Scientists have figured out how many people are required to travel to the nearest star system

Dreams of settling other planets, the mankind began to dream even long before we had the first spacecraft for manned flights. And with the opening over the last few decades several thousands of new exoplanets, some of which may well be habitable, or at least suitable for colonization (currently of great interest b planet Proxima system Proxima Centauri), dreams of interstellar flight and colonization, gradually acquire the status of future prospects.

Of course, before you start to even think about implementing such missions, we have to solve a lot of very complex technical issues. For example, what ship to fly? How to bring people to live on the same planet Proxima b if it is fit for life? The second question was the subject of a new study by French scientists decided to calculate the minimum number of people to a healthy team, consisting of several demographic generations of earthlings were able to successfully reach our nearest star system. Their work will soon be published in the journal of the British Interplanetary Society.

The authors are Frederic Marin, doctor of astrophysics of the Astronomical Observatory of Strasbourg, and Dr. Camille, Baluffi, a specialist in the physics of elementary particles and subelementary are working in scientific startup Casc4de.

Their study is the second in a series of scientific works aimed at the solution of a question on the feasibility of manned interstellar travel to Proxima b. Their first job is called “Heritage: using Monte Carlo to calculate the prospects of interstellar travel using the team of people belonging to different generations” was published in August 2017 in the same journal of the British Interplanetary Society. Second, we’re talking about today, is called “Computer calculation of the minimum number of people required for the flight to Proxima Centauri b”.

Their latest study, Dr. Marin and Dr. Baluffi began with a review of numerous concepts describing options for interstellar travel. Among those proposals are “more conservative” approach, using the same spacecraft, powered by nuclear pulse (for example, “Project Orion”, not to be confused with the spacecraft NASA “Orion”) and fusion engines (“Project Daedalus”) and more contemporary concepts like Breakthrough Starshot.

All of these programs are still far from practical implementation and/or do not involve manned flights (as in the case of the same project Starshot). A subject of interest to Marin and Baluffi in their study of steel and of the mission, which with high probability will be launched in the coming years. For example, one of such missions is to run aerospace Agency NASA solar probe Parker, scheduled for July-August of this year. It is expected that the probe will be able to achieve the highest possible for human-made spacecraft speed, which can reach up to 724 205 km/h or 200 km/s (or 0,067% of the speed of light).

“These numbers will fully reflect the capabilities of our technology during this mission. If we started building a spacecraft for a flight to Proxima b now, we were able to achieve a maximum speed of 200 km/s. Thus to reach the destination we could only 6300 years old. Of course, technology is not standing still. Over time they become more advanced. But calculations show that at the beginning of the project implementation of the present interstellar flight, we can reduce flight time up to 630 years. But this is all only on paper. Technology that allows you to quickly get to another star system we have now simply no”, — commented Dr. Marin the portal Universe Today.

Taking as starting point the current capacities (i.e. the flight speed is 200 km/s and 6300 years to with such speed to reach Proxima b) Dr. Marin and Dr. Baluffi tried to determine what in this case, the minimum number of people required in order for the destination to be able to get fully healthy team. For these calculations, the researchers used the method of Monte Carlo developed by the Martin new programme of calculations. Monte Carlo is a mathematical method of statistical modeling, which allows to obtain the average value or the result of some phenomena, through the enumeration of all possible random scenarios and events that stand in the way of solutions. It is typically used in cases where the application of analytical models of the phenomenon, it is difficult or quite impossible.

“To solve the problem we used newly developed software. It’s called HERITAGE (“Heritage”), more details can be found in the first work of our scientific series of studies. It uses a stochastic (random) Monte-Carlo, which takes into account all possible simulation results by checking each of the random scenarios for the further development of an event, including life and death. After modeling several thousand times, we can obtain statistically averaged values, reflecting the possibility of real space travel considering the team, which will consist of representatives of different generations. This program take into account the maximum possible number of different biological factors and is currently improved to account for an increasingly greater number of physical factors,” said Marin.

Among biological factors: the ratio of the number of men and women on Board a spacecraft, their age, anticipated life expectancy, fertility rate (fertility), and also the time in which the team will have to maintain the level of reproduction. Also takes into account random factors: various incidents, disasters, disease, and the number of people who are likely to be vulnerable to them.

Substituting the formula for calculating the various factors and importance, scientists have conducted hundreds of simulations of interstellar travel to determine the minimum required team size. It turned out that under the conservative conditions for flight to the nearest star system with potentially habitable exoplanet and support of generations on average will need at least 98 people.

The use of a smaller number of crew proportionally reduce the chances of success. For example, modeling has shown that when the initial crew, consisting of 32 people a chance for success of the mission will be reduced to 0% — to a greater extent because in such a small society will significantly increase the chances of incest. In the end, despite the fact that the team may get to Proxima b, genetically all these people are unhealthy – not the best conditions for the creation of the first interstellar colony.

“Our models allow with high accuracy to predict the minimum necessary member of the team to ensure centuries of space travel. In this study we show how using the principles of social engineering (for example, the annual census of the spacecraft, population control and other restrictions) can help to create a healthy space society and his support for a virtually unlimited amount of time,” says Dr. Marin.

Despite the fact that the technology and resources necessary for the implementation of interstellar travel, we are not yet available (and will not be available for at least another few generations), studies like this can play important values for similar missions in the future. If we really reach this level. Understanding of the probability of success of such missions and the increase of this probability to the extent that the chance of success is virtually guaranteed, increase the chances that such projects once they actually get their practical implementation.

This and preceding studies are important because they for the first time takes into account the key biological factors (e.g., reproduction), and what impact these factors may be on the team, which will be replaced by new generations of people who grew up on Board the ship.

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