeley, and there on the computer screen was a plot showing the wobble of [the star] 70 Virginis. We had been looking for planets around stars for eleven years without a single success, and there on the computer THE TARGET: ALPHA CENTAUR! AND OTHER NEARBY STARS 43 screen was the first planet we had ever discovered. " A far greater moment lies ahead, perhaps in the next ten years. For Marcy believes that we will know whether other Earth-like planets exist around some 200 nearby stars within the next decade.

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