Thursday, 14 April 2016

flights of fancy or project longshot

The announcement coinciding with Space Night, the anniversary marking Yuri Gagarin’s seminal space-walk—as Boing Boing reports, Professor Stephen Hawking is partnering with a consortium of investors (we are all stake-holders in this enterprise) to send a swarm of small space probes, propelled aloft on the beams from an array of lasers—which providing that the focus can hold, could see at least some of the tiny craft (about the size of a pocket calculator with sails unfurled) reach our nearest stellar companions, the group also known as Rigil Kent, the foot of the Centaur, around five-hundred times the distance from the Sun to Pluto, in just two decades. The method makes me think of the Little Prince hitching rides on passing comets. Starshot, as it’s called, has some technical challenges to overcome, and regrettably it seems perhaps sustained public enthusiasm for science projects, and who knows what we’ll discover—but I think that Hawking and associates can push our horizons.