Space news: NASA to explore neighboring star system by 2069

Artist’s concept of Voyager in flight. (NASA)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is reportedly starting to make plans to launch a spacecraft to an exoplanet located in the Proxima Centauri star system. The launch is set to take place in 2069, the 100th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that sent mankind to the moon.

The plans for the mission were presented by members of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory during the recently concluded meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) held a few months ago. Anthony Freeman form the Jet Propulsion Laboratory presented the plans for the space mission, which would take place over 40 years.

The paper proposes the use of a spacecraft that can travel at a tenth of the speed of light, something that NASA wants to be able to build by the year 2069.

The target of the space mission is an exoplanet in the habitable zone of the star Proxima Centauri, which is the nearest known star to the Sun. The mission would explore the possibility of alien life in the exoplanet, which astronomers estimate to be located in a zone where planets could potentially have liquid water on the surface.

NASA noted that most of the technology needed for the interstellar space exploration is not yet available. Freeman broke down the proposed plan into six stages, five of which are still beyond the capabilities of human technology.

The first phase of the mission is accelerating out of the solar system. This is the simplest of the six phases, but it has been achieved by only one spacecraft so far. In 2012, spacecraft Voyager 1, which was launched in 1977, journeyed past the Solar System into interstellar space.

The other stages of the space mission include surviving the long cruise to Proxima Centauri, slowing down on approach,  adjusting the trajectory to get a close encounter, acquiring data, and transmitting the information back to earth.