Could carbon-foam probes bring interstellar flight within reach?

Aug 24, 2020
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Well the only problem i see with that... what if there IS intelligent life there ..it is a Goldilocks
planet.... if they are primitive.. they would be scared to death.. and if they are beyond our advances.. could perceive us as a threat.. I know unrealistic.. but still.. you never know..
 
Dec 20, 2019
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This is a nice twist to Breakthrough. Possible a combination of the 2 may be considered. coating the sphere with a reflection coat may improve things. launching the Breakthrough from near sun may improve that method. Adding solar cells (monolayer printed on the surface) gives power during flight (assuming some but not all laser). The lasers give control of direction too, for steering. And there might be a way to use the same system as a breaking mechanism so we dont pass by at 20% light speed.

I also envision stringing out a large number of craft using mesh network so info for refined pointing can be relayed to the back of the pack. Also, the craft might be strung out far behind so as to reduce the power needed to send info to earth. Or the whole group may form a phased array of many low power transmitters to send the data home.
 
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Aug 24, 2020
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What happens when you blow a soap bubble into the wind? It goes in whatever direction the wind blows. I would expect Proxima Centauri's solar wind would keep anything like this from getting anywhere close, unless we are just blowing bubbles to see how the wind blows.
 
Aug 24, 2020
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Intriguing approach and saving potential $5-10B is good. But it's hard to believe that in the next 100 years we won't find a way to get to the Alpha Centauri system in less than 85 years at a lower-barrier cost (e.g. Breakthrough approach). I.e. the described approach has a high chance of being superseded in <185yrs, and thus rendered obsolete before reaching the target. Agree that combining Breakthrough and this approach should be considered. Reaching target within a human lifetime should be a key metric.
 
Aug 25, 2020
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185 year trip? It would not make sense to attempt such a thing. During the course of coming decades there will be new advances that would continuously cut the time and improve payloads, so that such a long lived mission would be obsolete long before its arrival. Voyager was the most advanced probe at our time, but we will soon have craft outstripping the distance its covered even those it has been traveling for decades. Also, spending 5 billion (which is not exceptional for any big space mission) to cut the time to 20 years is very reasonable. At this point in time using lasers seems a much better choice. I think in 20 years powerful lasers will be much cheaper, and could be placed on the moon for instance to avoid atmospheric degradation of the power. Also, I (speculatively) believe material between stars might be used to feed an interstellar ramjet potentially. You refuel continuously, so you subvert the rocket equation. That may enable relatively short span missions with significant payloads to the stars.
 
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Apr 18, 2020
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I'm assuming that this stuff is only suitable for making sails, or (inflatable?) "bubbles," and that's why it is being considered in the context of light-sailing. But if it is robust enough to be formed into different shapes, then it could be made into more practical vehicles, or contribute to improving the payload-to-vehicle mass ratio of more conventional craft.

On the subject of light-sailing, we could imagine attaching a few of these with tow ropes to a payload module, and letting them pull a bigger payload than they could fit inside themselves.
 
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Dec 3, 2019
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One of the issues for these 'bubbles' that needs to be considered is once the probe gets to where it is going how does it transmit any findings back to Earth? This will require a power source embedded in the probe, may I make a suggestion, in November 2016 the UK University of Bristol Cabot institute announced that they have developed 'diamond' batteries from the graphite surrounding nuclear fission reactors - pretty low powered batteries but nevertheless these could provide a power source for thousands of years. Using this technology perhaps it would be possible to return the probe's data to Earth and maybe provide enough power for the probe's course corrections and changes too.
 
Aug 28, 2020
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If our Sun can push the craft to these speeds, wouldn't the star that they approached also push the craft? Would it actually ever get close to another star, if it's always being pushed away by the light of the star? Seems like a simple physics issue that would prevent it from getting close to any star, once it left ours.
 
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Wolfshadw

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Apr 1, 2020
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If our Sun can push the craft to these speeds, wouldn't the star that they approached also push the craft? Would it actually ever get close to another star, if it's always being pushed away by the light of the star? Seems like a simple physics issue that would prevent it from getting close to any star, once it left ours.
It would be like sailing in the water with or against the wind. You'd have to tack into it.

-Wolf sends
 
Jul 10, 2020
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185 year trip? It would not make sense to attempt such a thing. During the course of coming decades there will be new advances that would continuously cut the time and improve payloads, so that such a long lived mission would be obsolete long before its arrival.
I agree. I remember reading a short scifi story when I was younger. Can't remember who wrote it, but it involved sending a generational ship to another star, and while it was on it's multi year journey, FTL was invented, and used to visit that star and come back to the Earth before the generational ship even got there.

In another story, Earth is creating a couple of new FTL ships in orbit. Unknown to them, there is an alien race watching them from hidden ships. This race watches as one of the FTL ships blows up, killing it's crew when the aliens could have warned them. Just before the destruction, the aliens "beam" over one of the crew to talk to them, and that crew member accuses them of being like vultures, which sickens the aliens and convinces them to leave, after returning the crew member to die in the explosion.

The aliens return to their planet, only to discover the other FTL Earth ship waiting for them there.
 

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