The recent burst of interest in interstellar flight has surely been enhanced by the exoplanet discoveries that have become almost daily news. Finding interesting planets, some of them with the potential for water on their surfaces, inevitably raises the question of how we might find a way to get there. We can only imagine this accelerating as missions like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope begin to fill in not just our inventory of nearby planets but our understanding of their compositions.
Find a terrestrial class planet around another star — we may find that there is more than one around the Alpha Centauri stars — and the interstellar probe again becomes a topic of lively conversation. Breakthrough Starshot, the hugely ambitious attempt to develop a concept for tiny payloads being delivered through beamed laser propulsion to a nearby star, is by now a major part of the discussion. And as I said in my closing remarks at the recent Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Huntsville, there is a synergy among these developments.
Here’s a bit of what I said in Huntsville:
The emergence of Breakthrough Starshot clearly changes the game for everyone in ...