A team of French scientists have recently published a new study detailing everything that would be needed if humans were to one day make the long interstellar journey to Proxima Centauri to start a new life and civilization. The research went to great lengths to determine the correct amount of people that would ensure a successful voyage to Proxima b.
The study was conducted by particle physicist Dr. Camille Beluffi and Dr. Frederic Marin from the Astronomical Observatory of Strasbourg and marks the second study conducted on such an interstellar journey to Proxima b, as ScienceAlert reported.
At the start of their research, Beluffi and Marin sought to examine the best approach to making such a journey, considering the use of Nuclear Pulse Propulsion and fusion rockets, along with the thoroughly new idea of Breakthrough Starshot. With Starshot, however, there would not be a crew involved on the flight.
To determine the best possible approach to such an interstellar trip, Dr. Marin and Dr. Beluffi also examined future missions of NASA, such as the Parker Solar Probe. This particular probe should be hitting orbital velocities approaching 0.067 percent of the speed of light, yet as Marin pointed out, such a spacecraft would take 6,300 years of travel with their interstellar scheme.
“If we would create a spacecraft right now, we could only reach about 200 km/s, which translates into 6300 years of travel. Of course technology is getting better with time and by the time a real interstellar project will be created, we can expect to have improved the duration by one order of magnitude, i.e. 630 years. This is speculative as technology as yet to be invented.”
After determining that it would take 6,300 years for their journey at a speed of 200 km/s, they then set about calculating the amount of people they would need aboard this spacecraft so that an appropriate number of crew were still around once Proxima b was reached. To accomplish this task, Dr. Marin worked on simulations he created that analyzed any type of chance events that may occur on such a trip.
“We are using a new numerical software that I have created. It is named HERITAGE, see the first paper of the series. It is a stochastic Monte Carlo code that accounts for all possible outcomes of space simulations by testing every randomized scenario for procreation, life and death. By looping the simulation thousands of times, we get statistical values that are representative of a real space travel for a multi-generational crew. The code accounts for as many biological factors as possible and is currently being developed to include more and more physics.”
It would be absolutely crucial to make certain that there would be the correct ratio of males and females heading to Proxima b and things like fertility, birth rates, and life expectancy could mean the difference between life and death for these interstellar travelers.
After the results from 100 of these simulations were in, Marin and Beluffi then averaged them out and determined that the minimum amount of crew members needed for this journey would be 98. If there was even one less person onboard the spacecraft, the probability of success was found to drop markedly, according to Dr. Marin.
“Our simulations allows us to predict with great precision the minimum size of the initial crew that will leave for centuries-long space travels. By allowing the crew to evolve under a list of adaptive social engineering principles (namely, yearly evaluations of the vessel population, offspring restrictions and breeding constraints), we show in this paper that it is possible to create and maintain a healthy population virtually indefinitely.”
The new study on the amount of people needed to safely make the interstellar journey to Proxima b is titled “Computing the minimal crew for a multi-generational space travel towards Proxima Centauri b,” and is currently online, with the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society set to publish the research.