Scientists have proposed a new mission to travel to the stars, inspired by the flight of seabirds. It is to use the changing winds generated by the Sun to accelerate the spacecraft to 2% of the speed of light within two years, allowing it to fly beyond our solar system.
People have long dreamed of leaving the limits of the solar system, but the incredible distances between the stars create serious obstacles on the way to this goal. NASA’s Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977, are the first probes to enter interstellar space, but they will still need tens of thousands of years to reach another star system.
The team of scientists, led by Mathias N. Larrouturou, a spaceflight researcher at McGill University found that their new “new spacecraft propulsion concept that induces dynamic hover of seabirds” appears to be possible to reach speeds approaching 2% of the speed of light after a year and a half or 0.5% of the speed of light after 1 month, depending on the trajectory through the solar system, according to a recent study, published in the Frontiers of Space Technologies journal.
“This method may include the first stage of a multi-stage mission to carry out a real interstellar flight to other solar systems,” the researchers are confident.
Over the years, many concepts have been proposed for interstellar missions, from powerful lasers for acceleration to huge ships that transport people across the galaxy. Larrouturou and his colleagues envision another type of architecture centered around a “magnetohydrodynamic wing,” which is an invisible structure made of magnetic fields that resembles the physical wing of a bird or airplane.
This spectral wing can theoretically be created by two plasma magnets placed along the antenna several meters long. In the right parts of the solar system, the field created by the magnets could interact with the solar wind flows in different directions, just as birds use wind turbulence to create lift.