How Shooting For Alpha Centauri Will Change The World
“To construct such a laser array would necessitate a tremendous investment in the building of infrastructure in space. To develop the sails capable of reflecting enough light while withstanding the heat and maintaining their balance will require a tremendous advance in materials science and engineering. To withstand the journey through interstellar space at such high speeds, we’ll need to develop unprecedented shielding/deflection technologies. To slow down to sufficiently low speeds to take data will require a new kind of braking technology, which will likely also be developed in tandem with the laser sail. And to miniaturize the technologies capable of storing, recording, and transmitting information from the Alpha Centauri system back to Earth will likely mean we need to reach (or at least approach) the quantum limit for materials.”
If you want to accomplish something great, you need to be willing to take on challenges that might seem impossible, given what we currently know. But striving for those lofty goals, and investing the necessary resources in the endeavor, is how we move forward as a species. If we aim for Alpha Centauri, there are a huge number of challenges and obstacles we’ll have to overcome, but none of them require overhauling the laws of physics. Instead, they simply require developing new techniques and technologies, which is the same set of challenges that the Apollo program faced. When we look at the spinoff technologies that have traditionally come from this type of research and development, we find that the value we’ve gleaned has far surpassed whatever we invested. Imagine what will be come possible if we develop what we perceive is necessary for a reconnaissance mission to another star system?