- Aug 11, 2005
- Reaction score
- Qld, Australia.
- Political Leaning
Real spaceships must use nuclear power. It's the only practical way of exploring and colonising space. Fission fragment, nuclear salt water, gas core and other exotic reactor type engines are being researched for future missions in light of the Bush administrations new nuclear space initiative. But there is another option that was available to us generations ago and remains to this day the only engine affording both very high thrust and Isp. A single stage launcher which could reach Pluto and back inside of a year. A simple design that can even be scaled up to starship configurations.
The concept is known as Nuclear Pulse Rocketry and its feasibility was proven beyond the doubt of the top minds who worked on Project Orion for the 7 years it was financed by the airforce, army and NASA. The initial plan called for manned missions to Mars by 1965 and Saturn by 1970. Jerry Pournelle who was aquainted with the project leader Freeman Dyson is quoted as saying that a large permanent moon base could have been established in a single mission! Back in the 1960's they were working on fission pulse units to bomb around the solar system. Today we can entertain the option of thermonuclear fusion. While steady fusion may turn out to be a pipedream, the science of hydrogen bombs is well proven and developed. We can nuke our way to the stars if we want to. We can also colonise the solar system in style and that would be a nice prelude to serious star travel. Either that or sit on our hands and hope something better comes along.
Its already been 36 years since we went to the moon. Me? I'm tired of waiting. I don't believe anything remotely practical will come along that isn't nuclear. Technological advancement requires hands on engineering and competition. We didn't go from steam engines to Ferrari's on a drawing board! We have to use what we have and hope its a stepping stone to increasingly more impressive generations of vehicles. The alternative is to do nothing but wish for some perfect concept that may never materialise. Atleast not until the window of opportunity is lost. How long advanced civilisations capable of spaceflight endure for is a question open to much conjectural debate. Our societies are quite fragile really and our high technology requires a large specialised workforce to maintain it. We may even lose our lust for space. If there was ever enough determination to begin with.
The Hollywood fearmongers and military warmongers have given nuclear technology a well deserved bad name but we must remember that ALL technology is a two edged sword. Over 10,000 people die every year from coal burning and one in four kids now have asthma as a direct result of coal burning particles. In fact not many people realise that Uranium and Thorium exist in coal beds. It gets burned up with all the other nasty toxins and CO2 then pumped straight into the atmosphere. Ironically a coal plant produces much more radiation than a nuclear plant. Over one million people die every year from automobiles too. Nobody died last year from nuclear energy and an Orion launch would cause zero fatalities according to independant studies but ignorance is often stronger than reason. Especially in democracies where the masses vote according to which politician can put on the most sincere looking smile.
Radiation risk is still measured by the Linear Non-Threshold hypothesis. A theory dreamed up by some fool with absolutely no evidence whatsover to back up his daydream. It works like this: if 200 degrees temperature is enough to kill you then logically 20 degrees will kill 10% of your body. Right? Ofcourse not. It's utter garbage but thats how radiation risks and fatalities are calculated despite ever increasing evidence to the contrary.
Radiation Hormesis research has shown that low to medium doses of radiation are not only harmless and indeed beneficial but in fact 'essential' to life on earth.
So the only thing keeping us from the stars is probably our own stupidity.
We can't keep weapons out of space. Even a rocket doubles as a missile. We have to be realistic. We all want a united world but under what banner? What is the unifying goal that will bring about world peace? We could try conquering the universe. There is enough resources out there to go around. For quite some time in fact. Our kids deserve to have the opportunity.