Interstellar Travel Will Be Achieved With Antimatter Engines
With a constant velocity of 38,000 miles per hour, Voyager 1 has recently reached deep space after 40 years of travelling through the Solar System. If it were to be heading towards Alpha Centauri, the closest solar system to our own, some 4.3 light-years away, it would take it some 76,000 years to get there. To better put things into perspective, human civilisation has been around ever since the advent of agriculture some 12,000 years ago.
But as it turns out, an antimatter engine could bring us to Alfa Centauri in the exact time span it took Voyager 1 to leave the Solar System; 40 years. This statement comes from a company known as Position Dynamics.
“We’re working on a propulsion system based on antimatter that should be able to get us to Alpha Centauri in about 40 years,” Ryan Weed, a physicist and CEO of Positron Dynamics, said in the video. “When you’re talking about an antimatter drive, it’s about 1,000 times more efficient. You can actually accelerate to a significant fraction of the speed of light, which is really a requirement if you want to go to something that’s 4 light-years away.”
The company is now researching how to produce and cool positrons. These positrons are the antimatter equivalent of electrons to normal matter. These positrons are the easiest form of antimatter to create and their interactions with ordinary matter can propel a spaceship to travel at great speeds.
They’re also talking about an effort to launch a telescope to search for potentially habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri system. If such a discovery were to be made then it will prove a definite motivation for a mission there.
“That a habitable planet might exist so close by would be an extraordinary and really transformative discovery,” Bill Diamond, the president and CEO of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in California, said in the video.
The International Astronomical Union recently announced that Alpha Centauri is now officially called Rigel Kentaurus. But it’ll probably take a while for this change to sink in.