Interstellar Probes Use Lasers as “Wind” for Sails

Maneuver called light sailing

Image Credits: Futurilla, Flickr.

Giant lasers may indeed launch fleets of spacecraft to Alpha Centauri, given breakthroughs in the science behind extraordinarily thin, incredibly reflective sails that can catch this laser light, a new study finds.

The $100 million Breakthrough Starshot initiative, which was announced in 2016, plans to use powerful lasers to launch swarms of tiny spacecraft to Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our own.

While using laser cannons for spacecraft propulsion might sound like science fiction, previous research has suggested that “light sailing” might be one of the only technically feasible ways to get a probe to another star within a human lifetime.

Read more