Fire in Heaven (Shields up)

This arty photo shows a flower suspended on a piece of aerogel with a blowtorch underneath. Aerogel is remarkable stuff - mostly air, yet solid enough to support quite a bit of weight, and as shown above, a remarkable insulator. Future applications are limitless - imagine the buildings you could have with a material almost light as air? Hurricane areas excepted.

I'm sure some colossal nerd is dreaming this up as I type, but for man to travel in space for extended periods of time/distance, then something must be done about two main threats: Meteorites and radiation. Each will kill any long distance crew, eventually. Seems like a swell idea to have an aerogel shield around the space ship, covered in a very, very strong rubber/plastic. Picture a thin layer of super dense rubber as the outer wall of the spaceship, then several different layers of aerogel/other deflectors and absorbers, then metal internal walls, with another buffer of aerogel, then the interior walls of the ship. Within the external rubber skin would run lines of supermagnets that could be turned on when needed to create a strong magnetic field around the ship, deflecting the radiation.

Throw in some phasers and torpedo launchers and we're off to Sirius!


l.e.s.ter said...

I would imagine the science has changed dramatically recently on the possibilities of interstellar travel. What are the main impediments? It seems like the radiation/debris issues can be finessed. Is it power? Fuel? Do we need to develop some "warp" system before we can even start this conversation?

Redshirt said...

Actually, the science really hasn't changed. Warp is nothing more than a sci-fi theory, with some possibility of becoming real... but only with enormous advances in science. Hundreds of years, if ever.

Besides radiation/meteorites, the other big limitations are:

1. Getting stuff into space. It's expensive as hell, and limits everything we could do. If it were cheap to get stuff into orbit, then we could assemble a ship in orbit and that would be a huge advance.

2. Space is BIG. Way big. The fastest object in human history is traveling right now - the Voyager probe. It's going about 32000 MPH, and at that speed, it would take some 150 years to get to the nearest star. And that star is not very useful to us. So, any talk of going to a star would need a massively more powerful engine, and even then, it would still be a "generational" ship - people would be born and die on the ship while in transit.

Nuclear powered engines would help, but everyone's afraid of using them.

The best current tech I've seen which could get us to another star, eventually, would be solar sails. The idea is you have a huge amount of reflective material in the form of a sail, and photons from the sun push it, just like the wind on earth. It would start very slow, but constantly pick up speed, such that after 5 years or so, it's traveling at speeds similar to Voyager, and it would continue to go faster the longer it traveled.

That said, I'm not sure it could travel between stars, since the solar wind is non-existent in interstellar space. It would probably need a different engine for that portion of the trip. Like an Ion engine.

vera lynn said...

didn't you post a picture a while ago that had those sails in it? It looked like a large gold insect I think....

Redshirt said...

Maybe. I forget. Sounds like something I'd do though, for sure.

They do look like insects, or like stretched out bat wings.

There was a ship design in the 1950's that was pretty awesome and is totally viable, but will never happen. Basically, you explode nuclear bombs in space and the blast of radiation hits a parachute like sail, generating great speeds quite quickly. The sail would be well behind the ship, so there's no threat to the actual craft. And so you'd just explode nukes every so often and go faster and faster and with this design you could theoretically get to the nearest known exoplanet in about 75 years.