Evolutionary Lightsailing Missions for the 100-Year Starship

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L. Friedman et al. (2013), JBIS, 66, p.252-259

Refcode: 2013.66.252
Keywords: LightSails, Interstellar Precursors, Solar sail

Incremental milestones towards interstellar flight can be achieved in this century by building on first steps with lightsailing, the only known technology that might someday take us to the stars. That this is now possible is enabled by achievements of first solar sail flights, the use of nano-technology for miniaturization of spacecraft, advances in information processing and the decoding of our genomes into transportable form. This paper quantifies a series of robotic steps through and beyond the solar system that are practical and would stimulate the development of new technologies in guidance, navigation, materials, communication, sensors, information processing etc. while exploring ever-more distant, exciting space objectives at distances impractical for classical rocket-based technologies. There robotic steps may be considered as precursors to human interstellar flight, but they may also be considered as evolutionary steps that provide for a different future: One of virtual human interstellar flight that may bypass the ideas of the past (big rockets launching heavy people) in favour of those of the future networking amongst the stars with information, and the physical transport of digital and biological genomes.

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