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Traversing interstellar space

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korder's picture
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Joined: 13/11/2020 - 12:11
Traversing interstellar space

Traversing interstellar space is such a difficult yet enigmatic proposition due to one herculean challenge it poses; energy requirements. We know that for traveling the vast distances in interstellar space, a spaceship needs to travel at least some significant fraction of the cosmic speed limit i.e. light. 

Here Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity presents a major challenge in the realm of energetics. The kinetic energy required for an object to travel at even 20% of the speed of light would be in the range of a billions and billions of joules, which presents its own set of challenges of generating and storing this humongous amount of energy.

A solution has been proposed by David Kipping in his famous publication of the HALO DRIVE, harnessing the limitless energy of a single/binary black hole system and accelerating the spacecraft to near relativistic speeds.

But the environment close to this monster would be highly hazardous for any kind of spacecraft. However if we can somehow steal kinetic energy from the black hole, we could utilize this to propel our spacecraft to mind-boggling velocities.

I am closely following this intriguing topic.. ion propulsion, matter-antimatter drive and now halo drive..next generation space travel is going to be mind bending..

Xilman's picture
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Joined: 24/03/2018 - 15:17
A biological approach.

The human lifespan is pitifully short at present. If our life expectancy was, say, a million years a journey which took ten thousand years would only be 1% of our life. At present, 1% of a human lifespan corresponds to 9 months or so. Many people have embarked on journeys with that amount of travel time.

It might be easier to take the slow (100km/s) approach than the fast (200,000km/s) if medical technology progresses faster than its transportation equivalent.

mikemarotta's picture
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The Future of Space Travel

I believe that astonishing progress will come from a new paradigm. It might be that just as Newton spent two years away from school because of a plague, that now, too, perhaps some future innovation is forming in the mind of a brilliant youngster who has been freed from school.

There are so many examples from history of people attempting innovations by copying the past only to have them swept aside by a new perception of the problem and therefore its solution.

To give a mundane example, I have on my blog two essays about The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990). The work is a paean to engineering with the pencil as its metonym. Petroski explains (on pages 223-225) that engineers often were trained to draw by copying architectural treatments. As a consequence much Victrorian machinery has flourishes from Corinthian pillars and similar elements that serve no function.  

So, too, with space travel. Chemical engines, nuclear power, solar sails, ram scoops they all may see some applications as we push out into the solar system and then edge out a bit beyond. Nonetheless, it seems to me from history that the solution we seek will derive from a radical perception, perhaps with new senses. 

I say that because, in particular, if you went back to 1821, you would have a hard time talking to them about amateur radio astronomy and the markets for amateur spectroscopy.