Napkin analysis: Interstellar comet hitch-hiking

  1. NASA’s “fastest” spacecraft, Parker Solar Probe will reach speeds of 192km/s, but that’s moving toward the sun (using a lot of gravity)
  2. Previously, it was the Juno probe at 75km/s (using Jupiter’s gravity)
  3. Voyager 1 travels at 17km/s
  1. Hit comet with some course-changing force, a missile or other projectile. The amount of force required would be determined by the trajectory correction and the mass of the comet... I don’t know what it’s mass would be, but this comet’s about a mile wide. https://www.quora.com/How-much-does-a-comet-weigh Note: Any energy spent changing the comets direction is energy that could have been used to just propel ourselves forward out of the solar system — something to factor into efficiency calculations.
  2. Harpoon comet — if we could know its material content in advance, we could reel ourselves in to mine the comet for energy resources on the ride out of solar system. There’s also a lot of water and maybe even sugar.
  3. Detach from comet and increase speed — baseline speed after detachment would equal speed of comet, 30km/s. Propulsion could be a big sudden burst of energy or slowly dispersed energy (gaining speed over time). Note: if we could go 1/5 the speed of light, we would arrive at Alpha Centauri in just four years. Currently the Parker probe, our fastest craft, is on the order of (but less than) 1/1000 the speed of light and only goes that fast because it’s hurtling toward the sun (using the sun’s gravity, not fuel).
  4. Chill for a few years riding out Newton’s 1st Law.
  5. Use Alpha Centauri’s gravity for low-fuel / fuel-less orbit insertion.
  6. Land on Proxima Centauri — requires some reserve fuel.

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