By Dr Gregory L. Matloff (auth.)
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Like the major planets, most asteroids orbit the Sun close to the same plane - the ecliptic. The study of asteroids is becoming significant because of the realisation that these objects occasionally smash into the Earth, with dire consequences. Between about 30 and 50 AU from the Sun is the Kuiper Belt, a region of frozen bodies consisting mostly of water, methane and ammonia ices, and with typical sizes of 100-1,000km. Although our study of the Kuiper Belt has barely begun, astronomers expect thousands of bodies to inhabit this region.
This region extends perhaps 60,000AU (1 light year) from the Sun. A probe to 1O,000AU in a human lifetime requires another factor of 10 increase in spacecraft velocity. Hyperthin, aerogel or space-manufactured solar sails and nuclear-pulse propulsion are the best current candidates for missions to the solar gravisphere. We might sent our first robots towards this zone late in the twenty-first century. Since these craft could reach the nearest star system (0; Centauri) in about 1,000 years, these late twenty-first century robots might be considered as humanity's first true starships.
And Reynolds, R. , 'Habitable Zones Around Main Sequence Stars', Icarus, 101, 108-128 (1993). , Radiation in the Atmosphere, Academic, New York (1969). Larson, R. , Palo Alto, CA (1973), pp. 219-238. Wickramsinghe, N. , AI-Mufti, S. and Wallis, D. , 'Infrared Signatures of Pre biology - or Biology', in Astronomical and Biochemical Origins and the Searchfor Life in the Universe, ed. C. B. Cosmovici, S. Bowyer and D. Werthimer, Editrice Compositori, Bologna, Italy (1997), pp. 61-76. Wickramsinghe, N.
Deep-Space Probes by Dr Gregory L. Matloff (auth.)