Breakthrough Starshot, the privately funded $100 million effort to launch a probe to the nearest star, has put into orbit the world’s smallest satellites ever.
The six prototypes, dubbed Sprites, weigh only 4 grams and contain solar panels, computers, sensors, and radios on a surface equal to that of a U.S. postage stamp. Developed by researchers at Cornell University and transported into space as secondary payloads on a rocket built by the Europe-based company OHB System AG, the nanosatellites are being tested for electronics and communication performance in orbit.
The significance here is not so much that this advances the project’s interstellar mission, but that this technology is becoming more likely for use on both commercial and planetary spacecraft.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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