Written by Quadrum Lee
October 23, 2019
Latest Tech News
Today’s, topic about Interstellar Travel Impossible. Let’s go into deep and understand the scientific facts related to this topic.
Simply, Is interstellar travel doomed to remain in the realm of science fiction with faster than light travel and infinite improbability drives? Never mind warp speed, is light speed even possible? Technically No! Light is massless and travels a little over 1 billion km/h.
Will light speed travel ever be possible?
Since spacecraft are not massless you need the energy to accelerate as you keep gaining speed, you’ll need increasingly larger amounts of fuel. Eventually, even tiny gains in acceleration require large amounts of energy. Getting to exactly 100% light speed would require an infinite amount of energy which is why it’s an impossible goal. Before we look at how close we can get to the speed of light.
What is the fastest man made vehicle?
Let’s consider what we’ve accomplished so far and then let decide Interstellar Travel Impossible or not. When it comes to space travel, everything starts with a rocket, still the best way we know of to literally get our feet off the ground. Rockets give spacecraft that initial massive boost to escape Earth’s gravity. It’s the first step in getting people to the moon sending probes to the planets our sun and even the edge of our solar system.
Pollo 10 –
Pollo 10, the dress rehearsal for Apollo 11 never landed on the moon, but at reentry, it did set the world record for the fastest manned spacecraft at just under 40,000 km/h. In order to get all the way to the moon, it needed the help of Saturn V, still, the most powerful rocket ever launched.
The New Horizons probe –
The New Horizons probe, hitching a ride on the Atlas V holds the record for fastest launch velocity at over 58,536 km/h. It was also the first spacecraft to reach Pluto in 2015. Sending back the first detailed images ever taken of Pluto.
Voyager 1’s mission –
Launched in 1977, Voyager 1’s mission was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn and once complete to leave the solar system entirely. It couldn’t do it with rocket power alone, so it used gravity assists at Jupiter to slingshot to Saturn and again at Saturn to fling itself out to the edge of the solar system. Voyager 1 reached a top speed of 62,000 km/h but it still took over 30 years to reach interstellar space in 2012.
In 1976, the Helios-2 probe set off to study the sun and the interplanetary medium. To do so, they were put in highly elliptical orbits with the Sun at one end and all the way out to the Earth’s orbit at the other. Each time it approached the Sun the massive gravitational force sped it up to a record-setting speed of 253,000 km/h, the fastest any spacecraft has ever traveled.
Solar Probe Plus –
Solar Probe Plus will study the corona and outer atmosphere of the sun with an expected launch in 2018. Over the course of seven years, multiple gravity assists will be used at Venus to bring it into an orbit around 7 times closer to the sun than Helios.
With that close of an orbit, it will crush the Helios record with a top speed of just under 725,000 km/h. Even still, that’s just a meager .07% the speed of light and would take over 6,000 years to travel 4 and a quarter light-years to get to Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our own.
Proxima B –
In 2016 a planet, Proxima b, was discovered around the star. It’s probably rocky like the Earth and in the right orbit to be potentially warm enough for liquid water on the surface if it has any. This makes it an excellent target for the first interstellar spacecraft.
Can we improve on that speed with staying in the realm of current or near-future technology?
Ion propulsion is currently employed in some satellites but most notably, the Dawn spacecraft which studied the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. Inside the thruster, electrons bombard neutrally charged atoms causing them to lose electrons and become positively charged ions.
Thrust is produced as they are shot out in an ion beam. The resulting thrust is minuscule but since it’s fuel supply can last for years, unlike a rocket that tiny amount of thrust keeps compounding on itself and in time, it can potentially reach speeds of up to 324,000 km/h, although no spacecraft currently has.
While not the fastest, it’s a practical method to study multiple celestial bodies in one mission. exciting potential for solar system exploration. What do you think? Is Interstellar Travel Impossible? Let us know in the comment section below.
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