The only way to travel? #SpaceTravel #SolarSails

With all the recent press about the 4 billion mile, 10 year trip to a comet in the asteroid belt, and the release of Interstellar in the movie theatres, it seems appropriate to look at the way we do travel in space. Despite 50 years of invention, we appear to be pretty much stuck with rockets and flybys. However as detailed in this nice Gizmodo article, there are other options for traveling thru space. The article goes into some detail about three options that seem like science fiction, but that we’re currently working on.

The first option is thermonuclear fusion. At least we know it works – it powers the Sun after all. However, we’ve never been able to set up a successful fusion experiment. The problem has always been controlling the plasma in a usable fashion and keeping the fusion process alive. It could another 30 years before we reach the stage where this lets us travel cheaply through the solar system, but it could let us approach maybe one tenth the speed of light, where we could reach the nearest stars in 40 years or so.

The second option is a solar sail. We’ve actually launched one of these, although the rocket blew up and so it never got a chance to be deployed. The idea here is a large unfolded sail that could either harness the power of the (free) solar pressure or (more expensive) lasers directed into space. Although such a space-craft system would start off slow it could quickly get up to about 1/5 the speed of light. The technology exists for this one, we just need to get it launched.

The third option is the most exotic. You could, theoretically traverse the entire universe inside a few years of your own life by using a pair of black holes. In essence you go into a sling shot between the black holes and then fly off into space. As you get really close to the speed of light, your time slows down so you could get anywhere and back in a few years. Unfortunately a few billion years may have passed on Earth while you are gone. This one remains in the realms of science fiction, for now.

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9 comments on “The only way to travel? #SpaceTravel #SolarSails

  1. All these ideas are pretty cool, however like many people, I’m not a big fan of the black hole option. The idea of billions of Earth years going by while I’m gallivanting around out in space is pretty scary. I think the solar sail option sounds best, since it is capable of achieving 1/5 the speed of light it seems like a practical idea. Now to get another one ready to launch and test, of course funding is not cheap.

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  2. The pair of black holes sounds unrealistic to me and frankly scares me to death. But I do think that with modern technology anything is possible. I think that although these ideas do sound like they would only happen on TV or movies, they could still definitely happen. They just landed a probe on a comet last week and I image when this idea was brought up people thought is was impossible and completely insane and then it happened! It is always interesting and exciting to read about and find out new astronomical discoveries and what scientists are thinking and working on!

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  3. I think that is pretty cool how there is futuristic technology using one of the three methods. I think the first one will be more efficient instead of using black holes or using a solar sail. With the thermal nuclear fusion we can also achieve a lot more possibilities with infinite energy. We can even start using flying cars, phone batteries won’t die, …etc. But we that time travel I don’t think it is possible for the third option.

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  4. I imagine funding is a big problem too. A lot of money is lost when crafts like that crash. And I think there’s more than just finding the technology to get a craft out there if we want to actually go too, not just be controlling it from Earth like in interstellar. Space is kinda hard on the human body.

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  5. I think its crazy to think that in the future we can have this advanced technology that might be faster than what we have now and cost effective as someone already mentioned. I think the solar sail sounds really cool, the fact that it might be able to harness the power of solar pressure was very interesting to me.

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  6. The discoveries that appear always seem to bring out more technology that we are not aware of prior to the discovery which makes your mind wonder, could it be possible that someone would not have already explored or is exploring different possibilities as we are living and letting those billion years go by. It is very exciting to learn about different different methods for exploring the unknown.

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  7. The three options sound really interesting, and at the same time something that could only happen in movies. Although, it’s amazing how these options are giving a new chance for scientists to discover more in our Solar System. The third option sounds pretty awesome, but hard to believe one day could really happen.

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  8. I think this article is pretty cool, not only are they discovering new ways to travel through space, but the new ways that are being discovered are cost affective and seem to be faster then current modes of travel for space. this was a great read!

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  9. Everyday new technology surprises me, so it will be exciting to see if any of these space travel theories will become a reality in the future. Although the first one is the most realistic, the third the theory would amazing to accomplish.

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