back to article Prof Hawking to mail postage-stamp space craft to Alpha Centauri using frickin' lasers

Famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner are putting their weight behind a research project to send a tiny spacecraft to another star system. The Breakthrough Starshot campaign aims to create a craft about the size of a postage stamp and propel it with blasts of energy from an array of laser beams. …

  1. Alister Silver badge

    Laser powered spaceflight has been mooted, and even demonstrated experimentally, but the idea that they can aim the laser accurately enough through the atmosphere to propel something the size of a postage stamp is surely piling on more complexity than they needed to?

    It would of course also be quite useful as a ground based weapon...

    1. marioaieie

      star wars

      It's actually the opposite: we can do that exactly because of laser weapons (http://spie.org/newsroom/technical-articles/4853-did-adaptive-optics-end-the-cold-war).

      It looks like the star wars project might do some good in the end.

      To be fair, most of the research is actually coming from astronomical observatories, given that the military technology is still secret.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: star wars

        To be fair, most of the research is actually coming from astronomical observatories, given that the military technology is still crap, retardely expensive, easy to defeat and likely to stay so.

        FTFY

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      They're aiming for a metre-wide sail and it's suggested the lasers will use adaptive optics. They admit they can't afford the lasers (about $1-trillion), that the array would be a handy ground based weapon, and that we have no material that can be used to build the sail. They even acknowledge there is no way for the probe to communicate back. The $100-million is to research these problems.

      They don't mention that getting the probe to hit Alpha Centauri will be really tricky; small errors add up over a parsec. Nor do they talk about cosmic rays which will evaginate the unshielded silicon -- they're going to have to fire a lot of probes in the hope one gets there.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        evaginate

        Thank you for tomorrows word of the day :-)

      2. MrDamage

        evaginate the unshielded silicon

        Sounds like something that would happen if Glen Quagmire starred is a Ross Meyer film.

        *giggity*

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: evaginate the unshielded silicon

          oh yeah!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > It would of course also be quite useful as a ground based weapon...

      A frickin' gigawatt laser would be nice to have when the Alpha Centaurians come looking for whoever shotgunned them with 1000 ludicrous-speed bullets.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        I'm also sitting here wondering how a postage stamp sized spacecraft can, alongside all the other sensors and mission equipment house an RF transmitter capable of getting useful information back to planet earth.

        So, the wires connecting to the Solar sail will be an antenna, but the transmit signal has got to be strong enough to be heard above all the other noise out there at that distance with the path loss.

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
          Happy

          Tricky!

          They might impact on the local planning office in Alpha Centauri. Still, they might also find information on any demolition plans

          More seriously, simply dust along the way could seriously damage a craft flying at that speed, even if cosmic rays miss it. Still a fascinating project. We need people doing weird science, and hey, it's got frickin' lasers involved. All we need is sharks

          1. Keith Glass
            Happy

            Re: Tricky!

            SPACE sharks. . . .

            1. JetSetJim Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Tricky!

              > SPACE sharks. . . .

              Surely it's the "logical" next iteration of Sharknado.

              Or the Muppets ("Shaaaarks Iiiiin Spaaaaace")

            2. AbelSoul
              Trollface

              Re: SPACE sharks. . . .

              With frickin' LAZERZ!

              Looks like they're already here! (after a fashion...)

        2. boltar Silver badge

          "I'm also sitting here wondering how a postage stamp sized spacecraft can, alongside all the other sensors and mission equipment house an RF transmitter capable of getting useful information back to planet earth."

          I don't think they'll get far enough to worry about that. At 20% of the speed of light even a small amount of tenous gas or dust will turn the craft into high temperature plasma.

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            "At 20% of the speed of light even a small amount of tenous gas or dust will turn the craft into high temperature plasma."

            The Local Interstellar Cloud contains both Sol and Alpha Centauri and is about 0.3 particles/cc. Iff the energy from all those hits was fully absorbed, it would result in a few millijoules per second of heating. (I've assumed the atoms were stationary -- i.e. ignored their thermal energy.)

            But heating is not going to be a problem because those particles are protons with tens of MeV: they will punch through the wafer-thin probe, taking most of their energy with them. The sail is expendable, once accelerated. But the electronics needs to survive a billion cosmic rays per second for decades. Expect to find more of your electronics on the outside that the inside. As I said, evaginated.

        3. Gruezi

          Not if you fire them at 3 month intervals and use the string of craft as a relay back to earth

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            3 months x 0.2c = a distance of 0.05 light years between them, or 470 billion kilometers.

            For comparison, Voyager 1 is currently just over 20 billion kilometers away. We can just about receive a message from it, since:

            1. It has a radioactive power source, currently generating about 250 watts

            2. It has directional antenna

            3. We capture it using a network of huge antennas around the earth.

            http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/didyouknow.html

            "The sensitivity of our deep-space tracking antennas located around the world is truly amazing. The antennas must capture Voyager information from a signal so weak that the power striking the antenna is only 10 exponent -16 watts (1 part in 10 quadrillion). A modern-day electronic digital watch operates at a power level 20 billion times greater than this feeble level."

            Now try to make a postage stamp which works as well as this - both as transmitter and receiver. Oh, and make it work over a distance 25 times larger, so the signal is 625 times weaker.

        4. Thicko

          You could just have the probes sent say a month apart so each one could relay the data to the ones behind it with enough redundancy that one or two lost probes in the chain can still make a link. What could possibly go wrong!

        5. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
          Mushroom

          "heard above all the other noise out there at that distance with the path loss."

          Noise dwarfs path loss. It's got to be heard over a pair of omnidirectional transmitters broadcasting 1027W spread over every frequency band from RF to X-rays.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They've been able to hit mirrors on the moon as part of the Lunar Ranging Experiment since the 60s, so there's no reason why not with today's technology.

      Although quite how they'll steer it to allow for mid-flight course correction I have no idea.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        "They've been able to hit mirrors on the moon as part of the Lunar Ranging Experiment since the 60s, so there's no reason why not with today's technology."

        LLR targets are about ~0.5m wide. But by the time the beam reaches one, it's ~6km wide. And the amount of energy reflected is not enough to be seen by the naked eye. It's hitting it and hitting it with enough energy that's the problem.

    5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "It would of course also be quite useful as a ground based weapon..."

      Russian billionaire?

      Does he have a private island by any chance?

      With a dormant volcano on it?

  2. Diodelogic

    More information for those interested

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/100-million-plan-will-send-probes-to-the-nearest-star/

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: More information for those interested

      100GW - that's a lot of power! You're not going to get that for 100million.

      The cost of the lasers may drop but you are going to have to build 30 Hinkley C's at 18 billion a piece and rising.

  3. Flatpackhamster

    Lasers on earth?

    Surely they should be mounted on the moon, around the edge and in the centre of a huge circular crater.

    1. Snowy Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Lasers on earth?

      Thats no moon :D

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Lasers on earth?

        I have just the moon you need

    2. Afernie

      Re: Lasers on earth?

      "Surely they should be mounted on the moon, around the edge and in the centre of a huge circular crater."

      This makes sense to me. However. given the vast expense of such an exercise, there's clearly no budget for such niceties as safety rails

  4. Swiss Anton

    No return

    Even if this is possible, how is this tiny spacecraft going to be able to phone home when it gets there? The only way to retrieve the data gathered by this thing would be to slingshot it back to Earth using some massive object. It seems to me there's more chance of a butterfly causing a hurricane than that happening.

    1. cbars

      Re: No return

      That's one of the "future problems" they hope someone will solve.

      Personally, I reckon you're looking at a wide area telescope to receive (SETI in spaaaace), and then hope that you can synchronise the fleet to take advantage of constructive interference

    2. bozoid

      Re: No return

      In Robert Forward's original 1980s-vintage "StarWisp" proposal (which was for a maser-driven sail), the probe would include actuators in the sail. When the probe was due to pass through the target system, the driving lasers would flood that system with laser light. The sail would return data by using the actuators to modulate the reflected light.

      1. Christoph Silver badge

        Re: No return

        My understanding of Starwisp is that, being driven by masers, they would sent a slug of maser (radio) energy to meet it at the target star. That would be used to power up the circuitry to make observations, and also to power the return signal.

        Starwisp is not a single postage stamp-sized chip, it's a mesh of wires with electronic nodes at the intersections. So it has a wide area for making optical observations, and for shaping the return beam.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No return

      Easy, they just reverse the polarity of the lasers and suck it back to Earth. Haven't you ever seen a single Star Trek episode?

    4. Smooth Newt
      Thumb Up

      Re: No return

      They could save a bundle of money by sending an actual postage stamp instead of developing and sending a postage stamp sized spacecraft. Then the Alpha Centaurians could just post some photos back to us.

      1. BurnT'offering

        Re: No return

        The photos would arrive bent

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: No return

        How to get it back? Just tell the philatelist community it's an actual, extremely rare, stamp.

    5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Boffin

      "how is this tiny spacecraft going to be able to phone home when it gets there? "

      Well usually the idea has been to modulate the driving beam.

      Like a passively powered RFID tag.

      On a very large scale.

    6. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: No return

      they just need to include a note:

      "Greetings,

      "Peace and Prosperity to you and all your fellow Centaurian beings. I am Mr Amatee Mbogo, Finance Minister for a small nation-state on planet Sol 3 (which we call Earth) and am in possession of 274 bazillion Centaurian dollars. Please send a small finder's fee of 500 Centaurian dollars to the following space-time coordinates and a generous share of the fortune will be sent straight away."

  5. DJSpuddyLizard

    Isn't it pointless

    To have cameras and sensors without a frackin huge transmitter onboard?

    Or are we supposed to slosh through the boating pond and retrieve our toy spaceship when it gets where it's supposed to go?

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Isn't it pointless

      By the time it gets there, we'll have developed FTL travel and will be waiting for it, with flags waving and a band playing.

      1. cbars

        Re: Isn't it pointless

        If we use that reasoning, we'll never invest in the technology which might eventually lead to FTL travel.

        Also, we don't even have anything close to a theoretical model for how we could achieve that. So I'd say nope - we'll get there faster the this way.

      2. Captain DaFt

        Re: Isn't it pointless

        "By the time it gets there, we'll have developed FTL travel and will be waiting for it, with flags waving and a band playing."

        More likely, by the time it reaches its destination, we'll be extinct. :/

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Isn't it pointless

        By the time it gets there, we'll have developed FTL travel and will be waiting for it, with flags waving and a band playing.

        I hear my boss presenting his latest plan.

    2. Patrick Marino

      Re: Isn't it pointless

      It will have a usb stick. They hope the aliens will plug it in their pc when it gets there.

      1. Palpy
        Pint

        Re: Isn't it pointless -- USB stick

        Nice one. We'll send 100 USB sticks. Assuming aliens have the same intelligence as college students, 48% will plug them in.

        ...However, given unknowns about alien anatomy, we only hope that plugging them in does not make them pregnant.

        Have a virtual pint.

  6. barnetmike

    Mot(i)e - sized probes?

    I thought Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle had the patent on this one?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Mot(i)e - sized probes?

      Nah, Motie sailprobes are Apollo-sized.

  7. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Alien

    It's a historic day for Alpha Centuri!!

    I have to say that Astronaut Ronthax and I are proud to be the first Centurians in orbit. We make this voyage with the hope of one day meeting other intelligent beings and peacefully sharing the wonderous galaxy we all live...wait a second...We're getting some incredibly bright beam of light here!....It's blinding!!....Centuri control, I think we're under attack!!.....What's that coming...some projectile...It's about the size of a postage stam...QUICK!! EVASIVE MANEU (CRUNCH!!!).....Centuri control!! No hull integrity and thrusters out!!....Avenge us! Avenge us!!....(silence)

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: It's a historic day for Alpha Centuri!!

      This event will be covered up by Smoking Alien.

      You only imagined you heard this on CB (Centauri Band) amateur radio and mission control personnel regrettably all died because the salad being served in the canteen that day was infected with Centauri tapeworm.

  8. Tom 7 Silver badge

    In a galaxy shark shark away...

    hat for money here...

  9. chivo243 Silver badge

    Just clear it with

    The FFA or who ever doesn't want lasers driving their craft... off course.

  10. akeane
    Alien

    Dear Earthlings...

    please include a stamped addressed envelope...

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Dear Earthlings...

      Just the envelope; they have the stamp already.

  11. Scott Broukell

    So the Techno Pollination* of the Universe begins. Why not send various bits of DNA and other organic molecules/chemistry along for the ride as well?

    Also, quite what the telephone sanitizers and/or hair dressers who, very improbably, receive these gifts in a galaxy far far away are meant to do with it all is anybody's guess.

    * Pollution (optional)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well, AIs and/or Life spreading out throughout the universe is inevitable. A mathematical structure being selected that is tuned "just so" that glowing balls of burning hydrogen rapidly emerge and put out first, lego bricks and then an energy stream that can be harvested by self-assembling structures doing suspiciously fast parallel search so that large information-processing structures emerge in the galactic blink of an eye?

      It's like seeing a probabilistic program running that puts all the right values in the all the right places of the Excel sheet eventually.

  12. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    'Somebody' has hacked into Prof Hawking's voice computer

    He's thinking, "This is utter madness. It'll never work. Stupid stupid stupid..."

    His voice speaks, "I FULLY SUPPORT THIS PROJECT. YURI MILNER IS A GENIUS."

    He's thinking and blinking, "NO NO NO NO NO NO..."

    His voice speaks, "YURI MILNER IS A GENIUS. YURI MILNER IS A GENIUS. YURI MILNER IS A GENIUS."

    1. energystar
      Black Helicopters

      Re: 'Somebody' has hacked into Prof Hawking's voice computer

      'The Aviator', mining the deep ocean.

    2. energystar
      Trollface

      Re: 'Somebody' has hacked into Prof Hawking's voice computer

      Please conect a VERY FEW dots from here to there:

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/04/12/russian_boffins_want_to_nuke_asteroids/

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Douglas Adams

    I seem to remember a vast alien fleet who got swallowed by a dog because they got the scale way out of whack?

    1. Miss Lincolnshire

      Re: Douglas Adams

      A goat

      1. hplasm Silver badge

        Re: Douglas Adams

        "A goat"

        eats stars.

  14. PaulAb

    Why not.......

    Point a whole bloody array of Radio telescopes at Alpha Centauri and ask them if they are in, and tell us if they are, by responding with a postage stamp space craft ...Let them foot the bill!

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      We are going to build a space ship.

      Who's going to pay.

      The Alpha Centaurians

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's imagine it one of these gets anywhere near the Alpha Centauri system (which would be an impressive feat in itself, even if you send thousands of them).

    Then it flies through the system at 20% of the speed of light. Unless it's incredibly lucky, any planets in the system will be nothing more than a single pixel on its (presumed) smartphone sensor.

    If it were really, incredibly lucky and gets within (say) the earth-moon distance of a planet, it will have maybe 10 seconds to measure anything before it's gone again.

    Then how is that data going to be sent back to Earth? A swarm wireless mesh network perhaps?? Even if you sent one probe every hour, they would be 200 million miles apart. Without directional antennas. And without meaningful power sources.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Indeed, my first thought was "link budget?"

      You beat me to the question of sensor acquisition time.

    2. Roger Greenwood

      Agree - I had the same thought - blink and you miss it, no way to stop.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Also, encountering any un-mapped mass will put the probe off course and it will lose it's home address in the process (i.e. it's no longer directly behind it!)

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "The Hawk"? I thought it was "Rolling Thunder".

    And with Zuckerberg as a backer, the first and only message that we"ll get back will read: "My God - it's full of ads!"

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Zuckerberg as a backer

      Then we are likely to get back a photo of an alien breakfast.

      Another batch of micro spacecraft will have to be sent out with the "likes" on them.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IKEAShot 1

    If the probe is cheap and the boost only costs a power station's output for a few minutes, why not just send millions of probes that would assemble themselves on the way into something that could easily send a signal back and do other useful stuff at the target ?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: IKEAShot 1

      You will have to keep that lazer on-target for more than a few minutes...

      Amazingly, on the project website they write:

      The rising power and falling cost of lasers, consistent with Moore’s law, lead to significant advances in light beaming technology.

      I didn't realize that "Moore's law" (more like Moore's rule of thumb of economics - valid till we hit the physics brickwall) applied to high-power lasers... evidence of that is sparse.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IKEAShot 1

        "You will have to keep that lazer on-target for more than a few minutes..."

        It says two minutes here:

        http://www.space.com/32551-breakthrough-starshot-interstellar-spacecraft-infographic.html

        And "a few minutes" here:

        http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/04/yuri-milner-zuckerberg-starshot-interstellar-centauri/477669/

      2. hplasm Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: IKEAShot 1

        "You will have to keep that lazer on-target for more than a few minutes..."

        Or wake him up and tell him to turn the LASER on.

        1. Alister Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: IKEAShot 1

          Never seen Stimulation spelt with a Z before...

          :)

  18. JLV Silver badge
    Alien

    Accelerando anyone?

    ... but, yeah, the info-beam-back-to-Earth bit is missing.

    Plus, I've just finished reading The Dark Forest and we should not in any way indicate where the probe came from - evasive maneuvers are mandatory. Oh, wait...

    Looks like a neat idea however. Couldn't we use it to fire stuff at targets within the Solar System? As long as we kept the speed down quite a bit, made do with quick flybys and actually sorted out the call home bit?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Accelerando anyone?

      "The Dark Forest"

      Is it like "Forge of God", only more gothic/Alastairian?

      1. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Accelerando anyone?

        >like "Forge of God"

        Nah*, think Asimov and the simple, stripped-down, kind of big ideas he had for Foundation. You might or might not have agreed with Psychohistory's premises, but they make you think.

        It's long, quite clever, lacks much action and is in parts utterly brilliant - like the reason for the title. Plus, it's Chinese but rags on Mao-era Communism in the first book, Three Body Problem, so that's a definite plus. Both books are also fairly self-contained.

        * I wasn't a big fan of Forge and especially not Anvil. While not as scientific as Asimov, Liu is mostly more hard SF than Bear in the actual science, except for the occasional handwavium. And, yes, am aware Bear has some science degree or another.

    2. Sim

      Re: Accelerando anyone?

      send some tiny probes to Enceladus

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Xenu will not be amused!

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Xenu can go jump in a volcano.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        He will get a stamp-sized Mote in His Eye at 20% the speed of light.

        That's GOTTA hurt.

  20. MrT

    Too big, too slow...

    ...unfold a proton, create the probe inside it, fold it back up and fire it at light speed - send Sophons instead...

  21. ntevanza
    Holmes

    Making do

    Pity Zuckerberg is involved. It'll end up being a hi-tech tour de force. The demonstrably superior British approach would be to tie a Playmobil beach umbrella covered in tin foil to a Raspberry Pi and zap it with crowdsourced laster pointers, weather permitting.

  22. nuclearstar

    If they are going to send out more than 1 craft, maybe they can use them as relays as some of them become less viable and the candidate for the most likely crafts to reach the system thin out.

  23. hi_robb

    Hmm.

    This is a first class idea.....

    /Hails taxi

  24. Matthew 17

    Wasn't Hawking worried about contacting aliens...

    in case it alerted them to our presence and they came over and killed us?

    Now he wants to point a frickin' laser at them and bombard them with thousands of tiny drones!

    Well I for one welcome our new alien overlords.

  25. anniemouse

    it will not work

    it does not matter how big the laser is because as the earth turns, being able to even find the thing much less stay on it, is going to be impossible. THERE ARE TOO MANY VARIABLES FOR MOVEMENT.

    The equator rotates at 1000 miles per hour, less going north south, near zero at the poles. So an astro from the space station is going to put the stampship say out on a stick and down on earth they are going to spot it and zap it from time to time, right? WRONG.

    funny thing is this - they will get the money for the project and do some periodic zapping and tell the world that everything is going according to plans and calcs and they themselves will really never know if that is correct. Yeah, after earth changes orbit, season, revolution etc they are going to home in on a button light years away no problem. CAN I GET A REFUND?

    1. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: it will not work

      @anniemouse I think you'll find the poles still rotate, they just stay in a fixed position relative to the rotation of the rest of the planet.

      At the end of the day this whole thing is a technology driver. It's not supposed to work, it's supposed to make people think about the obstacles to making it work. So they'll come up with new technologies while scratching their heads, which will feed back into civilian use. Expect novel ways of creating substances like graphene, new and cheaper superconductors etc. In much the same way the space race of the 1960's gave us non-stick frying pans and velcro.

      1. anniemouse

        Re: it will not work

        Quite plausible. Then we are in for some real sheet. Laser pushing an object with that sort of accuracy? Sounds like a prelude to zapping incoming asteroids, or hitting enemy alien invaders lightyears away before they get to us, or assassinating a country leader giving an outdoor public speech with a zap trick shot bouncing one off the moon, or how about the reverse- a tractor beam?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Orbital Mind Controlled Lasers

    Because, you know, it makes the optics easier, and putting them in the right solar orbit would mean you could use absolutely massive solar arrays to power them. Come on Bigelow, we need some inflatable orbital solar panel factories, and Elon, we need your launcher to get them up there...

    Mind Controlled; because, well, Steven Hawking.

    Just don't let the Illuminati get control of them, because you'll need a precision engineered tinfoil hat to avoid getting your mind fried.

  27. Crumble

    The Alpha Centaurians would see the probe coming with plenty of time to prepare their response. It's "The Mote In Gods Eye" (Niven / Pournelle) in reverse.

  28. Roger Kynaston
    Happy

    funding of projects

    If Milner wants to fund an interesting research project - I would be happy for him to get me a Rival 41 and I will verify the effects of rum punch on humans while they sit an anchor in palm fringed anchorages in the Caribbean.

    This would need to be a long term research project and of course we would need to check the effects of all sorts of alcohol all over the place. On the upside, the return would be somewhat quicker than a 20 year mission to Alpha Centauri - I estimate 8 to 10 years would allow a thorough investigation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: funding of projects

      (Sri Lankan waiter): Mr Clark, you still owe me for 2000 vodka martinis.

      (Arthur C Clarke): Make it 2001 and I'll write a book about it.

      ---

      Radio 4 - Injury Time?

  29. Paul Woodhouse

    Lasers

    why are the lasers going to be based on Earth?... wouldn't it be better and easier if they were in space?

    1. Mystereed

      Re: Lasers

      That was my first thought too - more of the energy available on the target rather than heating up the atmosphere and easier to target?

      Then I thought, who fancies having a deathray like that up in space?

      My other unrelated thought started out as - "When do they jettison their sails?", because when they get nearer the target, the solar wind from that star will otherwise slow them down & push them away?

      It then moved on to "Sounds a bit like we are talking about throwing a message in a bottle over the side of a ship and expecting the bottle to end up on a particular beach the other side of the world".

      Is that even going to be possible to predict all the eddies and flows of energy that will act on such a small payload over that distance to the target star system?

      If "the ship" (our world) is in the wrong place when we chuck the bottle over the side (push the postage stamp craft with a laser), there may be no way to get it to land in the right "current" that will take it to the target destination anyway?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lasers

        >>Then I thought, who fancies having a deathray like that up in space?

        Dark side of the moon perhaps ...

        Mind you, if you've wired it in to a few nuclear power piles on the moon or orbit you're going to be interested in seeing of there are ways of getting power back down.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lasers

          Once you have reality-controlling mutant drugged-up ghetto kids with anger issues, you will be damn happy to have orbiting space laser.

          Even if they turn out be underkill for the case.

          Pity about Tokyo though.

  30. Stefing

    Some hope and excitement for the future...

    “Gravity pins us to the ground but I just flew to America. I lost my voice but I can still speak thanks to my voice synthesiser. How do we transcend these limits? With our minds and our machines.

    “The limit that confronts us now is the great void between us and the stars. But now we can transcend it, with light beams, light sails, and the lightest spacecraft ever built we can launch a mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation. Today we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos, because we are human and our nature is to fly.”

  31. Adam_OSFP

    Vanity...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spasibo

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    Ваши комментарии являются самыми полезными. Спасибо. Вы спасли мне по крайней мере, 25 миллионов из 100 миллионов, я запланировал для исследования. Теперь мы можем позволить себе больший отпечаток. Есть пиво!

    Мое пальто один с красной звездой на рукаве

    Юрий

    PS. AC for fear of withering comments and multiple downvotes

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spasibo

      Slavspeak is not my forte.

  33. Nano nano

    Short visit

    The device would only spend a few hours in the target system before exiting on the other side ...

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