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Space & Astronomy

NASA working on plan to visit Proxima Centauri

By T.K. Randall
December 20, 2017 · Comment icon 23 comments

Is mankind on the verge of achieving interstellar space travel ? Image Credit: NASA
The mission would involve traveling 4.3 light years at around ten per cent of the speed of light.
The ambitious plan, which is unlikely to become a reality for decades, would focus on investigating Proxima Centauri - our closest neighboring star - as well as any planets that are orbiting around it.

Given that it took the New Horizons probe a whopping 9.5 years to reach Pluto however, which at 0.000624 light years is a mere fraction of the distance, traveling all the way to a neighboring star system is going to require some pretty major upgrades.

Even at the planned ten per cent of the speed of light, a spacecraft will take 44 years to reach its target, coupled with an additional 4.3 years to account for the time the data will take to reach us.

Currently NASA has specified a tentative launch date of 2069, however the technology needed to achieve such a mission doesn't even exist yet, so this could very easily change.
At the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference this month, JPL's Anthony Freeman stated:

"Imagine that we have decided to embark on mankind's most ambitious project: a 40-year duration mission to visit a habitable-zone planet orbiting one of our nearest stellar neighbors."

"To plan our mission we must consider altogether 6 mission phases: I. Accelerate out of our Solar System; II. Survive Cruise to Proxima Centauri; III. Decelerate on Approach; IV. Adjust Trajectory for Close Encounter; V. Acquire Data; VI. Return Information to Earth."

Whether or not the mission will ever get off the ground however remains to be seen.

Source: IBTimes | Comments (23)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #14 Posted by taniwha 6 years ago
Just take a deep breath and think positively... Where would we leave to? Even though the universe is unbelievably huge there is no safe place to go... When our time here is up then that's all there is to it.   Dinosaurs didn't try to leave the Earth did they?  They died but there's no point shedding tears about them either. But if you really are that distressed then maybe a better idea is to send pods, hundreds upon hundreds of them, loaded with DNA of humans, plants and animals to the 8 sectors of the universe, accompanied of course by artificially intelligent technicians so life can be rec... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by geraldnewfie 6 years ago
add on more years then 2069, by then we will have some stupid celebrity as president for the usa, some war hungry leaders over resources, so money will be spent showing off how much firepower we all have and men and woman wasting their lifes thinking they are protecting their country but in reality they are fighting to make the country money, NASA and private companies need a huge boost but needs the money and will billions spend on pretend war this mission will never happen
Comment icon #16 Posted by Skulduggery 6 years ago
I'd like to think I'm taking an optimistic approach. We didn't come this far to only come this far. Next logical step is to see how far we can push it. And, if it doesn't work out in the long run, it doesn't. But, expanding horizons isn't a bad thing to attempt, however long it takes.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Tatetopa 6 years ago
The guy at the local nursery said the best time to plant a fruit tree is 20 years ago.  The next best time is now.  We could start with what we have.  We could send out a modest probe every 5-10 years.  Maybe in a generation or two the latest technology will produce something that will catch up and pass all of those old probes, but then again, maybe not.  Start now even with a modest effort, we will learn something.
Comment icon #18 Posted by taniwha 6 years ago
I just don't sense the same urgency that you seem to.... So what on Earth are you talking about in the above mentioned? 
Comment icon #19 Posted by Torchwood 6 years ago
There doesnt need to be a sense of urgency for getting off the planet and putting our eggs in some other baskets for the attempt to be a good idea.   I bet the Dinosaurs didn't have a sense of urgency until after the rock hit, and the mountains exploded....waiting till there is a sense of urgency probably means you've missed your chance.  I believe that statistically we are overdue a large rock all of our own...and even if we get one that doesn't wipe us out, but it will probably be, er... inconvenient.    I see the issue less as being about short-termism and more about commitment issu... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by Skulduggery 6 years ago
That's the spirit!!!!!   Uh, I mean over several thousand years from now, as colonization into space, interstellar or closer to home, begins to unfold, technology will drive things a large part of the way. Ingenuity, you know? That requires lots of firsts and experimentation. 500-billion lemmings can't be wrong. A percentage of people brazen enough to knife it into space on experimental technology won't make it. This is working smarter, not harder. Working harder would be way more dire.
Comment icon #21 Posted by Sundew 6 years ago
If I remember correctly, it takes about 8 minutes for light from the sun to reach Earth. So at 10% of light speed you would have a mere 80 minutes to travel that same distance, not a lot of time to do any research. Suppose any habitable planet's orbit is not near the trajectory of the space craft, at those speeds would you have enough time to correct for an intercept course?  I guess what I am wondering is there any way to slow the ship down to any reasonable speed or to maneuver it towards a planet and remain long enough to do a detailed survey. There may be, but at 10% light speed you mig... [More]
Comment icon #22 Posted by schroedingerscat 6 years ago
Propulsion systems which have been studied, tested, or are operational, which MIGHT be used for interstellar flight: Ion propulsion - Isp up to 100,000 seconds - exhaust velocity up to 1,000,000 m/s - thrust 5 Newtons Tested since the late 1950's, operated on numerous orbital missions, and on the Dawn mission to the asteroid belt.  A mass ratio of 2.72:1 would allow a vehicle with ion drive to achieve a final velocity equal to its exhaust velocity, i.e., up to 0.03 C.  Cubing the amount of propellant, a mass ratio of 20:1, would get the vehicle to 1% C. Magneto plasma dynamic (MPD) propulsi... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by Tom the Photon 6 years ago
The human diaspora will populate the galaxy.  I see this as inevitable, so long as we don't destroy this planet first.  The Milky Way is 100 000 light years across.  Even with painfully slow space travel it will only take millions of years to search every nook and cranny.  Will we meet intelligent alien species?  Statistically that's likely, and let's hope we can live alongside them in better harmony that we manage within our species.   Then the REALLY big step - the rest of the Universe!  It won't be humans who attempt that - we'll have evolved into something quite different by then. ... [More]

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