Skip to comments.Near-lightspeed nano spacecraft might be close
Posted on 07/13/2009 10:37:27 AM PDT by LibWhacker
Researchers creating the tiny engines that could drive mini-starships
Massive particle accelerators are exploring the world of the very small, but similar technology may someday propel needle-sized spacecraft to distances on a scale so large as to be almost unimaginable between star systems.
Thanks to research on nano-sized thrusters that act like portable particle accelerators, tiny spacecraft might be accelerated to near-lightspeed and sent to explore nearby stars perhaps within our lifetimes.
(Excerpt) Read more at msnbc.msn.com ...
Or we could slap hundreds of them on a large ship.
I recall back in the old Soviet Union days, they announced they had created the worlds largest microchip.
I’m picturing Mr. Scott inhaling helium and screeching a tiny “Th’engines can’ take much more, Sir!”
....carrying eetsy-beetsy tiny little astronauts.
That’s all well in good...until The Borg assimilate them...and then what????
Or a swarm of them could assemble into a larger ship on arriving at their destination.
Or DNA to grow one. And implant the mind stored electronically.
LOL, they probably did!
More NanoBS. What would be the purpose of sending a spacecraft the size of a sewing needle to another star? The only people who would be fascinated by such a concept work for MSN and MSNBC. for one, it would be too small to track, once it got ten feet from the launch pad. The next concern would be what sort of instrumentation and communication equipment it could carry. So, theoretically, you could make a really small but fast-moving projectile, but to claim it would be useful for space exploration is snake oil.
People have been talking about nano robotics for years. They contemplate molecular-sized mechanisms that could do all sorts of tiny work, but they have yet to show even the first prototype. The thing about nanotechnologies is that they can tell you that it’s right there, building tiny nanobuildings, and you couldn’t see a damn thing. That’s because nanostuff is too small to see. So we can pay millions in grants to research something that can’t even be seen or touched.
well and good
How many 11 pound sewing needles have you seen?
Well that’ll be just great. It will prolly poke some sleeping alien when it gets there and he will come back here to open up a large-size can of whoop-@$$ on us...
'Course, I don't see how the heck they're going to accomplish all this in our lifetime (not mine, anyway) -- Maybe in the lifetimes of our grandkids...
The ships are particle accelerators. So they are expelling mass at nearly lightspeed. There’s your propulsion, and that’s why the ship has to be kept tiny and light.
There are already a lot of applications for nanotech that are available in consumer goods. Remember that “nano-” just means a particular range of sizes, so nanotech just means “unusual properties at that scale”.
Just off the top of my head, two nanotech practical applications are “self cleaning glass”, which is just ordinary glass but with a nanoscale thick layer of a material on it that makes it very slick. And carbon tube water filters that only pass individual molecules of water, nothing larger, which may alleviate much of the world’s drinking water shortage.
Nanotech porous materials are also very useful, such as metal parts that at that scale is full of tiny holes which catch lubricant and keep it very slick, and clothing that passes moisture but retains heat.
But you’re right that, in the final analysis, nanotech is invisible.
This article is about future unmanned spacecraft that are, literally, the size of a sewing needle, having a mass that is probably only a small fraction of gram.
I think that should read 3x10 to the 12th power, not 8th.
FWIW: the first hypersonic aircraft (X36?) is only about 4 feet long.
Just a point of comparison that experimental vehicles traveling at extreme speeds need not carry cargo (much less people) nor be anything other than mind-jarringly small.
This concept brings with it a whole host of challenges that must be addressed: We'll need to develop a very, very tiny Crawler-Transporter to bring the ship out from the itsy-bitsy Vehicle Assemnly Building to the teeny-weeny launch pad. Then we'll have to construct a microscopic Mission Control facility to monitor the spacecraft throughout its mission. This is not going to be as easy as it sounds.
BTW, you caught me in a mistake here and I should admit it; huge particle accelerators (like the 17-mile ring of the LHC) can accelerate protons up to nearly lightspeed, but nowhere does the article claim that our little needleships will be able to do so and I shouldn't have said it. Instead, they will accelerate protons away at some relatively high speed (but in all likelihood, not anywhere close to lightspeed) for some extended period of time and the cumulative effect of that will eventually bring the speed of our needleship up to near light speed. Thanks!
I still think I’ve got a mosquito problem, rather than a nano-lightspeck.
I don’t know if you’re missing anything, but I’m missing everything.
Ok, a spaceship with a very small mass could be accelerated to a very high velocity, but the energy required to do that would be enormous and it wouldn’t be small.
Maybe if they used a space-based particle accelerator in orbit to shoot the thing to near-light velocity.........