The twin Voyagers and Pioneers were not, of course, designed for interstellar work: this is simply a bonus following their successful explorations of the outer planets. However, a number of proposals have been made, and some are presently under active consideration, for spacecraft specifically designed to explore the outer boundary of the solar system and the margins of interstellar space. These so-called interstellar precursor missions include the Interstellar Boundary Explorer, the Interstellar Probe Mission, TAU (Thousand Astronomical Unit mission), and the Interstellar Precursor Mission. An early design for a true interstellar probe that would journey to a nearby star was Project Daedalus. See also Project Longshot.
An intriguing possibility is that extraterrestrial probes have been sent to explore the solar system and may, even now, be in our close vicinity awaiting our efforts to detect them. These probes might include Bracewell probes (also known as "messenger probes") and/or self-replicating spacecraft, sometimes referred to as von Neumann probes. They may also include extraterrestrial varieties of self-repairing spacecraft.
Archived newsNASA plans first interstellar mission (May 13, 2000)
Related categories ADVANCED PROPULSION CONCEPTS
SATELLITES AND SPACE PROBES
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