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  1. #1
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    Talking Spaceflight

    So I was just reading through a bit about the newly found planet gliese 581g, and I got to thinking just what a flight would be like to get there. This little bit from wikipedia sounds promising:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxima_Centauri
    "Proxima Centauri has been suggested as a possible first destination for interstellar travel.[21] A flyby en route to Alpha Centauri is a similar alternative that does not require a deceleration phase. Nuclear pulse propulsion encompasses several technologies which might enable such interstellar travel with a trip timescale of a century"

    Here's a cool entry about "generation ships"
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_ship

    stories about the newly found planet:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/30/sc...ml?ref=science

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/20...r/?ref=science

    So, does anyone want to sit back this weekend and brainstorm a bit, as to what this ship would look like, and what all it would need? It's an incredible subject...
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  3. #2
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    i would hate to be the first generation on a generation ship, once you enter the tin can you will never leave it. Sounds dreadful
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    Yeah, being the first gen would suck. As for the second gen, they might stand a chance of discovering an entirely new ecosystem filled with bizarre species... though without our planet to compare it to the effect on them would be quite different.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Liffey View Post
    Yeah, being the first gen would suck. As for the second gen, they might stand a chance of discovering an entirely new ecosystem filled with bizarre species... though without our planet to compare it to the effect on them would be quite different.
    They might not have earth to compare it to, but I'd bet for anyone in the generation that landed on a new planet it would probably feel just as exciting and daunting to go from living on a spaceship to living on a planet, as it would for us to go from living on earth to on that planet.
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    I'm more in favor of suspended animation, really...
    "I've got ham, but I'm not a hamster"

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    So, does anyone want to sit back this weekend and brainstorm a bit, as to what this ship would look like, and what all it would need? It's an incredible subject...
    If the ships are taking off from in-atmosphere they have to be rocket or winged shaped. Even if it's built in space, if it takes off or lands on a planet it has to be shaped right. There could be space stations with shuttles instead of one large ship. In the interest of money an existing space station might be converted into a generation ship or at least used in it's construction.

    Shuttles would take the people to the ship, those shuttles would then stay with the space station. They'd have to be able to re-fuel and do maintenance on them. And the entire ship for that matter.

    There would have to be an artificial carbon cycle and atmosphere like Earth's. Artificial gravity. Being in 0G for extended periods of time weakens your bones and changes your blood flow. I doubt someone born in no gravity, who lived there most of their life would be able to walk on a planet. Their bones, muscles and heart would be very weak.

    Probably hydro or aeroponics would be used to grow some food, with some of it stored. A way to make water or large stores of it. Chemical or dry showers, water wouldn't be used for anything other than drinking and maintenance.

    If they're on the ship for decades, they need building material for new things. They need technology that won't go out of date. Stuff for making habitats on new planets in case there is no wood like plants. Tools, etc. Communication with Earth would be very sparse if not end all together after a while.

    If it happens it will take decades itself to build, stock and test. It would cost billions if not trillions. It's a tall order to say the least.
    "Astronomy offers an aesthetic indulgence not duplicated in any other field. This is not an academic or hypothetical attraction and should require no apologies, for the beauty to be found in the skies has been universally appreciated for unrecorded centuries."
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    Rocket or nuclear propulsion is not feasible. It is primitive technology for space expedition.

    The government should open the secrets about UFOs/aliens for 20th century.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFq-NcHFi4Q
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    I think probability engines would be the best way to go.

    The problem with faster than light speed is causality though. If you see something happen and then go there in faster than light speed to stop it you'll stop it before you saw it happen...
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    Okay, just to clarify, I wasn't suggesting we borrow from Douglas Adams or anything else that isn't achievable with existing technology. I love Douglas Adams and even a good UFO story once in awhile, but I'm more curious what NASA could come up with now that would actually work, eventually, in sending people to Gleise.

    Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light years away and would take a century with a new kind of nuclear pulse propulsion, something we could probably develop, if enough interest grew for it - it's a new application for existing technology. Gleise is 20.5 light years away, so that's approximately five centuries of flight - about 8-10 generations. If the rocket we develop isn't so fast, this could easily double or triple.

    No technology we know of could reach light speed, but depending on how we plan our trajectory, we might approach that speed close enough to where it would become an issue. As you increase speed, your mass increases, and time speeds up. Increasing mass increases the force required to further accelerate - that's why those subatomic particles at CERN haven't gone back in time yet. It'd take all the fuel on earth to get one subatomic particle to go faster than the speed of light, hence the impossibility of getting a ship to achieve that. But there would probably be a series of stages of different engines to get the ship to accelerate to its full speed. And, while the trip might feel relatively fast to the crew, people back on earth would feel time pass much more slowly, waiting, what, 20 more years? for the results of the trip.

    The generation ship would have to be very large to carry all the fuel and supplies needed for the trip. It would be constructed in stages, in space, just as the International Space Station was - with multiple rocket launches sending each piece into high orbit. But, Buck's got a good point that at least some part of the generation ship must be aerodynamic to withstand entry into a planet larger and denser than Earth. Gleise has stronger gravity, and a thicker atmosphere, so the landing vehicle/module would have to have a hull stronger than current shuttlecraft to withstand the heat and pressure.

    The ship would require many things: 100% recycling efficiency, food production, carbon to oxygen recycling. This flow chart for the ISS's life support system give a good idea of the planning involved: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FilepaceStationCycle.svg

    It would need a hospital wing, school, and most important, a library, for crew members to remember their origins and the purpose of their mission. They would also need some form of creative outlet - difficult considering the importance of recycling everything. I suppose theatre would be a good choice, although I also like the idea of each crew member making one "gift" for the future people of Gleise, to give their time on the ship more meaning.

    Technical problems for the ship include creating artificial gravity, either through constant acceleration, or through spinning of some sort. Even with artificial gravity and exercise equipment, people will have to adjust to a greater gravitational force to prepare themselves for entry into Gleise. Hmmm, just thinking about it, I wonder if the people finally arriving wouldn't be angry at us for putting them through such physical hell and agony. We might recieve an angry communication twenty years after landing telling us all to get stuffed.

    Another serious issue has to do with insulating the ship to protect passengers, and ship systems from deadly cosmic rays. Then there's the issue of how to rapidly accelerate and decelerate the ship. Also, how to trap extra solar power from panels, and how to live without it, once far from the sun's light. You'd need extremely long lasting batteries to store energy for centuries - possibly capturing more by planning a trajectory through other systems to recharge. There's also a question of the minimum required crew for such a long trip.

    Just to give you all an idea of the planning, here's a proposed plan to send people on a much shorter trip to Mars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP9rKyefxPk

    Last edited by TASmith; October 2nd, 2010 at 03:29 PM.
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    People living on these spaceships might also get some of the diseases that poor people in 19th century slums suffered from. For example, in overcrowded cities like Glasgow in the 19th century, because there was so little sunlight getting to street level, many children grew up with rickets and other diseases because they didn't get the vitamins that we usually get from the sun.

    I think this could be a problem for people living on one of these spaceships once they get far enough away from the sun. They would have to take or make lots and lots of vitamin supplements to make sure that everyone stayed healthy and didn't get to this new planet with bones so weak and crooked that they couldn't walk.
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    Planet hopping sounds good. From here to Mars, establish a base. Then on to an inhabitable moon of Saturn or something. Then further. Try to do whatever it takes to make the trip for the generation ship as short as possible.

    But we can't go light speed under the current understanding of physics. Even with great technology.
    "Astronomy offers an aesthetic indulgence not duplicated in any other field. This is not an academic or hypothetical attraction and should require no apologies, for the beauty to be found in the skies has been universally appreciated for unrecorded centuries."
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    Quote Originally Posted by BuckWeisel View Post
    But we can't go light speed under the current understanding of physics. Even with great technology.
    I watched a tv program not long about Stephen Hawking's ideas on how we could time travel, and in it he said that it's not possible for anything to go any faster than light speed, because time for whatever was going at that speed would slow down. And that would mean that it couldn't go any faster than light speed.

    He also said that if we were able to get a giant spaceship to go at light speed it would take it at least 6 years to get that fast if it was accelerating the whole time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zapp! View Post
    I watched a tv program not long about Stephen Hawking's ideas on how we could time travel, and in it he said that it's not possible for anything to go any faster than light speed, because time for whatever was going at that speed would slow down. And that would mean that it couldn't go any faster than light speed.

    He also said that if we were able to get a giant spaceship to go at light speed it would take it at least 6 years to get that fast if it was accelerating the whole time.
    According to special relativity, nothing can go faster. As something approaches the speed of light, its mass increases. Since moving mass requires energy, the amount needed to move that directly increases too. At the speed of light, anything from a space ship to an atom of hydrogen would have infinite mass. It would require infinite energy to move that mass any faster. Not enough fuel in the universe for that.

    We've never been able to move anything at the speed of light. We've been to 99%. That's most likely what Hawking was saying. Though the media and so called learning channels love to use him to push half-truths. By using solar sails or traveling using light as propulsion, we could reasonably build momentum up near the speed of light. Though the particle that went 99% superluminal was invisibly small. A space ship probably couldn't get there without it's structure failing.

    Anyways, time travel is a misnomer. It's not like moving in a physical direction but more a break in causality. Imagine I throw a ball to Elwell. If you're traveling the speed of light, from your inertial frame of reference, it may appear that these things happen out of sync. You might see Elwell catch the ball before I throw it. You might see me throw the ball before Elwell was born. Basically, the universe of events around you would fall apart.

    You spill a vintage glass of wine on the carpet. You return with a towel to find that the stain is decades old. Some time later you're walking over the same area and you step in a freshly spilled spot of wine. Wine from a bottle that you haven't bought yet. But then you find the bottle and it's empty, though the grapes that made the wine are just now ripening. That's a vintage label, decades old. You just bought it though glass making hasn't been invented yet.

    It would be a very weird thing to experience.
    "Astronomy offers an aesthetic indulgence not duplicated in any other field. This is not an academic or hypothetical attraction and should require no apologies, for the beauty to be found in the skies has been universally appreciated for unrecorded centuries."
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