As in the title, are there any modern studies for how to colonize an exoplanet involving manned interstellar travel?

By this I mean an academic peer reviewed study. However, it doesn't have to be more than a theoretic paper presenting ideas.

I'm aware of Project Orion, which is by now very old. I know little (in fact, nothing) beyond that of what more modern studies might or might not exist.

If there is anything, even (one would probably rather say, obviously) purely theoretical, that proposes how to conduct interstellar travel and subsequent colonization of an exoplanet. I'd love to read it.

I'm well aware of the significant difficulties present even when theorizing colonizing the Moon, or Mars. That doesn't make this question any less serious. If there is indeed no such study, then that would be a good enough answer.

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    $\begingroup$ Given that the planet almost certainly has had its atmosphere blown away by stellar wind, and is probably also unpleasant in terms of radiation for the same reasons meaning humans would be able to survive only underground caves, if at all, there might be better targets to pick: so it might be better to ask for papers on how to colonize relatively nearby exoplanets in general rather than this one in particular? $\endgroup$
    – user21103
    Jun 9, 2020 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @tfb Good point, thanks. Done. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2020 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ Many very speculative (not peer reviewed) studies of this that I have seen avoid the need to actually ship humans in some way. Ignoring magic physics, they ship DNA sequences or fertilized ova and have robots grow them at the other end, or they ship, or transmit, uploaded human minds. The only detailed no magic version of a manned mission I can think of is in Robert L Forward's "The Flight of the Dragonfly/Rocheworld" and even then he needs a "magic" aging slowing drug. They don't colonize, but (at insane expense) a still larger mission of a similar nature possibly could. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2020 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @SteveLinton Thanks for your answer. However, what stops humanity, in theory, from building a vast fleet of nuclear powered (fission for power, fusion for propulsion) generation ships? Surely, given that the Project Orion project exists, I cannot be the first to think of this idea. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2020 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ No laws of physics, but the engineering problems and wealth required clearly put such a project a century or two away. Given that, doing a serious design study now would be like Thomas Jefferson doing a design study for Apollo 11. We just don't know enough yet to have any real idea what the issues will be. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2020 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


The first step in colonizing an exoplanet would be to learn more about that planet and its host star. There are at least 2 types of proposals to do this:

  1. Using the Sun as a lens. This would require to send a probe to a point at around 500..700au from the Sun opposite to the planet to be imaged. See the references of the linked Wikipedia article for more details.

  2. Actual interstellar travel of a probe with scientific instruments on-board. This was investigated in Project Dragonfly: A feasibility study of interstellar travel using laser-powered light sail propulsion including acceleration (lasers + light-sail), deceleration (magnetic sail + electric sail), and what mass of scientific payload is reasonable for such mission.


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