NASA wants to send a spacecraft to explore Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri, a star system located more than four light-years from Earth, has caught NASA's eye in a big way. A Jet Propulsion Laboratory team wants to send a spacecraft to explore the system, though it will take decades to get all the groundwork in place. The exploration, should it actually happen, would take place around the Apollo II mission's 100th anniversary in 2069.

This is according to New Scientist, which reports that this project doesn't yet have a name, and is in its very infancy. The technology capable of getting a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri doesn't yet exist, meaning there's a literal lifetime of work ahead of these researchers. It's a big dream that will require a lot of effort.

The project was detailed at the 2017 American Geophysical Union conference held earlier this month in New Orleans. The presentation was made by JPL's Anthony Freeman, who described it as "very nebulous." According to New Scientist, a federal funding bill requiring NASA to study interstellar travel was the basis for the project's conception.

The project, at least as it is currently imagined, will involve studying the exoplanet Proxima b specifically, doing so in the search for signs of life beyond our own planet. NASA is tasked with developing technology that can travel at a tenth of the speed of light, which means it'll take about 44 years for this mission's future spacecraft to simply arrive at its destination.

This means that yes, unfortunately, most people reading this will likely not be around to find out what the mission discovers. However, assuming the spacecraft gets to its destination without issue, your grand kids may be in for an exciting announcement some time after the year 2100.

SOURCE: New Scientist