您现在的位置: 纽约时报中英文网 >> 纽约时报中英文版 >> 科学 >> 正文

打造一支袖珍太空舰队,飞向“三体”世界

更新时间:2016-4-14 11:14:11 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A Visionary Project Aims for Alpha Centauri, a Star 4.37 Light-Years Away
打造一支袖珍太空舰队,飞向“三体”世界

Can you fly an iPhone to the stars?

你能让iPhone飞到星星上去吗?

In an attempt to leapfrog the planets and vault into the interstellar age, a bevy of scientists and other luminaries from Silicon Valley and beyond, led by Yuri Milner, a Russian philanthropist and Internet entrepreneur, announced a plan on Tuesday to send a fleet of robot spacecraft no bigger than iPhones to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system, 4.37 light-years away.

为了超越星球、跨入星际时代,由俄罗斯慈善家、互联网创业人士尤里·米尔纳(Yuri Milner)领衔的一群科学家及硅谷等地的名流,于周二宣布了一项计划,希望把一组体积不会比iPhone手机更大的自动太空飞船送进半人马座阿尔法星系(Alpha Centauri,又称南门二)。它是离我们最近的恒星系统,距地球4.37光年。

If it all worked out — a cosmically big “if” that would occur decades and perhaps $10 billion from now — a rocket would deliver a “mother ship” carrying a thousand or so small probes to space. Once in orbit, the probes would unfold thin sails and then, propelled by powerful laser beams from Earth, set off one by one like a flock of migrating butterflies across the universe.

如果计划真能获得成功——这一个天大的“如果”,从现在开始要投入数十年的时间,还要花上大概100亿美元的金钱——一枚火箭将把一艘载有大约1000个微型探测器的“母舰”送入太空。一旦进入轨道,这些探测器就会展开薄薄的帆,然后在来自地球的强大激光束推动下,一个接一个地出发,就好像迁徙的蝴蝶从太空掠过。

Within two minutes, the probes would be more than 600,000 miles from home — as far as the lasers could maintain a tight beam — and moving at a fifth of the speed of light. But it would still take 20 years for them to get to Alpha Centauri. Those that survived would zip past the star system, making measurements and beaming pictures back to Earth.

两分钟内,探测器就会在距离地球逾60万英里之外——也就是激光器发出的激光保持集束状态的最远距离——以五分之一光速的速率前进。但它们还是要花上20年,才能抵达半人马座阿尔法星。能够坚持到那一天的探测器将迅速掠过该星系,对其进行测量,并把照片发回地球。

Much of this plan is probably half a lifetime away. Mr. Milner and his colleagues estimate that it could take 20 years to get the mission off the ground and into the heavens, 20 years to get to Alpha Centauri and another four years for the word from outer space to come home. And there is still the matter of attracting billions of dollars to pay for it.

这个计划要有眉目,大概得等到半辈子之后。米尔纳及其同事预计,可能要花上20年时间,才能让探测器离开地球进入太空,再过20年它们才能抵达半人马座阿尔法星,再过四年我们才能收到它们从外太空发回的消息。此外还有一个问题,那就是如何吸引到该计划所需的上百亿资金。

“I think you and I will be happy to see the launch,” Mr. Milner, 54, said in an interview, adding that progress in medicine and longevity would determine whether he would live to see the results.

“我想大家都会很高兴看到发射的那一天到来,”54岁的米尔纳接受采访说。他还表示,自己能否看到最终结果将取决于医学和人类寿命领域的进步。

“We came to the conclusion it can be done: interstellar travel,” Mr. Milner said. He announced the project, called Breakthrough Starshot, in a news conference in New York on Tuesday, 55 years after Yuri Gagarin — for whom Mr. Milner is named — became the first human in space.

“我们得出的结论是:星际旅行计划是可行的,”米尔纳说。周二,他在纽约召开新闻发布会,宣布了这个名为“突破·探星”(Breakthrough Starshot)的计划。此时距离继尤里·加加林(Yuri Gagarin)成为进入太空第一人已经过去了55年。米尔纳的名字就取自这位传奇人物。

The English cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking is one of three members of the board of directors for the mission, along with Mr. Milner and Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder.

英国宇宙物理学家、作家斯蒂芬·霍金(Stephen Hawking)是该项目委员会的三名成员之一,另外两人分别是米尔纳和Facebook创始人马克·扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)。

“What makes human beings unique?” Dr. Hawking asked. He went on to say, “I believe that what makes us unique is transcending our limits.”

“是什么让人类独一无二?”霍金博士自问自答道。“我认为让我们独一无二的是超越极限。”

Dr. Hawking added, “Today we commit to the next great leap in the cosmos, because we are human and our nature is to fly.”

霍金还说,“今天我们之所以致力于在宇宙中实现另一大飞跃,是因为我们生而为人,我们的本性就是去飞翔。”

The project will be directed by Pete Worden, a former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center. He has a prominent cast of advisers, including the Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb as chairman; the British astronomer royal Martin Rees; the Nobel Prize-winning astronomer Saul Perlmutter, of the University of California, Berkeley; Ann Druyan, an executive producer of the television mini-series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” and the widow of Carl Sagan; and the mathematician and author Freeman Dyson, of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.

这个计划将由美国航空航天局(NASA)艾姆斯研究中心(Ames Research Center)前主任皮特·沃登(Pete Worden)负责。他有一个杰出的顾问团队,其中包括担任该项目主席的哈佛大学天文学家阿维·勒布(Avi Loeb),诺贝尔奖获得者、加州大学伯克利分校(University of California, Berkeley)的天文学家索尔·珀尔马特(Saul Perlmutter),迷你剧集《宇宙时空之旅》(Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey)的执行制片人、卡尔·萨根(Carl Sagan)的遗孀安·德鲁彦(Ann Druyan),以及来自新泽西州普林斯顿高等研究院(Institute for Advanced Study)的数学家兼作家弗里曼·戴森(Freeman Dyson)。

“There are about 20 key challenges we are asking the world’s scientific experts to help us with — and we are willing to financially support their work,” Dr. Worden said in an email.

“目前存在约20个关键挑战,我们会请世界各地的科学家帮忙应对——我们也乐于为他们的工作提供资金支持,”沃登博士在邮件中表示。

A detailed technical description of the project appears on the project’s website.

该项目的网站发布了一份详细的技术说明。

Estimating that the project could cost $5 billion to $10 billion, Mr. Milner is initially investing $100 million for research and development. He said he was hoping to lure other investors, especially from international sources. Both NASA and the European Space Agency have been briefed on the project, Dr. Worden said.

据米尔纳估计,这个项目可能会耗费50至100亿美元的资金,而他为项目提供了1亿美元的初始投资。他表示,希望将来可以吸引其他投资者,尤其是国际投资。沃登表示,他们就该项目与NASA和欧洲航天局(European Space Agency)保持了沟通。

Most of that money would go toward a giant laser array, which could be used to repeatedly send probes toward any star (as long as the senders were not looking for return mail anytime soon) or around the solar system, perhaps to fly through the ice plumes of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which might contain microbes — tiny forms of life.

大多数资金将被用于建设一个巨大的激光列阵,它可以用来朝任何星球(只要发射者不指望很快收到返回的信息)或围绕太阳系不停发射探测器,或许还能穿透土星的卫星恩塞拉都斯(Enceladus)表面的冰粒子,后者可能含有微生物。

In a sense, the start of this space project reflects the make-it-or-break-it mode of Silicon Valley. Rather than send one big, expensive spacecraft on a journey of years, send thousands of cheap ones. If some break or collide with space junk, others can take their place.

从某种程度上讲,这个太空项目的开启反映了硅谷“不成功则成仁”的风格。与其发射一架昂贵的大飞船花多年时间航行,他们选择发射上千艘便宜的。如果其中有些损坏,或是撞上了太空垃圾,还有其他的可以代替。

Interstellar travel is a daunting and humbling notion, but Alpha Centauri is an alluring target for such a trip: It is the closest star system to our own, and there might be planets in the system. The system, which looks to the naked eye like one star, consists of three: Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, which circle each other, and Proxima Centauri, which may be circling the other two. In recent years, astronomers have amassed data suggesting the possibility of an Earth-size planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B.

提到星际旅行,人们往往望而却步、自觉渺小,但半人马座阿尔法星系是一个很有诱惑力的目标:它是距离我们自己的太阳系最近的一个星系,而且可能有行星存在。从肉眼看来,这个星系看似一颗星球,但它实际上是三合星系统:相互环绕的半人马座阿尔法星A和半人马座阿尔法星B,以及半人马座比邻星(Proxima Centauri),后者可能围绕前两颗恒星旋转。天文学家近年来搜集的数据显示,可能存在一颗地球那么大的行星,在围绕半人马座阿尔法星B旋转。

It would take Voyager 1, humanity’s most distant space probe, more than 70,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri if it were headed in that direction, which it is not.

如果我们让人类最远程的探测器旅行者1号(Voyager 1)朝向半人马座阿尔法星系飞行,则需要7万年时间才能抵达。旅行者1号目前的运行方向也并非如此。

“全文请访问纽约时报中文网,本文发表于纽约时报中文网(http://cn.nytimes.com),版权归纽约时报公司所有。任何单位及个人未经许可,不得擅自转载或翻译。订阅纽约时报中文网新闻电邮:http://nytcn.me/subscription/”

相关文章列表