Tractor beam: NASA looks to make sci-fi reality

Technologists are studying different techniques for corralling particles and transporting them via laser light to instruments on rovers and orbiting spacecraft.

/ Source: / Dr. Paul Stysley (concept image)

"Sure hope the old man got that tractor beam out of commission or this is gonna be a real short trip!"

Those words, uttered by Harrison Ford as Han Solo in the original Star Wars movie, helped give life to a concept only seen in science fiction.

Now, NASA plans on trying to make the tractor beam, a powerful imaginary gadget that could pull objects toward it in spite of the objects' best efforts, a reality.

"Though a mainstay in science fiction, and Star Trek in particular, laser-based trapping isn't fanciful or beyond current technological know-how," Principal Investigator Paul Stysley said on NASA's website.

Government scientists have won funding to study the concept of remotely capturing planetary or atmospheric particles and delivering them to a robotic rover or orbiting spacecraft for analysis, NASA released. The scientists plan on using the $100,000 to study three experimental methods that center on using laser lights.

In the short term, NASA hopes to use a functional tractor beam for sample collection, not for corralling alien spacecraft.

What science fiction gadget would you like to see made into reality? Sound off below and on WNWO's Facebook page.