NASA has announced plans to test a new method of space travel which could have us sending payloads outside of the solar system in as few as 10 years.
The unmanned Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS) will basically be a large solar sail that could allow us to reach new parts of the solar system faster than ever before.
According to the popular science blog IFLS:
To harness these protons, HERTS will use 10 to 20 large tethers that are each just 1 millimeter thick but 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) long, expanding from a central point and giving it a total span of 40 kilometers (25 miles). These bare aluminum wires would electrostatically repel the Sun’s protons, creating a small amount of thrust that will accumulate over time in the frictionless environment of space. At the center would be the instrumentation and other equipment of the actual spacecraft.
Of course, the solar wind only flows in one direction, so this would likely be just a one-way mission. But using this method, HERTS could achieve speeds of up to 150 kilometers (90 miles) per second, or 30 AU per year, letting it explore the far reaches of the Solar System in years rather than decades.