Had humans been alive billions of years ago, when the universe was more compact, it may have been easier to leapfrog from planet to planet or solar system to solar system. But today’s distances are so great as to seem insurmountable.
Humans Hardly Built for Jet Travel, Let Alone Space Travel
Some of my friends tell me they cannot bear to be on a plane for more than a few hours. This is perhaps the leading reason why people go crazy and try to open exit doors in mid-flight. I count “journey time” from the moment I leave my home to when my head hits the pillow at my destination and wait times at the airport in between.
The longest for me was 24 hours on a flight from New York to Tokyo. The flight itself was upwards of 18 hours. I am unfortunate to know people who can seemingly sleep the entire trip, shutting their eyes inexplicably as soon as the wheels leave the ground with eyes popping open when the wheels touch down at their destination.
Maybe fear puts them to sleep but, for me, fear keeps me wide awake the entire trip. I want to be awake when we go into a death dive so that I can say goodbye to my loved ones before we crash. Any sleep I might get is just a tease and just makes me more fidgety and uncomfortable. I have sought to defeat flight insomnia with movies, alcohol, sleeping pills, and sitting next to someone interesting, but nothing helps.
Hope Springs Eternal
The crux of the matter is that humans start to feel impatient when their inadequacies are revealed. What could remind a person of his or her shortcomings more than being stuck on a plane or spaceship for weeks, months or years? Fortunately, our inadequacies stimulate a determination and audacity to overcome intolerable problems and dream of something better.
Reaching “Neighbors” Like the Moon & Mars
If you were to fly 293,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) to the moon, it would take eight full days on a Boeing 747, a little over 3 days using an Apollo 11-like rocket and just 1.3 seconds, give or take, at the speed of light. Mars is 34.2 million miles (55 million km) from earth and there have been over 40 missions to mars over the past 50 years. The following video shows the quickest way to Mars. The shortest mission, Mariner 7, took 156 days but typical travel time is between 175 and 300 days.
The depressing reality that Star Trekkers and scientists who study far-off planets must face is that many exoplents are tens, hundreds or thousands of light years off. It is comforting to think that the Starship Enterprise could travel light years in seconds. However, all of the searching for earth-like planets feels like a waste of time, it seems, unless one day we are able to travel to them.
Magic Necessary to Get Us Too Far Off Exoplanets
There seem to be two possibilities for deep space travel. First is hauling through space using brute force propulsion methods based on a variety exotic propellants. Unfortunately, these options would require such huge amounts of energy to reach the speed of light that they are theoretically but not practically possible. Some of these include:
- nuclear rockets (see video below) – transforming the heat in an onboard nuclear reactor into propulsion
- electromagnetic thrusters – using radio waves to INI’s and heat a propellant that is, thrust out of a spacecraft using magnets
The following video shows a NASA video of a nuclear rocket intended for use in deep space exploration:
The following idea is more frequently seen in science fiction and not practical thus far:
- antimatter, when combined with matter, transforms into pure energy and it is estimated that just 10 mg of antimatter would propel a rocket to Mars in just a month and a half
The other method for deep space travel involves finding a way to bend space so as to make the distance between two points much shorter. Last year IndustryTap looked at Miguel Alcubierre’s paper posted in “Classical and Quantum Gravity Journal” that explained how a spaceship could travel light years in a matter of weeks.
NASA’s “Faster Than Warp Drive” Project st Johnson Space Center
Last year, it was revealed that NASA has a “warp drive program” lead by Harold White. This program uses the second approach to space travel, bending space and time. The following is a NASA list of publications on space warp drivers:
- White, H., Warp Field Mechanics 101, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, accepted 2013.
- Physics Colloquium on Warp Field Mechanics requested by Dickinson College, 2013.
- Encore of Warp Field Mechanics 102, technical presentation requested by SpaceVision 2012, Buffalo, NY 2012.
- Warp Field Mechanics 102, technical presentation given at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, Houston, TX, 2012.
- Encore of Warp Field Mechanics 101, technical presentation requested by AIAA, Houston Chapter, Gilruth Center, Houston, TX, 2011.
- Warp Field Mechanics 101, technical presentation given at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, Orlando, FL, 2011, available at:http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20110015936_2011016932.pdf
- Successful defense of published paper “A Discussion of Space-Time Metric Engineering” as part of Ph.D. candidacy process in Physics at Rice University 2007.
- White, H., E. W. Davis, The Alcubierre Warp Drive in Higher Dimensional Spacetime, in the proceedings of Space
- Technology and Applications International Forum (STAIF 2006), American Institute of Physics Conference
- Proceedings, Melville, New York, 2006.
- White, H., A Discussion of Space-Time Metric Engineering, General Relativity and Gravitation Journal, November 2003.”
We will look at these papers and more recent information in a future IndustryTap article.
Related aricles on IndustryTap:
- The Deep Space Exploration Plan: Exploring The Cosmic Ocean
- SpaceX Pushing The Limits For Private Space Exploration
- SPIDER Telescope Returns From Space With New Data About the Early Universe
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