At the very least, we can expect the research behind this project to spin off numerous useful technologies, all of which should be applicable not only to star missions but to in-system exploration, along with, potentially, a kilometer-scale beamer that can double as a large telescope for astronomical observations. And while I doubt we can look at interstellar missions within the next few decades (I am open to being convinced otherwise), I believe that the timing for a fast flyby of Alpha Centauri will be considerably advanced by this work.
As became evident in the discussion both at the Yuri’s Night party and during the conference at Stanford, no one is taking these problems lightly. The $100 million that Milner has put forward toward Breakthrough Starshot is to be used to dig into these key questions, to stress the concept to the breaking point, identify its weaknesses and learn how to resolve them. Will there be a genuine show-stopper somewhere in this investigation? At this point we can’t know, but we’ll have the research funding now to identify them if they are there. And as we are talking in generational terms, we’ll also identify the trends that may make the improbable possible.
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