Interstellar Probe to the Centauri stars

From Centauri Dreams :

"A forty year flyby to the Centauri stars would be moving at something better than a tenth of lightspeed once it gets up to cruise. Even if exquisitely targeted, such a probe would operate within 1 AU of the target system (let’s say Centauri B) for something less than three hours. Ponder the challenge presented by collecting imagery and data from Centauri planets in such a scenario."

I’d think that could be addressed by using a large number of smaller probes and getting them strung out over a long line, about 30 light hours apart. Each one might spend only 3 hours in system - but the chain could spend days or months passing through. They’d each beam their results back to the next in the chain, and the last unit in the chain would have to be able to transmit it back to Earth. (Redundancy is also easy to build in - if one fails, the next in line could be close enough to still get the signal.

You might create a “chain of double-sided mirrored probes” and direct lasers to bounce simultaneously between all the probes - those closest to the source would gain some momentum from the direct laser, but then lose some reflecting the beam from the 2nd back to it. In essence, the whole chain would “inflate” from the light pressure, with those furthest away gaining the most velocity. As one moves out of range, another can could be inserted into the chain at the “base”, so that the next-furthest can gets the same velocity boost. The main advantage here is that any pair of mirrors would be closer together spatially and in terms of relative velocity - dealing with both beam divergence and red-shift.

Send as many probes as you like, to provide as much multi-probe “passage” time as you want or can afford, for the target system.


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