If we must spread life across the Universe, we need to find out how to send humans outside the solar system to another star system. Alpha Centauri, which is the closest star system to Earth is one of the best first destinations to consider for our first crewed interstellar travel. But why should space agencies even consider sending astronauts to Alpha Centauri in the first place? Can we ever attain such a milestone in the future? Continue reading to find out.
Why do we need to send Humans out of the Solar System?
Out of over 8.7 million species that currently exist on Earth, humans are the only specie with the technological capabilities to create space programs. Scientists revealed that 99 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth which amount to over five billion species have gone to extinction. This implies that the universe creates factors that destroy life on Earth from time to time.
Based on our scientific exploration so far, scientists have realized that every living specie on Earth will go into Extinction when the sun expands and consumes our planet in a few billion years to come. That is if a killer asteroid did not slam into Earth before then. Hence, space agencies are aware of the dangers facing Earth if we ignore to spread life across the cosmos. Yes, we will succeed in colonizing Mars and some moons of the gas giants before we begin to work on escaping the solar system to our nearest star neighbor.
In fact, the first step to living outside Earth has been made possible with the International Space Station and the Tiangong Space Station. NASA is already working on extending the human presence from low Earth orbit to the moon under its Artemis Space Program. The American Space Agency has accomplished the first phase of this mission and working towards sending humans on flyby missions around the moon under its Artemis 2 mission.
Artemis 3 and 4 missions will put humans on the moon to allow NASA to establish a permanent human presence on the moon. All these interesting missions will happen before 2030. This implies that Space agencies may be working towards a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s and beyond. With the rate at which we are progressing, humans may explore most parts of the solar system before the end of the next century. Since there are numerous dangers facing humanity in this part of the Cosmos, our first attempt to send humans to Alpha Centauri may commence with a generation ship or any other available sophisticated technology.
Why Alpha Centauri Will be our first Destination in Exploring the Interstellar Space
Scientists estimate that there are about 300 billion stars in the milky Way galaxies. Each of these stars has planets orbiting around them, implying that there could be about 400 billion planets or more in our home galaxy. However, the distance separating our home planet from these star systems is great. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our sun. The system comprises a three-star system which includes Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B, and a red dwarf Proxima Centauri.
Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B stars do not have planets in their orbits. However, astronomers have discovered two known planets around Proxima Centauri which include Proxima Centauri b and Proxima Centauri c. Scientists are suggesting that there could be possible another planet within this region named Proxima Centauri d.
However, further studies will be required to uncover it. Astronomers discovered that Proxima Centauri b is the only planet orbiting in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri in the Alpha Centauri star system. Hence, the first crew mission to the system will be targeted to land on Proxima Centauri b.
Although the surface conditions of Proxima Centauri b will be quite different from Earth, future technologies will enable astronauts to easily adapt to the uniqueness of their new home. The first attempt to reach Alpha Centauri System is to mark the beginning of our interstellar space trip into other distant worlds. Hence, future civilizations will not be going on this voyager trip to stop only at Proxima b.
Challenges Astronauts will Encounter During the Mission to Alpha Centauri
Traveling to distanced star system like Alpha Centauri is technically impossible using today’s technologies. So, if humans will ever attempt the first interstellar trip to Alpha Centauri, we must advance technologically improving our spaceship designs, space suits, and other technologies required for the mission. But no matter how far we advanced technologically in the future, humans will still encounter the following challenges while attempting to reach Alpha Centauri.
Alpha Centauri is a star system with a great distance from earth. The average distance separating Earth from this star system is about 4.367 light years. If we ever attempt to reach Alpha Centauri using today’s technology, it will take us about 40,000 years. At this great distance, no humans could ever survive the trip. Hence, we must develop other advanced propulsion systems to reduce our travel time.
Space agencies like NASA are already working on exploring space using nuclear propulsion systems before the end of this decade. If we master the concept of exploring space with nuclear propulsion systems, we should be able to develop other propulsion systems that will reduce our travel time before we attempt interstellar travel to Alpha Centauri.
Even if we improve our propulsion systems, humans will still have to travel for centuries to reach our nearest neighboring star system. This implies that one generation cannot accomplish this powerful mission. Hence, any space agency attempting to send humans to Alpha Centauri must think of building a generation ship for the mission. This ship should be powerful enough to accommodate every crew member and their descendants.
Before we attempt such a trip in a few hundred years, we must have mastered to art of cryonically preserving humans and extending their lives. Humans should have advanced enough to extend life with technologies and embed electronics inside the human body. This implies astronauts participating in this mission may be cyborgs who can withstand several challenges that may be dangerous to the average human body.
Staying for long in a microgravity environment of space is quite dangerous to the human body. Scientists have discovered that staying too long in a microgravity environment can impact bone mass and lead to other devastating health complications. Hence, the generation ship that will be used for this mission will be built with artificial gravity to give astronauts adequate protection during the mission. With the assistance of artificial gravity, humans will feel comfortable during the trip to a new world.
Space radiation is one of the dangers humans often encounter in space. However, we have been protecting astronauts aboard the space station from the harmful radiation of space. But as humans travel outside the solar system to explore endless space, they should be prepared to encounter more harmful space radiation.
Before any space agency sends humans to another star system, they must have successfully sent out robotic missions to learn about radiation and other possible dangers that may stand on the part of the crew. Engineers will rely on the outcome of this mission to build the generation ship and ensure that humans are highly protected during the mission.
5. Food and water including other basic supplies.
The only challenge that will make this mission nearly impossible is when astronauts cannot access their basic needs during the trip. Since the generation trip will be traveling at a faster rate, it will be difficult for any space agency to send resupply missions to restock basic supplies aboard the ship.
Hence, astronauts participating in this mission must be able to grow food and recycle water aboard the ship before commencing the mission. The good news is that NASA and other agencies are already growing foods in space using a technology named Veggies. We will surely improve this technology before going interstellar in the future.
6. Reproducing Children in space.
If the crew decides to use a generation ship for this mission, this implies that they have to reproduce children aboard the ship to get descendants that will complete the mission. Since we commence with space exploration, no one has given birth in space. Hence, astronauts may find it challenging to reproduce babies and train them in space. However, space agencies will train the crew to ensure that they master the art of reproducing in space before going on the mission.
7. Other issues.
Humans going on a trip to the Alpha Centauri system will certainly encounter other challenges that are not mentioned above. Since this is the first time humans will be attempting such a trip, they should be ready to experience even more challenging situations. The first original crew members will possess military, medical, and other great skills that will they will pass down to their descendants as the mission progresses. The last crew members to land on Proxima Centauri b will deploy these skills in surviving on the new environment.
How the Mission to Alpha Centauri will commence
Any space agency that intends to accomplish such a mission must be willing to make a heavy budget for it. To simplify the human mission to Alpha Centauri, we are going to break the processes into different steps.
Step 1 to Sending Humans to Alpha Centauri: Launching Uncrewed Robotic Probe
Before preparing for a crewed mission to Alpha Centauri, the space agency will use the best propulsion systems of that century to propel a spacecraft toward the three-star system. Stephen Hawkings once proposed a Breakthrough Starshot, which is a miniature space probe attached to light sails that can travel at 100 million miles per hour.
At this speed, it will take the space probe about 20 years to get to Alpha Centauri. Future civilizations may create more powerful space probes that can travel much faster and open the human mind to what a mission to Alpha Centauri would look like. Once the robotic mission is accomplished, space agencies will commence preparing for the crewed mission to the three-star system.
Step 2 to Sending Humans to Alpha Centauri: The Construction of the Generation Ship
The human mission to Alpha Centauri will commence with the design and construction of the massive generation ship in orbit. The skeletal part of this ship will be attached to a powerful orbiting laboratory where the engineers will easily reach Earth to continue with the construction.
Most parts of this powerful ship will be built here on Earth and will be flown into Space to attach to the core model of the ship. Since the ship will be supermassive to accommodate hundreds of occupants at a goal, it may take up to years to complete. Once the ship is completed, the engineers will proceed to test it to ensure it meets the mission requirements.
Step 3 to Sending Humans to Alpha Centauri: Selection of Crew Members
Even before the design and construction of the generation ship are completed, the space agency must have selected astronauts that will participate in this mission. These selected astronauts will come from different countries and tribes to enable them to represent all human races in the new world. The hundreds of selected crew members will be trained for years to ensure they are prepared for the mission.
This training will mandate them to travel to Mars and Titan and experience the most challenging environment of different space worlds. The astronauts will also visit the completed generation ship and test how to use it to navigate across the radiated environment of space. Each crew member will be assigned a role that will bring the mission to success. Once the training is completed, the trained astronauts will spend more time with their families before finally leaving for the mission of no return.
Step 4 to Sending Humans to Alpha Centauri: Liftoff
On the liftoff day, the crew members will be transported to orbit where they will enter their generation ship and commence on the journey to Alpha Centauri. Since each crew member understands his or her role in the mission, the crew members will travel and continue their journey to a new world without any issues.
Step 5 to sending Humans to Alpha Centauri: Growing Children and food aboard the ship
Since the crew is experienced in using sophisticated technologies of the ship, they will easily raise their children and grow food as well on the ship. These astronauts will educate their children on the mission goals and what they were expected to accomplish at the end of the mission. With the presence of advanced technologies that extend life on the ship, the original crew members will live much longer to ensure that their descendants fully understand what the mission is all about.
The highly advanced artificial intelligence will also guide the children on how to meet the mission requirement. With the effort of the original crew, artificial intelligence, and the descendants, humans will surely control the ship for centuries until they arrive at the Alpha Centauri Star system.
Step 6 to sending Humans to Alpha Centauri: Communicating with Earth
Once the descendants of the original crew land on Proxima Centauri b, they will set up their habitats and deploy advanced communication systems in sending signals to Earth. Since Alpha Centauri is about 40 million kilometers away, a message signal will take up to 4 years to reach us from such a distance. However, humans will still share their experiences in the new environment with people living in the solar system.
Establishing a Civilization in Alpha Centauri
Humans will deploy several technologies when they arrived at Proxima Centauri b to start up a civilization in their new interstellar space world. They will continue to research and study other distanced star systems. This first attempt will give humans on Proxima Centauri b and some terrestrial planets and moons of our solar system think of traveling beyond Alpha Centauri and reaching other distanced star systems.
Life Beyond Alpha Centauri
After humans have grown for centuries on Alpha Centauri, they will come to accept the new star system as their new home. From here, they will begin to work on traveling beyond Alpha Centauri to see what the universe preserves for humanity in other star systems. This bold move will mark the beginning of a new space age for humanity.
Reaching a distanced space world like Proxima Centauri b in the Alpha Centauri system will not come as an easy task to accomplish. However, the need to leave our solar system will inspire humans to reach Alpha Centauri a few centuries from now. What do you think about sending humans to Alpha Centauri?