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Why shall it happen?
Written by Tibor Pacher   

This is the argument for the case given by Tibor Pacher on the Long Bets site .
With kind permission of The Long Now Foundation

No known laws of physics prohibit spaceflights to the stars. However, conventional technical and scientific wisdom holds that interstellar spaceflight is practically not feasible.

One of the major obstacles are the huge distances an interstellar craft should cover: Proxima Centauri, the closest stellar neighbour to our Sun as known today, is about 4,24 light years away, which is about 6.800 times the distance to Pluto.

To overcome these distances we need new propulsion methods - today's rockets cannot do the job -, new energy supply systems for onboard instrumentation, proper shielding against interstellar material and radiation during a mission, to name but a few difficulties.

Solid technical development is already on the way: now scientists and engineers are looking at realistic missions which would go ten times farther than Pluto in merely 30 years. There are even thoughts about possible near-term technologies which could push the velocity with another factor 10, leading to travel times of around 2000 years for a Centauri Mission. There is also a rapid development in nanotechnology and AI, both enablers for interstellar travel.

Various motivations exist to embark on an interstellar endeavour, including the seemingly ever-existing challenge of the stars and arising fears about possible near-term existential risks for humanity, to list the two extremes.

The Internet has channelled enormous power into collaborative work in a historically unprecedented way. For example, it has already helped in forming of numerous new organizations which aim at long term thinking, inclusive this Long Bet site. Within these, web-based interstellar advocate groups - like Centauri Dreams, the Tau Zero Foundation and peregrinus interstellar - are growing. I believe that such a collective power of Earth's citizenship, together with fast technical development and compelling motivation as mentioned above, will support the birth of the first interstellar mission soon.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 06 September 2008 )
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