The First Starships

Of the various technologies reviewed in Chapter 6, light sailing seems to be the best current choice of systems to propel humanity's first starships. Ramjets are infeasible, antimatter is difficult to store and too expensive, and the socio-political problems inherent in nuclear-pulse propelled spacecraft may be insurmountable. Only the light sail remains.

As discussed by Ben Finney and Eric Jones, there are two basic approaches to interstellar expansion via light sail. In keeping with previous terrestrial folk migrations, humans might launch a series of relatively slow but comparatively inexpensive solar-sail starships, which might be called "slow boats" or "nomads." If large-scale and stable government funding is available, we might instead select to travel in more expensive but speedier "fast ships" propelled by the radiation pressure of a solar-powered laser, beaming energy from the inner solar system to the distant starship.

At intervals of 100,000 years or so, random stellar motions bring stars closer to the Sun than the 4.3 light-years separating us and the Alpha Centauri system. It is also possible that a subluminous star closer to us than the Centauri suns will be discovered. In the discussion that follows, however, it will be assumed that the destination for our first robotic and peopled starships will be Alpha Centauri.

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Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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