Space is big, really big, really, really, really big! So big that in order to travel to the closest solar system to our own, Alpha Centauri A in an Apollo space craft, it would take over 120,000 years! Rockets may work in our own solar system, but if we are ever going to get out of our solar system or make space travel fast and easy, we need a new form of space travel. Fortunately, there are a few:
AKA “Project Orion”
This is the easy one, in fact we already have the technology. You get a space craft and explode nukes at a controlled distance behind it. The nukes can propel the space craft to up to 10,000km/s or, fast enough to get to Alpha Centauri in, wait for it, 133 years. Not great. And thats assuming you don’t want to slow down at the other end. If you do want to slow down, it will take 266 years, even less great. It is plausible, you could put people in hibernation or induced comas. But, I think we need an alternative.
AKA “Project Valkyrie”
Ok, this one isn’t so easy, but it is possible. An antimatter drive uses gets antimatter as fuel. Antimatter is like regular matter (the stuff that you are made out of) but oppositely charged. When antimatter and regular matter come into contact with each other, they obliterate each other, releasing tonnes of energy in the process. But there are a few problems.
- Making it: Creating antimatter is extremely difficult. Right now, the only way to make antimatter is using particle accelerators such as the country sized CERN particle accelerator. This only makes tiny amounts of antimatter and is very inefficient.
- Storing It: When your fuel literally obliterates any matter that you try and contain it in, how do you store it? Well, the answer is using magnetic and electric fields. But it is very difficult, and any issue in containment would likely result in the complete destruction of the spacecraft. Kugelblitz Engine!
The Kugelblitz Engine!
AKA “The Black Hole Drive”
The Kugelblitz engine is one of the most ambitious space travel options on this list. It involves creating a mini black hole out of pure energy! The miniature black holes then release a whole bunch of “Hawking Radiation” and evaporate away with the force of a whole bunch of nukes. This can accelerate a starship to way over 10% the speed of light, with enough energy, up to 50%. However, apart from the obvious problem of creating black holes on your starship, these lack holes also require mountains and mountains of energy.
AKA “Project Daedalus”
This is the propulsion of the future, and could be achieved within your lifetime. Fusion is a the nuclear reaction used by the sun to power itself. It is immensely powerful and requires little fuel. Using fusion, we can reach speeds similar (or greater) to that achieved with nuclear weapons. The benefit of fusion is that it is a controlled and, doesn’t involve the mass production of nuclear weapons. It isn’t that fast at 10% the speed of light, but could be achieved within your life time!
The Warp Drive!
AKA “Star Trek”
This one is the game changer, the life saver. Forget about going to other solar systems, you could go to other galaxies! A warp drive can go far faster than light, while (technically) staying in the same place. How does this happen you ask? Well, the warp drive works by distorting the actual empty space around it. It creates a region of negative gravity at the back of the craft and a region of positive gravity at the front of the craft so that the matter inside this distorted bubble of space “stays still” while the space that it occupies moves at faster than light speeds. This means no acceleration and no deceleration and extremely fast speeds. Unfortunately, there are still some MAJOR challenges and the warp drive may never be built, if it’s even possible. But if it works, you may be able to get to another galaxy in mere months!
AKA “The Portal”
A worm hole is a real life portal, if you’ve ever seen interstellar, you know that they look a lot like black holes. Wormholes work by folding spacetime to make long distances short. You can imagine it like this, the fabric of space-time (the universe) is like a piece of paper. Rather than travelling the entire distance across the piece of paper, you simply fold the two points together and burrow through. This brings places much closer together, in order to make one though, you need to make use negative energy. Negative energy props open the hole, stopping gravity from collapsing the wormhole into a black hole. Negative energy would have some pretty weird properties and it is not known whether or not it exists.
AKA “Breakthrough Starshot”
The solar sail uses light (lasers) to push a sail along through space. Solar sails can reach speeds in excess of 10% of the speed of light. The only problem is slowing down. Unless you already have a laser at your destination, the solar sail will wiz past at 10% the speed of light. Nevertheless, it is a marvellous and attainable space travel method. The breakthrough starshot program aims to send small solar sails into the Alpha Centauri system. They would reach the Alpha Centauri within 75 years, maybe less, at speeds between 15 and 20% the speed of light.
Thank you for reading, which one of this concepts do you think is the most exciting? Which one will we attain first? Leave your insights in the comments below. Please like, share and follow.