There Are Major Obstacles To Overcome! 

Future space travel will occur eventually for the general population. It is, however, likely to be a private, for-profit venture. The fictional space travel described by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells may even occur.

Presently, robotic space travel dominates. There is a reason for that. Carrying man in to space, particularly when the travel time will be months or years, requires fuel for man (food) and some form of propulsion.

There are two major obstacles to overcome if man is to travel to other planets and other solar systems. First, a means of propelling the spacecraft at a speed much faster than anyone has ever traveled is necessary. Second, the effects of years of weightlessness on the human body must be assessed.

Sometimes A Historical Perspective Helps To See Into The Future!

Here are a few dates to remind us that the age of space travel is in its infancy.

  • During WWII, German scientists first sent a man-made object into space.
  • October 4, 1957 was the first orbited spacecraft, Sputnik I.
  • Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarine completed one orbit around the Earth on April 12, 1961.
  • On February 20, 1962, John Glenn also orbited the Earth.
  • Apollo 11, on July 20, 1969, landed the lunar module on the moon.
  • The first Martian rover landed on July 4, 1997.

All of these accomplishments were incremental victories for the space program. My personal feeling about the greatest accomplishment in space by a human was the feat of Apollo 8. Frank Borman and his crew left the gravitational force of the Earth, entered the gravitational pull of the moon, and returned to Earth. That had never been done by a human before.

Apollo 8 needed to make precise midcourse corrections, enter the gravitational force of the moon, and using that force precisely, return on a direct path to Earth. Yes, midcourse corrections could be made on the return trip, but the "burns" on the back side of the moon (while out of contact with Houston Control) were critical for the return trip.

Two (Unbelievable) Ideas To Get Into Space!

Chemical-based rockets are considered, outdated and extremely inefficient. There must be much more efficient ways to get crafts into space. Here are two ways that may work.

1) Satellites orbit the Earth with the gravitational force of the Earth in balance with the weight and speed of the satellite. It is similar to swinging a ball on a string around in a circle keeping the string taut.

Imagine that the string was made of carbon nanotubes composite ribbon (made of threads of nanotubes) that is 100 times stronger than steel and as flexible as plastic.

The ribbon would be anchored to an offshore sea platform. A space craft could be sent up the 62,000 mile "Space Elevator Ribbon" via mechanical lifters that climb the ribbon.

2) The second source of power to get into space is called "Antimatter". (This is new to me, too.) As the name implies, it is matter that has charges reversed. When antimatter comes in contact with normal matter, there is a tremendous discharge of pure energy.

A coin-size piece of antimatter would have enough energy to put the space shuttle into orbit. Once in orbit, a spacecraft can travel efficiently by various proposed methods (discussed below).

There are many drawbacks to the production and use of antimatter. Testing is extremely dangerous as it reacts violently with normal matter. It must be stored in vacuum containers, suspended by strong magnetic fields at incredibly low temperatures. and the cost of a single gram of antimatter is over one trillion dollars.

Although the solutions to economical space travel exist, I believe they are decades, maybe centuries into the future.

Proposed Ways To Travel In Space At High Rates Of Speed!

Travel in a vacuum can be very fast. A spacecraft could travel at a rate of speed so fast that it could orbit the Earth in less than 2 seconds. Here are some ways to approach those speeds.

Solar Sails: The sails are made of lightweight Mylar or Kapton with a mirrored surface that reflects sunlight. As photons in the sunlight bounce off of the sail's surface, a gentle push increases the craft's momentum. This constant pressure increases the speed of the craft. By changing the angle of the sail the spacecraft's direction is altered.

Nuclear Propulsion: This is the best technology that is available today. If used on the Apollo 11 trip to the moon, it would have taken 13 seconds rather than 4 days to get to the moon. Small nuclear bombs are dropped out of the rear of the spacecraft. They detonate, push against a reinforced pusher plate, and the resultant force accelerates the craft.

Ion Drive Thruster: Thrust is attained by an electric engine ejecting ions out of the rear of the craft. It works in a vacuum and has been used in space by both the United States and Japan.

Nuclear Fusion: The fusion generates electricity and superheated plasma that is ejected out of the rear of the craft promotes thrust. Presently, the size of the reactors are about the size of a football field. So, miniaturization is necessary.

Antimatter: (See above.)

Gravitational Assist: The use of the gravitational force of other planets to assist or slingshot a craft toward its destination has been used in the past. For example, the Voyager space probe that explored the outer planets in the solar system took advantage of this phenomenon.

The availability of planets to be in the correct position at the time of need may not be possible.

The gravitational assist of the moon was used by the Apollo astronauts to return to Earth.

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