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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jun 26, 2005 20:24:38 GMT -6
'Antimatter harvester' may fuel future spacecraft
Giant wire spheres may one day float near Earth, scooping up bits of antimatter for humans to use as space fuel.
The far-fetched idea is one of 12 recently selected to each receive up to $75,000 from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. The institute promotes radical schemes that would not necessarily yield results within a decade.
Antimatter particles share the same mass as their normal-matter counterparts but bear the opposite charge. And while both types of matter are thought to have been created in equal amounts in the big bang, today there is much more matter than antimatter in the universe. That is fortunate, since the two types of particles annihilate each other when they collide, producing light.
But antimatter has been produced in limited quantities in labs, and it forms naturally in the solar system when charged particles from space, called cosmic rays, slam into charged particles which stream from the Sun. Several of the funded proposals aim to collect this nearby antimatter so it could later be mixed with matter to propel spacecraft out of the solar system by utilising a solar sail.