When scientists proposed the project ‘Breakthrough Starshot’, it raised some fundamental questions regarding the slowdown process of a spacecraft in case we manage to actually achieve the goal. Although the proposed mission to send a spacecraft to our closest solar system Alpha Centauri is the main goal of the proposed mission, recently physicists have claimed that we could actually reach the brightest star system known to us Sirius faster than Alpha Centauri.
Such claim is surprising given that Sirius is basically 8.6 light years away compared to Alpha Centauri’s relatively ‘closer’ 4.37 light years. However, astrophysicist René Heller from the Max Planck Institute has suggested that the key lies in the mechanisms which might be used to slow down the spacecraft.
If you follow the proposal for Breakthrough Starshot, you might already know that the basic aim is to send a mini-space ship to the Alpha Centauri at 20 percent of the speed of light which would make the trip in 20 years. However, with such high speed, it’ll be impossible to slow the spaceship down once it reaches its destination.
However, Heller and his team members have proposed a new idea to achieve the goal. According to the new proposal, the spacecraft used in the mission would actually feature a solar sail that would be used to catch photon from the Sun to send it to the start system. After it reaches the destination, same method would be applied to slow down the spacecraft and the spacecraft would need another 140 years to settle into an orbit within the star system.
The proposal was made earlier this year and now researchers have revealed that since the Sirius is 16 times brighter than the Alpha Centauri, it would take only 69 years even though the spacecraft will need to travel more distance.
While such method is still impossible, it will face even more complexity as the spacecraft would require an extremely thin sail if it wants to reach such speed. However, if scientists can figure out the method to build such thin solar power sails, then we might travel beyond our solar system in a relatively short time.