Hello all,

I generally don't spend much time at forums, but an idea has been bugging me lately and I wanted to discuss it.
The idea is essentially science fiction at this point and has to do with a way to send a probe to a distant planet, using a method I don't believe has been thought of before. I'm not interested in writing a book or anything like that, I just want to know if it might be possible.

The method has the following advantages over other ideas I have come across:
  • Achieves near-light speed, without exotic propulsion systems.
  • Eliminates the risk of losing the spacecraft due to system failures, collisions etc.
  • Does not rely on the discovery of unknown physical laws or methods to circumvent the speed of light barrier.

It also has some disadvantages:
  • Can not be used to transport living organisms (single cells maybe, but that's another story).
  • Requires technology that may not be available for several decades.

The idea is the following:
  • An accelerator (like the LHC) orbiting earth accelerates individual nanites, encapsulated in supercharged spheres, to relativistic velocity.
  • The spheres are shot towards a target planet in such a way, that they are trapped by the planet's magnetic field and end up orbiting the planet, initially at elliptic orbits.
  • Due to induction heating and possibly transfer of kinetic energy to spin, the spheres lose most of their kinetic energy and end up in a geo-stationary orbit.
  • Having lost their charge, and most of their momentum, their orbit is determined by gravitational forces. At that point and once enough of them accumulate, the nanites they contain form a "utility fog" that constructs the probe.

I am aware of the following difficulties:
  • Targeting even a single charged sphere so precisely that it enters the planet's magnetic field at just the right angle to be captured by its magnetic field. Most of the projectiles will be lost. Some kind of in-flight course correction mechanism might be necessary.
  • The tremendous charge that needs to be maintained across the entire journey without being lost due to field emission and the need for a mechanism to dispose of that charge once it is no longer needed.
  • How far we are from building such nanites and especially the required "utility fog".
  • That we would need an accelerator like the LHC in space.

What I do not know and I am in no position to calculate is whether there can be any configuration of charge and direction of movement that could result in the spheres losing most of their kinetic energy and ending up in a geostationary orbit. My calculations up to this point are here.
They are quite basic and I have no way of answering the question on the viability of induction heating as a method of slowing down the spheres.

Other thoughts I am aware of:
  • The opposite (i.e. an alien life form using that method to come to us) would make an interesting story. Would be cool if they needed us to trust them enough to tell them the exact configuration of the magnetic fields in our solar system.
  • Instead of a probe, the nanites could construct some sort of jump gate, if such a thing is ever possible.
  • The spheres could carry entangled particles that could somehow be used for teleportation.

What do you think? Does anyone here have access to a physicist that might find the problem interesting enough to work out the necessary equations?