Recent advances in lasers suggest that we may see rockets propelled by light earlier than we had imagined. NASA scientist Philip Lubin and his team are working on a system that would use Earth-based lasers to allow space travel to far-away places in just a fraction of the time needed with current technology.
Using earth based lasers to push along a spacecraft instead of on board hydrocarbon-based fuel could dramatically reduce travel time to Mars, within our lifetime. Currently, it takes five months for a space craft to reach Mars. But, with photonic propulsion, it is likely that small crafts filled with experiments will reach Mars in just 3 days. Large spaceships with astronauts and life support systems will take only one month, which is about 20% of the duration of a current trip.
What’s next? Lubin believes that we may be able to send small crafts with scientific experiments to exoplanets as fast as 5% light speed in, perhaps, 30 years. Eventually, he claims that the technology will carry humans at speeds up to 20% light speed.
Read about it here.