An artistic impression of Breakthrough Starshot flying away from Earth at 0.2c. Credit: Breakthrough Starshot Initiative
Interstellar travel is about to go from a Sci-fi idea to physical reality, but the jump comes with a series of considerations that fiction writers don’t have to consider.
This could work as an introduction for the apparent lack of toilets in Star Trek, but it’s actually something else. You see, space is not as empty as one might think. Within galaxies, there is a large quantity of small complex molecules which are commonly called dust, although it has a consistency more similar to smoke.
Usually, dust is not a major problem for probes, humans, and spacecraft, but if we were to send something at a considerable velocity, dust starts to matter.
Canadian and American Scientists wrote a paper on how project Breakthrough Starshot is going to be affected by dust. If you haven’t heard about Starshot, it is the ambitious plan to send a micro spacecraft (100 grams at most) to Alpha Centauri within 20 years. This would be possible by accelerating the craft to 20 percent the speed of light by shooting a powerful laser at a large solar sail in order ...