Antimatter Spacecraft Could Sail To The Nearest Star In Just 40 Years

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The dream of travelling beyond our solar system could be way closer than we think, or at least, that's physicists Gerald Jackson and Steven Howe have claimed. Both Physicists Gerald Jackson and Steven Howe have been working on an antimatter thrust system for past whole decade now, as informed by Forbes. Their suggestion is for an antimatter-driven sail that can transport a 10-kilogram (22-pound) probe to our neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri, in only 40 years by using 17 grams (0.6 ounces) of antihydrogen. The big 100-kilogram (220 pounds) sail would be five meters or almost 16 feet in diameter, made of carbon, and covered with depleted uranium.

Image Credit: Artist’s illustration of the antimatter driven sail. Steven Howe/Hbar Technologies, LLC

So when the antihydrogen hits the sail, fission reaction takes place among the uranium atoms. The key outcome of this fission is two parallel sized atoms with high and opposite speeds. One of these atoms will hit the sail, pushing it forward, and the other atom will be lost in space. Using this method, the scientists say the probe could attain speed up to 10 percent the speed of light, reaching the boundary of our Solar System in only 10 years.

One of the main problems that need to be mentioned here, is how to store the antimatter. Antimatter is total opposite of normal matter, which we are made of. Antimatter particles, have the same mass of their normal matter counterparts but have an opposite charge (like positron and the antiproton). When matter and antimatter come into direct contact they crush each other, releasing pure energy. Physicists are still not clear why the universe is made of matter but not of of antimatter.

This notion was first suggested back in 2003, at the Particle Accelerator Conference, but it was not followed due to shortage of funding. So, Jackson and Howe, with the help their company Hbar Technologies, are currently planning to launch a Kickstarter promotion next month that would let them to create a proof-of-concept design and a method to measure the thrust of such system. Their target is to raise $200,000, which will offer funding for the next stage of the research.

Jackson told Forbes “Crowdfunding may be a good way to show interest in the project when it comes time to find bigger investors or governmental support. We will then need funding on the order of $100 million to actually build small prototype propulsion and power systems.”
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