I predict that the first true interstellar mission, targeted at the closest star to the Sun or even farther, will be launched before or on December 6, 2025 and will be widely supported by the public.
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. Within these, web-based interstellar advocate groups - like Centauri Dreams, the Tau Zero Foundation, The SETI League, 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.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in editorials are those of the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of The SETI League, Inc., its Trustees, officers, Advisory Board, members, donors, or commercial sponsors.
entire website copyright © The SETI League, Inc.; Maintained by Microcomm
this page last updated 3 January 2009
Top of Page