Swarms of nanoships are launched by particle accelerators from the Moon
Particle accelerator. Credit: Carleton University
Advances in nanotecnology has allowed scientists and engineers to construct spaceships the size of a single molecule. Their electronics are powered by an efficient solar nanocell. These spaceships are cheap to produce and are designed to collect data by utilizing swarm behavior, in other words by working together in groups. The microscopic scale of these spaceships allows scientists to accelerate them to extreme velocities, approaching 10% of the speed of light.
Nano probes are launched from the Moon by a specifically designed for this purpose particle accelerator. Electromagnetic fields propel millions of these molecule size simple probes into space. The particle accelerator is built underground to protect it from micrometeorites. Intense centrifugal forces experienced by the nanoships for decades prevented the realization of this concept, but after much experimentation a reinforcement method has been devised and optimal acceleration established, allowing for successful launches.(1)
Swarms of nanoships are being dispatched to map the Asteroid Belt and the Kuiper Belt. Both are composed of thousands of objects, most are still completely unexplored due to the sheer volume. Swarms of nanoprobes are now mapping entire surfaces of the asteroids and are collecting data about their mineral composition. This data is vital for future mining of these asteroids for critical resources.
Kuiper Belt. Credit: NASA and A. Feild (Space Telescope Science Institute)
The particle accelerator is operated by one of the international scientific research lunar outposts. The entire program was funded in international government and private sector cooperation.
At this point nanobotic probes are not sophisticated enough to replace more conventional guided robotic exploration probes. New generation nanobotic probes will be able to utilize local in-situ resources on asteroids or moons to replicate itself, creating more molecular spaceships whereever they would travel. Many are expected to be lost without any use, but the surviving spaceships will open the Galaxy to realistic, low-cost exploration at velocities approaching the speed of light.
The Search for extraterrestrial intelligence Insitute is starting a program to seek out any potential nanobotic presence of extraterrestrial origin in our Solar System. The logic is that in theory our Solar System could be infested by microscopic probes and we would have no knowledge of their presence.
First guided interstellar probe to another planetary system is launched
This project is dubbed as humanity's finest moment. For 30 years international cooperation has funded a mission to extend our physical reach to another planetary system. It will travel a distance of 15 light years, an equivalent of approximately 88 trillion miles or 141 trillion kilometers. Spacecraft is named the Wanderer for its broad yet somewhat aimless objectives. The Wanderer is unmanned and automated, it will reach its first destination only in 75 years.
Scientific cargo is unprecedented in human exploration of outer space. Dozens of scientific probes featuring multiple-use automated robots will be released from the mothership after decelerating its Fusion based propulsion system via reverse engine thrust upon reaching the star system. The destination was delicately selected after much deliberation. Target planetary system features closest known exoplanet classified as Earth-like; it is of rocky composition, only slightly larger than Earth and features an oxygen-based atmosphere and a liquid ocean. Although studied extensively over the last 50 years using space based telescopes, virtually nothing is known regarding its surface. Evidence of life on this planet is circumstancial and inconclusive. Scientists have little hope of discovering complex alien organisms, but a discovery and study of even a single cell alien life form is deemed worthy of the resources invested in this mission.
An orbiting satellite will be inserted into the Earth-like planet's orbit to map and provide other information regarding the entire surface of this alien world from space. Several rovers with amphibious capabilities, an airborne unit and other multiple purpose robots are to be released from the Wanderer to perform extensive studies. Every system is fully automated because sending and receiving information from Earth takes 15 years at the speed of light. However, by this time artificial intelligence integrated with machines have reached such levels of efficiency and precision that human intervention is considered dangerous and potentially comprimising anyway. More probes loaded with scientific instruments are designated to be deployed to every single planet in the system, including some prominent moons of gas giants that exhibit potential of presence of life and/or unusual geologic activity. Although much is known about the system, final decisions in distribution of probes are made in-situ by the master A.I. of the spacecraft. It has been supplied with potential conditions that, if observed, would increase planetary object's degree of importance.
Once all the scientific cargo has been deployed, the mothership would then refuel with Helium-3 that is extracted from a gas giant planet within the system. It then would set a course for a more distant planetary system and continue its journey with only a limited reserve scientific cargo onboard. Robotic presence left behinds will remain operational for decades, continually supplying scientists and public in the 22nd century Earth with wealth of data.
Below is an artistic representation of unmanned interstellar spacecraft of the Project Daedalus. Click on the image to see it in larger resolution.
Copyright: Adrian Mann, Bisbos.com - Illustration & Design
In the past, dreams of genuine interstellar voyages seemed to belong exclusively in the realm of Science Fiction due to the vast distances between stars. Although numerous probes had left the Solar System in the past, such as Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, New Horizons and others, none of them included a destination that was to be reached within the operational lifetime of the probe. Serious theoretical studies into potential interstellar unmanned travel were conducted as early as 1960's. The most prominent and complete of these studies was Project Daedalus completed between 1973 and 1978. In 2009 Project Icarus study was launched that built upon these earlier theoretical works and provided backdrop for the first real guided interstellar probe of the late 21st century.
Interstellar Trajectories of 20th century probes coming out of the Solar System
Click on the image to see in full resolution
Visit official web-site of Project Icarus, a five year long study into interstellar travel, by clicking on this link.