Sowers interviewed by CNET about Breakthrough Starshot project

George Sowers, professor of practice in the space resources program at Colorado School of Mines, was recently featured in a CNET article about Breakthrough Starshot, an initiative that aims to send hundreds of tiny spacecraft to the Alpha Centauri star system to examine planets for signs of life. Starshot proposes to use a giant Earth-based laser array to shoot the nearly weightless "nanocraft" to Alpha Centauri — at 134 million miles per hour.

From the article:

Starshot's laser gets around a big problem with the rockets we've been using to explore space. Rockets carry their own fuel, so they're really heavy. Imagine you're driving 6,000 miles across the USA and back with no gas stations. Even averaging 30 miles per gallon, you'd need a 200-gallon tank that'll saddle your car with more than 1,200 pounds of fuel. No more jackrabbit starts when the light turns green.

Starshot dispenses with all that because a mothership orbiting Earth would release the nanocraft. The laser hitting the crafts' lightsails will then send them speeding toward Alpha Centauri. 

"The beauty of using a photon beam from Earth is the spacecraft has no fuel at all," says George Sowers, a Colorado School of Mines professor who previously was chief engineer for the Atlas V rocket that launched New Horizons. A laser launch frees you from "the tyranny of the rocket equation," he says.