Skip to comments.NASA looking at building tractor beams for space
Posted on 11/02/2011 11:18:39 AM PDT by ShadowAce
Tractor beams -- the ability to trap and move objects using laser light have generally been the purview of Star Trek and other science fiction shows but NASA has real-life space plans for the far-out technology.
NASA this week said it had awarded $100,000 to researchers at its Goddard Space Flight Center to study tractor beam technology that could remotely capture planetary or atmospheric particles and deliver them to a robotic rover or orbiting spacecraft for analysis.
More on NASA: NASA's 7 wicked cool crop-circle corn mazes
NASA said its researchers will be looking at three experimental methods for corralling particles and transporting them via laser light to an instrument -- akin to a vacuum using suction to collect and transport dirt to a canister or bag. Once delivered, an instrument would then characterize their make-up, NASA said.
NASA described the three experimental technologies:
Optical tweezers: The optical vortex or "optical tweezers" method -- involves the use of two counter-propagating beams of light. The resulting ring-like geometry confines particles to the dark core of the overlapping beams. By alternately strengthening or weakening the intensity of one of the light beams -- in effect heating the air around the trapped particle -- researchers have shown in laboratory testing that they can move the particle along the ring's center. This technique, however, requires the presence of an atmosphere.
Solenoid Beaming: Using optical solenoid beams -- those whose intensity peaks spiral around the axis of propagation. Testing has shown that the approach can trap and exert a force that drives particles in the opposite direction of the light-beam source. In other words, the particulate matter is pulled back along the entire beam of light. Unlike the optical vortex method, this technique relies solely on electromagnetic effects and could operate in a space vacuum, making it ideal for studying the composition of materials on one of the airless planetary moons, for example.
Bessel Beaming: The third technique exists only on paper and has never been demonstrated in the laboratory, NASA said. It involves the use of whats known as a Bessel beam. Normal laser beams when shined against a wall appear as a small point. With Bessel beams, however, rings of light surround the central dot. In other words, when seen straight on, the Bessel beam looks like the ripples surrounding a pebble dropped in a pond. According to theory, the laser beam could induce electric and magnetic fields in the path of an object. The spray of light scattered forward by these fields could pull the object backward, against the movement of the beam itself, NASA said.
"Though a mainstay in science fiction, and Star Trek in particular, laser-based trapping isn't fanciful or beyond current technological know-how," Principal Investigator of the project Paul Stysley said in a statement. "The original thought was that we could use tractor beams for cleaning up orbital debris. But to pull something that huge would be almost impossible -- at least now. That's when it bubbled up that perhaps we could use the same approach for sample collection."
A John Deere with headlights?
Just don’t aim it at an F-104.
How is this going to advance Islam?
Uhh--we can pull their god, the moon, closer to them?
Can we capture Uranus?
$100K? That's it? That's like one junior-level guy (maybe with benefits) for a year with no other support of any kind.
who ever said they were made of laser light?
Do reporters even go to school? It seems most reporters have not even graduated kindergarden.
Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah, DUH dah-dah!
Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah, DUH dah-dah!
Only 2 ways. Magnetism/electromagnetism or mastering the manipulation of gravity.
That’s right. The pilot just might be the father of the guy who’ll pilot the first flight to Saturn.
If they do develop this thing, they need to use it to sweep the crap in low Earth orbit. There’s a lot of dangerous junk there.
My office collectively runs around $5000/hour. That grant would cover us for 20 hours. In practice, we bid tasks with specified team members and burn the money against labor hours by that person against the task. Money is managed very carefully. Your observation is correct assuming there are no startup costs and the tasking can be efficiently dropped to a junior engineer ready to work immediately.
That was my thought too.
“How is this going to advance Islam?”
Post of the day! LOL....
Wow—you must have really liked it.
Sorry about that. Not sure how it happened.
I’ll bet you were posting that comment during an ion storm.
No. I just updated to IE9 and it isn’t really telling me what is going on with updates.
The Botany Bay fared much better under the tractor beam than Captain John Christopher's F-104 Starfighter, I tell you!
That's because the EPA/DOT/OSHA really started requiring CDLs to drive tractor beams.
Next you know they'll be requiring licenses for possessiona of Corbomite.