The First Star-Visiting Probe Will Need Some Ambitious Engineering
Getting to the nearest star presents some engineering hurdles space probes haven't met before.By Evan Thomas | August 24, 2016
In cosmic terms, Alpha Centauri, a cluster of several stars, is right next door — maybe close enough to send something to explore it in the near future.
But don't break out the Starfleet uniform just yet. The first spacecraft to visit another star is likely to be uncrewed probes that are autonomous, fast, exotic and shielded.
Autonomous because this probe is going to be on a one-way trip in interstellar space, without easy communication. By the time it arrives at Alpha Centauri, round-trip radio messages will take more than eight years.