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Centauri Dreams : Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration - Paul Gilster

Centauri Dreams

Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration

Hardcover Published: 8th October 2004
ISBN: 9780387004365
Number Of Pages: 302

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Why, today, would anyone undertake a plan to launch a spacecraft some 30 years in the future, and on a journey that would take some 40 years to complete? Paul Gilster investigates the science, and the spirit, of the NASA and JPL researchers who are actually at work on just such a project.

From the reviews:

"Gilster introduces the challenges of imagining and planning interstellar exploration by leading readers through the difficulties of reaching and exploring the nearest bright star, Alpha Centauri. Seeded by ideas and concepts of the late Robert Forward, the narrative is framed as a learning process undertaken simultaneously by writer and reader. Although Alpha Centauri is astronomically nearby, a postulated trip by robot spacecraft, followed by manned exploration, would take 50 to 1,000 years, depending on the type of spacecraft propulsion used. Various methods for interstellar travel are introduced and discussed, including solar sails that use the power of starlight, nuclear fusion, antimatter hybrid systems, and beamed laser propulsion. One challenge is to get there in a reasonable time so that funding support, public interest, and events on Earth will not divert attention from the mission. Another challenge is timing the mission relative to available technology, because with better technology it might be possible to send a later robot on the same mission in less time. The book has no figures, tables, or illustrations but does include 30 pages of notes and an adequate 14-page index. Though the concepts presented are often fanciful, this book will appeal to readers who wonder about the future of exploration beyond the solar system. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; professionals." (W. E. Howard III, CHOICE, March 2005)

Industry Reviews

From the reviews:

"Science and SF writer Gilster's latest isn't only an enlightening tour of propulsion and communication systems and the materials that might take us (in unmanned or even manned probes) to Centauri triple-star system 4.3 light years away (nearby in interstellar terms). The book is also a plea to remember that the urge to explore the unknown is what makes us human and that the future may not be as far away as we think. What separates this work from many scientific explorations of topics typically relegated to science fiction is that none of the methods described require breakthroughs in physics: we need no faster-than-light travel, no warp drive, no hyperspace or wormholes. All today's scientists need is the time, funding, and license to turn their thought experiments into engineering problems. Like a master kite flyer, Gilster slowly lets out the line and allows the magnificent dreams of interstellar flight to soar - describing the relevant technologies we already possess - then he reels readers back in by pointing out the lack of funding and distance these theories still need to go before becoming reality. The technologies include sails that capture light instead of wind; a combination of fusion and antimatter reactions; and artificially intelligent computer systems that evolve over time. Metaphors and examples based on common experience put the science in perspective. This work is not only a clear, well-thought-out explanation of theoretical science and engineering but also food for the soul of anyone who has ever thought that space is a great adventure waiting to happen." - Publishers Weekly, Jan. 10, 2005

"Paul Gilster is fascinated by interstellar space flight - not the Star Trek kind, but the real thing. He takes the reader on a tour of plans being developed quietly at NASA and other space agencies for sending an unmanned probe to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star. Extensive notes capably steer readers into the technical literature. Call this book science-fiction-for-real." - Astronomy, March 2005

"Gilster takes readers on leaps of imagination beyond the probable, past the unlikely, skirting the unbelievable, through the land of supposed impossibility, into the future where, one way or another, humanity will be pursuing 'Centauri Dreams,' or, as the subtitle states, 'Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration.'" -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Centauri Dreams is a look at the state of the art as-yet hypothetical technology needed to take us to Earth's second-closest star. ... Author Gilster examines the possibilities with a sure-handed humor liberally illustrated with interviews with real-life experts and examples from the great science-fiction stories of Anderson, Sterling, and Clarke." (Sci Fi, 2005)

"Paul Gilster is fascinated by interstellar space flight - not the Star Trek kind, but the real thing. He takes the reader on a tour of plans being developed quietly at NASA and other space agencies ... . Extensive notes capably steer readers into the technical literature." (Astronomy, March, 2005)

"`Centauri Dreams' consists of a thorough analysis of the alternative propulsion technologies ... . This analysis is tastefully interspersed with numerous references to science-fiction ideas and writers, reflecting Gilster's wide ranging knowledge of real science and his passion for science fiction literature. ... This book is very well researched, and was for me an enjoyable read, one that I'm sure will be well enjoyed by science-fiction aficionados and hard-nosed realists alike!" (Gerard Mc Mahon, Astronomy & Space, April, 2006)

"Centauri Dreams provides a ... thorough and up-to-date review of the various interstellar-travel concepts to be found in the literature. ... By and large the author does a good job describing complicated concepts ... . I can recommend Centauri Dreams to anyone seeking a non-technical summary of interstellar-travel concepts as they stand at the beginning of the 21st century." (Ian Crawford, The Observatory, Vol. 125 (1188), 2005)

"Paul Gilster explains some of the ongoing research ... that may one day lead to an unmanned, possibly even robotic or manned, space probe being sent to Alpha Centauri, the nearest bright star outside of our solar system. ... Centauri Dreams ... contains thirty pages of notes that enhance the reading. General audiences and professionals will find this book a fascinating read about the possibilities of future interstellar travel." (Alvin K. Benson, Salem Press, September, 2005)

"The fastest manmade vehicle is now Voyager 1, heading out of the solar system. It could cross the US in less than four minutes. Even at that speed it will take 70,000 years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri. ... Paul Gilster's book explores the terrain at the frontiers of hard logic and hairy thinking. Interstellar travel is now part of imagination's landscape. ... The interstellar idea, says Gilster, in this exhilarating book, is taking shape." (Tim Radford, The Guardian, March, 2005)

The Target
The First Steps
Communications over Light-Years
Interplanetary Networking
Propulsion Systems
The Solar Sail
Materials Technology
Why We Must Go
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780387004365
ISBN-10: 038700436X
Series: Copernicus
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 302
Published: 8th October 2004
Publisher: Springer-Verlag New York Inc.
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.5  x 3.81
Weight (kg): 0.62