Astronomers Have a New Wild Idea for How to Send Modified Microbes to Other Solar Systems

Astronomers Have a New Wild Idea for How to Send Modified Microbes to Other Solar Systems

Let’s face it: traveling to another solar system is way too difficult using the current technology that the world has. In fact, it would take way more than a human lifetime to reach even the closest solar system to our own, meaning Alpha Centauri. That’s because our planet is located about 4.3 light-years away. 

George Church, who’s a geneticist at Harvard University, brings a new concept plan to send microbes to other solar systems to build communications stations over time in order to keep in touch with the world, according to Those microbes could be carried across vast amounts of space by using laser-propelled sails, in Church’s view.

Will humanity get to Alpha Centauri in a reasonable time?

The Breakthrough Starshot initiative aims to launch many spacecraft the size of microchips to the Alpha Centauri solar system. Each of those spacecraft would be capable of much higher speeds than anything else that can fly, as they’re equipped with sails that are propelled by powerful lasers. If the plan works, the spacecraft should be able to reach Alpha Centauri in “just” 20 years.

Judging by the current technological possibilities, it would literally take tens of thousands of years to reach Alpha Centauri. We’re sorry to disappoint you, but neither of us will live that long. That 20 years time sounds a lot better now, right? 

The concept of “light sailing” could save the day. Furthermore, there have been several studies in the past that suggest that “light sailing” may be the most practical way to send a spacecraft to another star within a reasonable amount of time. While the light itself does not exert much force, it has been proposed that the small amount of pressure it does apply could be leveraged for propulsion. This idea has been supported by various concept experiments involving “solar sails,” which are lightweight spacecraft equipped with large sails that rely on sunlight for propulsion. These experiments have shown that it is possible for a solar sail to achieve significant speeds if it is light enough and has a sufficiently large sail.


Cristian Antonescu

Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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