0

Seven Possible Scenarios For Manned Interstellar Travel

fb share tweet share

starshipSince we learned that Voyager 1 has been in interstellar space for over a year, it’s become a bit easier to imagine that someday humans might follow. At the moment, we’re a bit more focused on getting humans to Mars and watching how that goes on reality TV, but scientists are thinking big and many of them believe that we can make major strides in interstellar travel in the next 100 years. That is, if the government gets its act together.

Of course, while some scientists believe colonizing space is an eventuality, others believe it’ll never happen, and some, including NASA’s former Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project head, Marc Millis, question the claim that we could reach the stars this century. The problem is that we don’t currently know of a way to power these trips, and even when we do figure that out, it’ll take a while to implement those technologies in interstellar spacecraft. Still, even Millis is game to try — he founded the Tau Zero Foundation to research technologies that might propel us beyond the solar system.

0

NASA Launching Sunjammer Solar Sail In November 2014

fb share tweet share

NASA's SunjammerNASA will be setting a new record in November 2014. That’s when they plan to deploy the largest solar sail ever, a craft dubbed “Sunjammer.” It takes its name from an Arthur C. Clarke short story about a solar-sail yacht race.

Nearly a quarter of the size of a football field The Sunjammer‘s sails will have a surface area of 13,000 square feet. The sail will be constructed by L’Garde Inc. in Tustin, California, and Sunjammer will hitch a ride skyward atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Nathan Barnes, L’Garde’s chief operating officer and executive vice president, said, “With this sail, we’re targeting our end goal somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,864,114 miles (3 million kilometers) distance from the Earth.”

Solar sails are a form of “propellantless propulsion.” Just as traditional sails rely on the wind to push a boat, solar sails use photons from our sun to push a craft along. Since they don’t require any fuel, solar sails could be uniquely suited to missions such as observing the sun or visiting near-Earth asteroids. Lee Johnson is deputy manager of the Advanced Concepts Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He said of Sunjammer:

0

NASA Launching World’s Largest Solar Sail In 2014

fb share tweet share

It’s been many years since gas prices were at a level that was actually fitting for the product’s worth. But for all the griping I could do, I can’t deny the convenience of a gas station. If I’m traveling somewhere far, I don’t have to worry about stocking up all the fuel I’d need beforehand, because I know I can just stop at some point along the way. Astronauts and their spacecraft do not have this luxury, and as such, the freedom of space travel has been a limited commodity for humankind. But let’s imagine a craft that wouldn’t need the heavy, space-wasting bulk of liquid propellant in order to travel from one planet to the next.

The only way to travel.

The only way to travel.