Spaceship ‘powered by lasers’ could cut trip to nearest star system to 20 years – rather than 100,000 with today’s rockets

Spaceship 'powered by lasers' could cut trip to nearest star system to 20 years – rather than 100,000 with today's rockets

A SPACECRAFT so small it could fit in the palm of your hand may be the first to reach another star system in less than 20 years.
Scientists have created the tiny craft, referred to as the wafercraft, with plans to propel it into space with lasers and learn more about what’s out in the Universe.
Courtesy UC Santa Barbara The spacecraft is so small it could fit in your hand
The spacecraft’s size means that it can travel much further and much quicker than bigger space rockets, while still having the ability to relay information back to Earth.
This way we could learn a lot more about far off places in the Universe without having to wait for the creation of giant rocket ships that can travel as quick as a miniature one.
The spacecraft was designed by engineers from the University of California, Santa Barbara and it weighs as much as a stick of chewing gum.
It had its first test flight in April and flew more than 100,000 feet in the air, while managing to take 4,000 photos of Earth.
Getty – Contributor The spacecraft could be sent all the way out of the Milky Way and into different galaxies
The scientists think that the spacecraft could send us pictures of far off stars or even take photos outside of the Milky Way and transmit them back to Earth.
Development engineer Nic Rupert who worked on the project said: “It was designed to have many of the functions of much larger spacecraft, such as imaging, data transmission, including laser communications, attitude determination and magnetic field sensing.
“Due to the rapid advancements in microelectronics we can shrink a spacecraft into a much smaller format than has been done before for specialised applications such as ours.”
If we used traditional chemical rockets then it would currently take 100,000 years to reach the closest star system, called Alpha Centauri.
Lasers based on Earth could propel this lightweight craft at up to 20% of the speed of light and cut the time it could reach Alpha Centauri down to 20 years.
The researchers are planning a suborbital flight for the wafercraft next year.
However, the laser systems that would propel the craft through space at high speeds still don’t exist so the scientists have a lot of work to do between now and then.
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In other news, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has unveiled the Blue Origin lunar lander that could be taking people to the moon within five years.
A star hidden in the Milky Way could be an intruder from a dwarf galaxy that was once ‘swallowed’ by our own.
And, Nasa is sending diseased ‘living human organs’ on micro-chips up to the ISS to test sickness in space.
Do you think this tiny spacecraft is a cool invention? Let us know in the comments…

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