By Paul Gilster

I wrote this booklet simply because i needed to benefit extra approximately interstel­ lar flight. no longer the famous person Trek concept of tearing round the Galaxy in an enormous spaceship-that used to be evidently past latest tech­ nology-but a extra real looking venture. In 1989 I had videotaped Voyager 2's stumble upon with Neptune and watched the drama of robot exploration again and again. i began to wonder if lets do anything related with Alpha Centauri, the closest superstar to the solar. all people appeared to agree that manned flight to the celebs used to be out of the query, if now not completely then for the indefinitely foreseeable destiny. yet absolutely lets do whatever with robotics. And if shall we work out a theoretical approach to do it, how a ways have been we from the particular expertise that will make it occur? In different phrases, what was once the country of our interstellar expertise this present day, these recommendations and structures that would translate right into a Voyager to the celebrities? discovering solutions intended chatting with humans in and out of NASA. i used to be stunned to profit that there's a huge literature of interstellar flight. not anyone is familiar with needless to say tips on how to propel an area­ craft quick adequate to make the interstellar crossing inside a time scale that might healthy the traditional concept of a project, yet there are candidate platforms which are lower than lively research. a few of this attempt starts with small platforms that we are going to use close to the Earth and later desire to increase to deep area missions.

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Do such planets exist? Suggestive results from a binary system called CM Draconis, composed of two red dwarfs, may indicate the presence of Earth-size worlds there, but scientists working on the project say they need more data before they can reach even a tentative conclusion. We have only one solar system we can study closely, and ours is a place of enormous contrasts, from the outer gas giants to the inner rocky worlds, with a zone of asteroid debris between the two categories of planets, and an apparently huge number of icy objects in the Kuiper Belt beyond the orbit of Pluto.

But apart from their raw scientific interest, pictures of distant planets would also supply what we need to know to choose a target for our first interstellar probe. None of the planets so far found are terrestrialthey are all gas giants, in most cases far larger than Jupiter, the behemoth of our solar system, and they tend to occupy elliptical orbits close to the stars they circle. The limitation is simply that of our measuring techniques, which are not yet refined enough to locate small, rocky worlds like Earth.

The only one comparable is the system around 47 Ursa Majoris, first detected by Paul Butler and Geoff Marcy in 1996, and later extended by them with the discovery of a second planet. That system includes one gas giant in an outer orbit and another at a distance of approximately 2 AU (both orbits would fit inside the orbit of Jupiter in our solar system). The discovery of an Earth-like world around a nearby star would focus intense attention on building a probe to study it, particularly to discover whether life exists there.

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