The success of the mission Breakthrough Starshot to Proxima b could be more important than we think

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2017-04-19 13:00:07

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The success of the mission Breakthrough Starshot to Proxima b could be more important than we think

Planet Proxima b, which is one of the closest to us star systems, has become a Breakthrough Starshot. We don't know will show whether this "star shot" the planet suitable for habitation by people, but it's definitely necessary for us to master our own Solar system.

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Discovery of Proxima b

In August 2016, scientists have discovered a potentially habitable planet the size of Earth, which rotates at the nearest stellar neighbor of our Sun: Proxima Centauri. This means that Proxima b is at a distance of 4.2 light years from us. Scientists have tried to unearth more details about this planet and hope that the telescope James Webb will give us a better look. However, the spacecraft sent to the planet could collect enough data to show whether a planet can support life or already supports.

Shortly before he was found Proxima b, a group of scientists and businessmen took the first steps in sending people to the alpha Centauri system, saying the project Breakthrough Starshot. This international project, which is funded by Russian investor Yuri Milner in the amount of $ 100 million, should significantly accelerate research and development of a viable space probe, suitable for interstellar travel. The discovery of Proxima b provided attainable, but still challenging from an engineering point of view, the target.

To reach Proxima b for the life of one ordinary scientist, the probe needs to move with the speed equal to one-fifth the speed of light or faster. Then, passing over the Proxima system at the speed of 60,000 miles per second, it is necessary to collect useful data and transmit them over four light-years to Earth.

The First important step to accelerate the spacecraft to a high enough speed. Conventional missiles can't store enough fuel to gain the required speed, so Starshot will use light lasers. Assigned to the Land 100-gigawatt array of lasers to generate the beam, pushing the small sail of the probe after the conventional rockets will take it out of our atmosphere.

The Biggest risk is a collision with interstellar matter and cosmic rays. Starshot hopes to protect the ship, covering the front edge of the millimeter high-strength material such as beryllium copper. To ensure that the probe will not get off course and not jeopardize the mission, he will be equipped with the pilot in the form of AI.

Scientists hope to launch the device in 2040 and then wait 20 years. In 2060, the onboard computer of the apparatus Starshot needs to be awakened, to check the Ground, make sure that is approaching Proxima Centauri, and get ready for the flight.

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One giant step

The Highest priority for machine — to make a photo which will show either the desert or the blossoming of the green planet. She will show large features like craters and mountains. And on-Board spectrometer can look for molecules that tell about life, like methane, oxygen and more complex hydrocarbons. Tools can also probe the atmosphere (if it is) and measure the planet's magnetic field. Proxima b, like any other exoplanet certainly prepare us a few surprises.

In Addition to all this, supporters of the mission Starshot see its potential success more than the new world — it will mark the exit of humanity to a new level of achievement. "I see Starshot opportunity for development," says Kelvin long, member of the Board of the project. "That's like going to the moon."

In Other words, the success of Starshot will provide us with a new set of possibilities that will turn the field of dreams into a routine. For example, a laser array, which is spoken in Starshot, you can send probes anywhere in our Solar system for a few days and to travel in interstellar space for a week or two.

"How to deliver a package from Amazon to Mars one day?", says astrophysicist Philip Lubin, who also is on the Board of the project. "This is a radical opportunity we could explore."

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