As is evident, the normal rockets do not have the potential for missions to places like Mars and beyond. Also, with the current rocket technology, we can get to Mars in five months' time, at its closest point to earth. So, here is an answer from Philip Lubin, a NASA scientist on the same.
Read on to grasp the intricacies of the study. If made possible, it will be a breakthrough for all the scientists. Moreover, there are chances that we may discover life on some other celestial body. Also, there are claims that we may reach Alpha Centauri, which is the nearest solar system in just 17 years, which is four light-years away from us. This can be done using a small probe using a photonic propulsion.
Philip is also a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
He said that an unmanned probe can make it to Mars in a duration of about 3 days, to the closest point of the red planet. The aim is to place a laser in earth's orbit, which can also be as a defence system against the asteroids. For this, Lubin and his team have been awarded a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant of $100,000. This fund is for outlining a roadmap for the research and to conduct initial testing. This project is called Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration (DEEP-IN).
The system uses a solar sail pushed by laser for propulsion. A solar sail is a thin, lightweight material which is filled with photons that are caught when reflected off any surface. In the same way, as a normal sail catches wind. Till now, there have been two successful tests of such sails. They are- the IKAROS mission conducted by Japan's JAXA space agency in 2010 and another by NASA in 2011.
Also, FYI, the time will pass slowly for those aboard the spacecraft, according to Einstein. The complete projects looks no less than a science fiction project. But, Lubin has said that the technology for this already exists, it just has to be made larger. This is essential because the first real mission to Mars is planned for 2030. He has also stated that a 100kg unmanned robotic spacecraft could make it to Mars in just three days. Whereas, a manned one would take about one month, nearly four months shorter than by the currently deployed means.
There are chances that we discover other inhabitable worlds. But, there will be a lot of challenges to be faced, keeping in mind the speed of the laser.
Moreover, it is not so expensive but it may require a ring of superconducting magnets around it, just like that in a Large Hadron Collider. Thus, solar cells can be used to explore our solar system, nearby exoplanets and the Milky Way Galaxy, more clearly.
Another model is an antimatter rocket which has been proposed by Positron Dynamics CEO Ryan Weed. He has said in an interview that such a rocket could "loop the Earth in three seconds" and reach Mars in a week's time only. This uses positrons and electrons and when they interact they cause propulsion at a velocity of 72 million mph. That's stupendous!
Great! We look forward to more such path-breaking discoveries.
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