NASA and Stephen Hawking certainly believe so and have combined forces to construct a nano-spacecraft, or the “Starchip,” that has the potential to reach our nearest neighbours, in terms of solar systems, in a possible twenty years.
It may have caused a stir among scientists especially those who are into space research, like astronomers and astrophysicists, when in April 2016, Stephan Hawking announced that it was possible to explore the celestial space with nano craft technology on spacecraft, not bigger than a postage stamp, which can travel at one-fifth the speed of light.
It all started with the getting together of mind and money, when in April, 2016, one of the greatest minds, if not the greatest, Stephen Hawkings and the Russian billionaire, Yuri Milner, who is well known for his contributions in different fields of science and technology, announced their pioneering technology of reaching the nearest solar system in around 20 years, give or take a couple of years.
With the technology currently available to us, a mission to the nearest solar system Alpha Centauri, twenty-five trillion miles (4.37 light-years) from the Earth, would take a minimum of thirty thousand years – not a promising or realistic option by any means.
This is, evidently, why it has created such an interest in the subject not only in the scientific community but also among people who are followers of progress made in space exploration.
Mr Hawking, please refer to https://timelybuzz.com/stephen-hawkings-advice-to-the-world/ for more on and from him, along with his team at the Korea Institute of Science are working to overcome the yet unsolved issues of the idea, and this where NASA has joined forces as they have the expertise and wherewithal to see the project through.
Talking about impediments and hurdles, reportedly, the priority is on high-intensity radiation in space which can damage the craft and make it dysfunctional.
At the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco held from December 3 to December 7 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, NASA advice on the project was:
* Re-align the path of the flight so that it can traverse in a way that will avoid the high radiation areas in space. The downside of this proposal, though, is that it may add years to the travel time and the disintegration may still happen.
* NASA’s second proposed solution was to add protective material or ‘shielding’ on the electronics. Again, the flipside to this suggestion is that it would add to the weight of the craft thereby causing considerable reduction in the speed – beating the main purpose of the technology.
* NASA’s third proposal was a self-repairing chip, a technology which has been around for some time. According to one of NASA team members, Jin-Woo Han ,“On-chip healing has been around for many, many years,”
However, there are impediments to surmount and work is continuing to make this a reality – the quest for the search of intelligent life in the universe continues!
“The limit that confronts us now is the great void between us and the stars,” Mr Hawking said in April. “But now we can transcend it. With light beams, light sails, and the lightest spacecraft ever built, we can launch a mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation.
“Today, we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos because we are human, and our nature is to fly.”
One can only but imagine and wonder what the possibilities would be if we were ever to conquer the speed of light!