A Laser so Powerful it could send a spacecraft to Mars in Days

Scientists are developing a laser so powerful it could send a spacecraft to Mars in days.

Breakthrough Starshot startup is designing ultra-powerful laser beams system and wafer-thin spaceships, to explore another star system.

Is developing a 100-gigawatt laser, powerful enough to ‘ignite an entire city,’ to propel a small spacecraft to a nearby exoplanet.

Above, the Breakthrough Starshot “nanocraft” propelled toward the Alpha Centauri star system with a laser beam. Credit Breakthrough Foundation

Co-founded by Stephen Hawking, the project raised $100 million and is moving ahead to send small “StarChip” spacecraft, to nearby star systems.

In the last decade and a half, rapid technological advances have opened up the possibility of light-powered space travel at a significant fraction of light speed. This involves a ground-based light beamer pushing ultra-light nanocrafts – miniature space probes attached to lightsails – to speeds of up to 100 million miles an hour. Such a system would allow a flyby mission to reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years from launch, beaming home images of its recently-discovered planet Proxima b, and any other planets that may lie in the system, as well as collecting other scientific data such as analysis of magnetic fields.

A Laser so Powerful it could send a spacecraft to Mars in Days

The laser array to propel Starshot’s “nanocraft” to nearby exoplanet. Credit Breakthrough Starshot

Breakthrough Starshot aims to demonstrate proof of concept for ultra-fast light-driven nanocrafts, and lay the foundations for a first launch to Alpha Centauri within the next generation. Along the way, the project could generate important supplementary benefits to astronomy, including solar system exploration and detection of Earth-crossing asteroids.

via businessinsider