SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA — NASA scientist Philip Lubin is working on perfecting laser technology that could propel a light spacecraft to Mars in as little as three days.
In order for spacecraft to achieve faster speeds, Lubin proposes using an electromagnetic propulsion system that uses light and radiation, rather than the current fuel-based rocket propulsion system.
Photonic propulsion is a theoretical system that uses the energy and momentum from photons to move objects through space. According to Wired, when photons from a laser array reflect off an object, their energy is translated into a push that's capable of moving objects like a spacecraft.
The system would currently work best with robotic spacecraft. According to Lubin, a robotic probe with a thin reflective sail could travel to Mars in three days. On the other hand, a manned shuttle could reach Mars in a month using the laser-based system. He estimates that lasers could accelerate spacecraft to 30 percent the speed of light, which was previously unheard of.
Using photonic propulsion, interstellar travel may be possible and sending a probe to Earth's closest star, Alpha Centauri, could take as little as 15 years, reported Space.com.
In comparison, our current technology takes four to eight months to get to Mars. It took 37 years for the Voyager 1 spacecraft to reach the edge of our solar system.
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By that logic, couldn't they just invent a laser thruster? One that would actually be on the main spacecraft? Doesn't firing a laser also exert force on the firing mechanism? Newton's third law should apply here...
+Ragnarok Sora Good point. If we want to go interstellar, we'll have to know where we're heading first. It kinda reminds me of a Nintendo game, oddly enough. On Pikmin 3, when some random extraterrestrial species of tiny, frugivorous hominid starts running low on food, they sent out scout probes to find edible (for them) life. The place they decided to go was apparently post-apocalyptic Earth, presumably.
Point is, before we reach the stars, we may want to know what we're doing it for. Until then, we have the ability to make space stations, and people are thinking up ways to mine asteroids as we speak (I've even heard of lasers that can act as a realistic tractor beam, if scaled up from what we have so far), so I guess the next step may be interplanetary. And if we have a good colony on Mars, the sun may not completely destroy earthly life as soon...
+Joshua Slowpoke there really is no easy way to travel. If we are going to travel in interstellar fashion, we are going to need more than just using star wars referencing. I propose to have a vessels that only optimizing on speed and use micro size camera to scout out possible planets that can support life. Once we find one we could get their quickly and no slow voyage.
+Ragnarok Sora I agree, and my viewpoint has changed a bit since the time I posted that comment. The only truly easy way to store enough energy for a laser rocket to be logical for relativistic travel might be something known as an "Antimatter-Matter Gigaelectron-volt gamma ray laser photon rocket." And to create something like that, we'd first need an effective and efficient means of producing and storing large amounts of antiprotons from other sources of power, which we are terrible at in modern times. Antimatter-matter capacitors aren't really a thing yet, perhaps because of humanity's immaturity as a species.
Sure, the spacecraft has far less mass, but I wonder how much power is going to be spent pointing lasers at the spacecraft? Will it be cheaper than doing it the old tried and true way, like they did during the Cold War years?
here's a way for the spacecraft to slowdown. It uses the gravity of a large object like a star or mars. It simply uses thrusters to slow down enough for a body to capture it. At least that's my thought.
What if we sent something to Alpha Centauri. And in 15 years it arrived, nailed their planet so hard at 30 percent the speed of light I assume? And it wrecks a town or city or some kind of life. And they think they have just been attacked by us? Christ, we are such dicks, we never stop to think. :(
How do you intend to keep the emission satellites in place? If they are emitting photons with momentum they have an opposite force trying to move the satellites away, right?. Of course, if you use propellers in the satellites you will still have the advantage of not moving the propeller with the spacecraft, less inertia to accelerate.
One of the problems was slowing down. My idea would be to develop a similar system, a laser deceleration/guidance station or unit to be located at the destination location. Of course, it would probably have to be transported by other, more conventional (slower) means. The destination station/unit would have capacity for the laser return of the craft. So a laser deceleration/receiving technology needs to exist at both ends of the journey. Very cool. So now we just have to deal with the ergonomics, and how to peel or scrape the astronauts off the back of their seats, not to mention, the problem of little space rocks and particulates. Hmm.
That's what the Crazy Eddie probe did in the Larry Niven book, "The Mote In God's Eye".
I say we launch a 220lb probe directly at Mars at 30% of the speed of light and see if that will reactivate some plate tectonics and vulcanism.
Anybody know how big a wallop that would be?
You know, Nasa, you won't have an EXCUSE anymore NOT to go to the Moon . This laZer technology would put the Moon at what? Like AN HOUR or so to get there? You better get your mission proposals in now, Trump will surely help fund those missions and your agency to boost America. WOOP! TRUMP FOR PREZ!
We may have to slow down the spacecraft with some external infrastructure. I think it may be possible with a set of large toroidal conductive coil stations (each one grounded to a large mass, to absorb the recoil shock).
The coil stations can be sequentially activated, with each individual circuit sending a pulse of electric current at the moment when a spacecraft is detected passing through. If enough current is sent through a properly-designed coil, the current will generate a precisely directed high density magnetic flux which will remove some of the spacecraft's momentum (or incinerate it). Repeat until velocity is zero.
If we design the spacecraft to be non-destructively affected by a brief exposure to a powerful external magnetic field, it may work. It's course adjustment thrusters must also be able to perfectly aim through the inner part of each ring-shaped coil station.
If all design parameters were implemented correctly, the craft's velocity should be manageable once it reaches the last deceleration coil.
I can just imagine a crew of 4 about to arrive at Mars.
*Nasa: Ok you are go for brakes*
*Crew member: Ok Houston applying brakes now*
*'Crew along with spacecraft merge together in an instant to now become a new 2d sheet of spacecraft....* XD
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