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In a few decades, the Breakthrough Starshot initiative hopes to send a sailcraft to the neighboring system of Alpha Centauri. Using a lightsail and a directed energy (aka. laser) array, a tiny spacecraft could be accelerated to 20% the speed of light (0.2 c). This would allow Starshot to make the journey to Alpha Centauri and study any exoplanets there in just 20 years, thus fulfilling the dream of interstellar exploration within our lifetimes.

Naturally, this plan presents a number of engineering and logistical challenges, one of which involves the transmission of data back to Earth. In a recent study, Starshot Systems Director Dr. Kevin L.G. Parkin analyzes the possibility of using a laser to transmit data back to Earth. This method, argued Parkin, is the most effective way for humanity to get a glimpse of what lies beyond our Solar System.

The author of the study, Dr. Kevin Parkin, has served as Systems Director of Breakthrough Starshot since 2016. Prior to this, he was awarded the Korolev Medal by the Russian Federation of Astronautics and Cosmonautics for his groundbreaking work in microwave thermal propulsion. He also founded the San Francisco-based aerospace company Parkin Research, which specializes in the development of cost-saving technologies.

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Category: Science