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Thread: What Shape Would You Prefer For A Starship And Why?

  1. #1 What Shape Would You Prefer For A Starship And Why? 
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    1. Hexagonal. In any variations (tube, extra attachments) you choose. A pencil shape is a variation of this.

    2. Sphere. In any variations you choose.

    3. Tube. In any variations you choose. The space shuttle is a variation of this.

    4. Disc. In any variations you choose. The Enterprises are a variation of this.

    5. Brick. In any variation you choose. Klingon ships are a variation of this.


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    Form follows function. Will it have to spin for simulated gravity? Then radial symmetry would make some sense. Will it be protected by a magnetic field? Salient poles would have to be defined. Will it be under thrust the whole time? Then it probably has to be more compact for strength. Will it have to land anywhere? Then it needs streamlining and likely a structure that can generate lift. Will it have to radiate a lot of heat? Then radiator space will need to be available.
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    My spaceship would be in the shape of a Menger Sponge.

    Like a Borg Cube, but cooler.
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    How about a rotating doughnut? The famous doughnut drive drags particles/space time/ into the central hole and propels it through and out the back. But my alternate choice would be sphere.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post

    I like this one more than the second. I'm sorry, but the second looks like a turd sausage. Seriously. Sorry.
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    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo View Post
    How about a rotating doughnut? The famous doughnut drive drags particles/space time/ into the central hole and propels it through and out the back. But my alternate choice would be sphere.
    I think that would be cool.
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    i'd go for cube or variations of that. straight sides meeting at right angles means that your furniture will fit better and you'll have no odd spaces to try and fill. i've lived in a hexagonal house and it was a PITA.
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    I think it would be in the shape of a gyrascope. This way the spinning of the livable parts could create a false gravity.

    http://www.oreablog.com/wp-content/u.../Gyroscope.jpg
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    For a starship? The shape of a star.
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    A hollow tube with a huge icy ablative knob at the bow, anti-matter drive engine behind the knob firing neutrons aft through the center. Life support rings rotating around and perpendicular to the tube.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Janus View Post
    That's going to bugger up the crew if the drive creates any appreciable acceleration!
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    Instead of a cylinder, I'd prefer to tether two space ships together with a big long cable. It's simpler, and then the two space ships can choose a strategic pattern when they accelerate so they're always circling one another at the same speed. Maybe the crew could have some kind of elevator thing that moves along the cable to enable them to get from one ship to the other.

    If you're using a big cylinder, then you have to walk a long way to get from place to place. Your floor space is arranged like a big long hallway. With two ships, you can put everything in a wider space, just like you do in a house on Earth. The only exception is getting from one ship to the other, where you have to ride the elevator.


    So my space pair of space ships would look kind of like a bola.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Instead of a cylinder, I'd prefer to tether two space ships together with a big long cable. It's simpler, and then the two space ships can choose a strategic pattern when they accelerate so they're always circling one another at the same speed.
    Using two ships connected by a tether (specifically one spacecraft and one empty upper stage) has been proposed by the Mars Direct reference plan as a way to provide some simulated gravity on a Mars expedition.
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    [QUOTE=kojax;503518]Instead of a cylinder, I'd prefer to tether two space ships together with a big long cable. It's simpler, and then the two space ships can choose a strategic pattern when they accelerate so they're always circling one another at the same speed. Maybe the crew could have some kind of elevator thing that moves along the cable to enable them to get from one ship to the other.

    If you're using a big cylinder, then you have to walk a long way to get from place to place. Your floor space is arranged like a big long hallway. With two ships, you can put everything in a wider space, just like you do in a house on Earth. The only exception is getting from one ship to the other, where you have to ride the elevator.

    Certainly a interesting idea. I would still thing you would need rockets of some source just to get the thing going where you wanna go though.

    The only reactionless drives in the universe we know of involve gravity and dark energy, and gravity tends to just do orbits (not all that great for traveling when you want to go in a straight line).

    Dark energy is what scientists call the force that is causing our universe to expand, since gravity causes matter to attract (not repel, as far we know).

    Now if you can harness theoretical dark energy, even if it's merely along the lines of expanding universal space, you just got a really fast way to travel. I would expect the power expenditures to be enormous though. I believe all matter and energy to be finite in the universe, since the universe had a beginning. Things that have a beginning are finite, NOT unlimited.

    On the other hand, things that don't have a beginning are unlmited (time for instance).
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    She's beautiful. I wonder what the pointed struts are for on the back? If they are landing struts, they had better be EXTREMELY strong to support the entire weight of the ship. That is assuming it landed vertically like a rocket on a planet's surface.

    Frome the looks of it, it looks like it would.
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    My guess; they look cool.

    Or, they could be giant tweezers for space splinters.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    I wonder what the pointed struts are for on the back?
    For looking cool!

    If they are landing struts, they had better be EXTREMELY strong to support the entire weight of the ship.
    Not if you are landing on low-G planets.
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    I wonder what the pointed struts are for on the back?
    For looking cool!

    If they are landing struts, they had better be EXTREMELY strong to support the entire weight of the ship.
    Not if you are landing on low-G planets.

    Good point. I'm from Earth so I think like an Earthling. Can you blame me? Good thinking by the way. I guess it would be good for a mining ship. Mining say, I dunno, a moon with low G (should be plenty of those around)?
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    Arthur C. Clarke wrote of a visit from an alien species in his book "Rendezvous with Rama", and described the ideal starship, assuming nothing out of magic arises. That is : no faster than light drive, meaning a long, slow trip between star systems, lasting at least decades.

    The shape is a giant rotating cylinder, around a long axis that contains the drive engines (probably an advanced ion drive system). The cylinder gives gravity by its rotation. The scale of the structure means that the three metre thick layer of water ice around the outside of the cylinder, to absorb ionising radiation, will not be too big a load by means of its mass.
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    Arthur C. Clarke wrote of a visit from an alien species in his book "Rendezvous with Rama", and described the ideal starship, assuming nothing out of magic arises. That is : no faster than light drive, meaning a long, slow trip between star systems, lasting at least decades.

    The shape is a giant rotating cylinder, around a long axis that contains the drive engines (probably an advanced ion drive system). The cylinder gives gravity by its rotation.

    The scale of the structure means that the three metre thick layer of water ice around the outside of the cylinder, to absorb ionising radiation, will not be too big a load by means of its mass.
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    Another option for gravity would be to make sure the rockets always accelerate at 1 G. If you spend half the trip accelerating and half the trip decelerating, then you'd have artificial gravity the whole time.

    I think 4 G is about the limit that the human body can handle of sustained acceleration. If you do more than that, I've heard that the retinas in your eyes may become detached. Doesn't sound pleasant.
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    Kojax

    Easier said than done. Possibly the Orion drive might do it, but the technical problems of exploding nukes under your arse at several each second are terrible!
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    I'd want a spaceship in the shape of a Penrose Triangle, although that would probably only be available from hijacking the ship from some higher-dimensional lifeform.

    Of course such a ship would likely be powered by the "Infinite Improbability Drive" from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Kojax

    Easier said than done. Possibly the Orion drive might do it, but the technical problems of exploding nukes under your arse at several each second are terrible!
    You know what they say, "If you can't take the heat then get out." or something like that. In other words, unless we build a a spaceship that can take the explosion of a thousand nukes over a long period of time, you can forget using that technology for space travel.

    I for one think it is possible. SInce there is no shockwave the only concern is heat and radation. If you can make or find a material that can withstand that and you don't fire the nukes off like a trigger happy guy, I think you can make it so, to quote Picard.
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    If there was no shockwave, there would be no drive. Heat and radiation will not do it. If fact, the impact of critical mass turned to high speed ions against the shock plate under the hull would be unbelievable. It has been suggested that you could provide suitable protection with a very thick and very strong metal plate between the ship and the explosion, and with immensely strong springs to cushion the sudden impact of the explosion. Apart from the fact that this would add terrifically to the mass that needs to be accelerated, I cannot imagine anything capable of handling that stress without rapidly deteriorating. Yet, anything less would turn the people inside that ship into a thin film of strawberry jam!
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Lorbo

    If there was no shockwave, there would be no drive. Heat and radiation will not do it. If fact, the impact of critical mass turned to high speed ions against the shock plate under the hull would be unbelievable. It has been suggested that you could provide suitable protection with a very thick and very strong metal plate between the ship and the explosion, and with immensely strong springs to cushion the sudden impact of the explosion. Apart from the fact that this would add terrifically to the mass that needs to be accelerated, I cannot imagine anything capable of handling that stress without rapidly deteriorating. Yet, anything less would turn the people inside that ship into a thin film of strawberry jam!
    Dark energy manipulation a billion years ahead in the future or less FTW then!

    No other good options at this point. By then, if we
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    As far as I can see, the best option for a starship would be an ion drive. Think of a linear accelerator. An ionic railway. At one end, ions are produced by stripping electrons off all the atoms. The ions are then accelerated by magnetic fields down the length of the ionic railway, and when they are released, tey might be travelling at over 99% of the speed of light.

    The ion drive requires relatively little reaction mass in order to accelerate to very high velocities. In fact, NASA scientists have calculated that a final velocity of perhaps 10% to 20% (0.1c to 0.2c) of light speed might be attained. The biggest problem is very slow acceleration. If we assume that our ion drive technology doubles in efficacy and final speed every 20 years, then it will take about 300 years to get an engine suitable for 0.1c and the big journey.

    I calculated that, assuming a top velocity of 0.1c, and acceleration/deceleration time of ten years each, it would take 55 years to get to the nearest alien star system - alpha Centauri. The long cylinder I described, rotating around the central linear accelerator, is not a bad design for such a vessel.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    As far as I can see, the best option for a starship would be an ion drive. Think of a linear accelerator. An ionic railway. At one end, ions are produced by stripping electrons off all the atoms. The ions are then accelerated by magnetic fields down the length of the ionic railway, and when they are released, tey might be travelling at over 99% of the speed of light.

    The ion drive requires relatively little reaction mass in order to accelerate to very high velocities. In fact, NASA scientists have calculated that a final velocity of perhaps 10% to 20% (0.1c to 0.2c) of light speed might be attained. The biggest problem is very slow acceleration. If we assume that our ion drive technology doubles in efficacy and final speed every 20 years, then it will take about 300 years to get an engine suitable for 0.1c and the big journey.

    I calculated that, assuming a top velocity of 0.1c, and acceleration/deceleration time of ten years each, it would take 55 years to get to the nearest alien star system - alpha Centauri. The long cylinder I described, rotating around the central linear accelerator, is not a bad design for such a vessel.
    Yes. I talked about in another thread how if we could cheat (find or make a kind of maguffin) by creating a kind of unlimited electricity then the Ion drives could likely have a lot faster acceleration. I'm I right or wrong?

    Unlimited electrical output on an Ion drive? Are you set or what? Even from a science fiction point on view it's only cheating a little. A lot less than trek technobabble.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Kojax

    Easier said than done. Possibly the Orion drive might do it, but the technical problems of exploding nukes under your arse at several each second are terrible!
    And the worst part is that if we wanted to get near C we'd have to not only achieve it, but also sustain it for a very very long time. Even ignoring relativistic effects that slow down the rate of acceleration, it would still take about 30 million seconds at 10 meters per second to reach 300 million meters per second. I'm sure that adding in relativity makes it a much higher number still.

    31,536,000 is the number of seconds in a year. So we'd need simulated gravity level acceleration for much longer than a year get anywhere near C.


    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    As far as I can see, the best option for a starship would be an ion drive. Think of a linear accelerator. An ionic railway. At one end, ions are produced by stripping electrons off all the atoms. The ions are then accelerated by magnetic fields down the length of the ionic railway, and when they are released, tey might be travelling at over 99% of the speed of light.

    The ion drive requires relatively little reaction mass in order to accelerate to very high velocities. In fact, NASA scientists have calculated that a final velocity of perhaps 10% to 20% (0.1c to 0.2c) of light speed might be attained. The biggest problem is very slow acceleration. If we assume that our ion drive technology doubles in efficacy and final speed every 20 years, then it will take about 300 years to get an engine suitable for 0.1c and the big journey.

    I calculated that, assuming a top velocity of 0.1c, and acceleration/deceleration time of ten years each, it would take 55 years to get to the nearest alien star system - alpha Centauri. The long cylinder I described, rotating around the central linear accelerator, is not a bad design for such a vessel.
    Yes. I talked about in another thread how if we could cheat (find or make a kind of maguffin) by creating a kind of unlimited electricity then the Ion drives could likely have a lot faster acceleration. I'm I right or wrong?

    Unlimited electrical output on an Ion drive? Are you set or what? Even from a science fiction point on view it's only cheating a little. A lot less than trek technobabble.
    You could always cheat another way. Shoot the ions at the space ship from on Earth or maybe the Moon (so as to avoid problems with that troublesome atmosphere of ours). Then the space ship just catches them with some kind of ion sail.

    The only problem is that your maximum speed would be equal to however fast the ion gun on the Moon was able to fire them. And..... come to think of it they can get them pretty close to C, can't they? So maybe that's not a limiting factor?
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    ... come to think of it, there is one other problem, which is: how do you stop once you've arrived at your destination?
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    And the worst part is that if we wanted to get near C we'd have to not only achieve it, but also sustain it for a very very long time.
    Once you get up to speed you can shut down the engine.

    You could always cheat another way. Shoot the ions at the space ship from on Earth or maybe the Moon (so as to avoid problems with that troublesome atmosphere of ours). Then the space ship just catches them with some kind of ion sail.
    Realistically the only thing you will be able to aim that precisely are photons (i.e. lasers.)
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    Shooting ions or lasers at a space ship.

    This idea collapses against the sheer distances involved. They might be useful to get a space ship started on its voyage, but long before it even reached the orbit of Mars, the ions or laser beam would be so attenuated as to be useless. Since it may take ten years to accelerate to 0.1c, you can expect the beam plus light sail to be useful for perhaps 0.01%of the acceleration time. Hardly worth worrying about.
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    All those pictures are a bit ... um, phallic...

    Tch! Boys.
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    You want to see my designs for the USS Georgia O'Keeffe?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    My guess; they look cool.

    Or, they could be giant tweezers for space splinters.
    So the model stands up on your book shelf.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Shooting ions or lasers at a space ship.

    This idea collapses against the sheer distances involved. They might be useful to get a space ship started on its voyage, but long before it even reached the orbit of Mars, the ions or laser beam would be so attenuated as to be useless. Since it may take ten years to accelerate to 0.1c, you can expect the beam plus light sail to be useful for perhaps 0.01%of the acceleration time. Hardly worth worrying about.
    I wonder if it would be possible to accelerate something bigger than an ion to near C and then hurl it toward the space ship from the Moon? But I guess it doesn't matter how big it is, because you can't accurately aim anything that far away. The ship just keeps getting to be a smaller and smaller target.
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    My ideal starship would be 4-dimensional and shaped like a Klein bottle :



    Now try to find the bathroom in this
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    Something spherical, for design reasons and use of area.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    This idea collapses against the sheer distances involved. They might be useful to get a space ship started on its voyage, but long before it even reached the orbit of Mars, the ions or laser beam would be so attenuated as to be useless. Since it may take ten years to accelerate to 0.1c, you can expect the beam plus light sail to be useful for perhaps 0.01%of the acceleration time. Hardly worth worrying about.
    There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea of using a laser. You know how we can see stars from a billion light years away? That's because those photons travel on _extremely_ predictable trajectories. If you aim a photon from the sun correctly it will hit that star a billion light-years away.

    Indeed, a powerful enough laser in space will focus _itself_ due to the weak interaction between the photons themselves. However, even without that trick, you can still expect a well aimed photon to hit a target even many light-years away. Thus the problem devolves to implementation. We don't have anything that will collimate a beam that accurately right now - but in 50 years?
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    With today's technology, a very hot and powerful laser fired at the moon (which is done daily) will still dissipate over that relatively short distance to the point where an unprotected human could stand in the beam (inside a glass room, to provide air) and not feel any increase in temperature. If you think an advance in technology will permit a laser to keep its energy over light years, you must have enormous faith in future technology.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    What shape would you prefer for a starship and why?
    I would very much like it to be in configuration of a tetrahedron since it is to my knowledge by far the most structurally stable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    With today's technology, a very hot and powerful laser fired at the moon (which is done daily) will still dissipate over that relatively short distance to the point where an unprotected human could stand in the beam (inside a glass room, to provide air) and not feel any increase in temperature.
    Right. As you said, "with today's technology." Starships are not possible with today's technology, period; improvements must occur.

    If you think an advance in technology will permit a laser to keep its energy over light years, you must have enormous faith in future technology.
    Not faith so much as a belief that we will continue to advance at about the same rate. Consider that 60 years ago there were no lasers. Now we use them for everything from weapons to fusion ignition to communications to fabrication. Imagine the advances we will make in the next 60 years.
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Imagine the advances we will make in the next 60 years.
    OK.
    Now imagine one light year? You cannot? Neither can I.
    These are not minor increases in distance. These are astronomical immensities. Now add to that the inverse square law. Now try to think of how much even the most tightly controlled laser beam will dissipate over one light year. Basically, it will no longer exist.

    Now think of a laser beam that you have, by an unbelievable technological miracle, managed to keep tight for a light year. Imagine keeping it on target, when a movement at the base machine of one proton diameter will put the beam off target at its destination.

    Sorry, billvon. Even with great technological advance, you cannot beat the numbers.
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    I like the Borg Sphere which didn't appear in very many episodes of all Star Trek series's.

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    Romulan Warbird Concept [] The Romulans always have bad ass ships and this looks like a great way cruse the galaxy in.

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    Delta Flyer Vulcan Dkyr class [] It's hard not to like this Vulcan ship.

    Markus Hanke and loganrogers like this.
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    The problem with those vulcan, romulan etc. ships is that they belong in SF, not reality.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    The problem with those vulcan, romulan etc. ships is that they belong in SF, not reality.
    Of course your right, but the OP didn't say anything about a reality requirement. As long as a starship can keep you alive and healthy while traveling I don't have a big preference as to the shape it takes. But I would like to see the humans with better looking ships than the aliens have.
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    Given the dynamics of moving in space, I think the closest thing to an actual star ship seen in mainstream science fiction would be the Borg. A cube, with propulsion on each side, would be the most feasible (in my puny mind) way to travel in space. You don't need something sleek and aerodynamic to travel in a vacuum, you don't need a bridge at the front if you don't have a window, and you don't want engines just at the back for propulsion. Why not just a simple, primary shape?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Given the dynamics of moving in space, I think the closest thing to an actual star ship seen in mainstream science fiction would be the Borg. A cube, with propulsion on each side, would be the most feasible (in my puny mind) way to travel in space. You don't need something sleek and aerodynamic to travel in a vacuum, you don't need a bridge at the front if you don't have a window, and you don't want engines just at the back for propulsion. Why not just a simple, primary shape?
    What kind of starship are we talking about? One that has to move through space the only way we know how or one that can get from point A to B faster than the speed of light? Right now our technology can't even produce a generation ship I would have any confidence in. I just barely have any confidence we can get anybody to mars and back again, at least in my lifetime.

    In all the Star Trek movies and episodes, they never have to worry about gravity or acceleration and food replicators are something everybody would pay through their noses to have. Also beaming technology is damn handy and everybody should have a holodeck in their homes. Plus, sooner or later we are going to run into some bad aliens, which means having powerful weapons and shields seems prudent.
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    I say star ship, but I'm not really thinking of something travelling between stars. I'm thinking of a ship to ferry goods between orbiting platforms or to a lunar base. I don't get a big kick out of dreaming about FTL travel or teleporting.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    Wrong thread...

    :EDIT:

    Hot Rodding through space as a Brick would be like totally badass though.

    Last edited by Beer w/Straw; December 22nd, 2013 at 06:29 PM.
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    Bearing in mind that this is a science forum, and not a scifi forum, I think we should limit ourselves to that which might one day be practical. Not that which looks good on a fictional TV program.

    There are plenty of scifi forums out there, and if you want to fantasize about stuff that is 'magical' in nature, that is a better venue.
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    I didn't say my Space Brick would be magical but, thanks for the idea.
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    Or kinda' like this but bigger.

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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    With today's technology, a very hot and powerful laser fired at the moon (which is done daily) will still dissipate over that relatively short distance to the point where an unprotected human could stand in the beam (inside a glass room, to provide air) and not feel any increase in temperature.
    Right. As you said, "with today's technology." Starships are not possible with today's technology, period; improvements must occur.

    Even if it were possible, what would be the practical advantage? Why not accelerate an object or particle to 0.99 C and then hurl that toward our space ship? Is that last 0.01 C of speed so valuable we need to use a laser?


    But either way we're left with the problem of how to accurately aim it.


    If you think an advance in technology will permit a laser to keep its energy over light years, you must have enormous faith in future technology.
    Not faith so much as a belief that we will continue to advance at about the same rate. Consider that 60 years ago there were no lasers. Now we use them for everything from weapons to fusion ignition to communications to fabrication. Imagine the advances we will make in the next 60 years.
    60 years ago I think people were expecting we'd all be zipping around in flying cars. I bet they'd be pretty disappointed to see that modern automobiles are just lighter, more fuel economic versions of the same vehicles they drove in back then.

    If we ever launch another rocket to the Moon, it will just be a flashier version of the same rocket they used for the first mission.
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    60 years ago I think people were expecting we'd all be zipping around in flying cars. I bet they'd be pretty disappointed to see that modern automobiles are just lighter, more fuel economic versions of the same vehicles they drove in back then.
    Much more powerful, run much further between routine or unscheduled maintenance checks, brimming with comfort, convenience, navigation, improved tracking and steering, anti-theft&recovery and safety features unheard of back then. While I love old vehicles and would enjoy rebuilding a rounded early 50's Ford pickup or a late 60's Mustang--by today's standards they were horrid.
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    And don't give up totally on flying cars. There are developments in octocopters which show potential as private vehicles. We need a little more development, not so much in the propulsion, but in the control. If a million private flying cars were travelling around a city, it would be a recipe for disaster. But with sophisticated computer control, rather than humans at the helm, it could be done.
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    egg
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    Scale: 3,225m (3.2km)

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    if that's an egg to you i hope we never have breakfast
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    Quote Originally Posted by curious mind View Post
    egg
    Nanoo nanoo.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pyoko View Post
    Scale: 3,225m (3.2km)


    Whaa? I hope you have some radiant energy reflecting coating on those windows. Something like Starlite on steroids, except it reflects ALL cosmic radiation too. Because otherwise the people inside that ship will get a good dose of radiation coming through those windows from cosmic space.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    I hope you have some radiant energy reflecting coating on those windows. Something like Starlite on steroids, except it reflects ALL cosmic radiation too. Because otherwise the people inside that ship will get a good dose of radiation coming through those windows from cosmic space.
    If you look closely you'll note it's hovering in a cloud-filled sky; hence protection from radiation is not as much of an issue.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post

    Whaa? I hope you have some radiant energy reflecting coating on those windows. Something like Starlite on steroids, except it reflects ALL cosmic radiation too. Because otherwise the people inside that ship will get a good dose of radiation coming through those windows from cosmic space.
    The shields will take care of that. And I am sure there is adequate protection on the windows.
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    What shields? Bearing in mind that this forum is about science, rather than fiction.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    What shields? Bearing in mind that this forum is about science, rather than fiction.
    The following link shows what may be a good start at developing a decent shield for a space craft. For more links search on plasma shield .

    Diamagnetic Cavity Shields For Spacecraft? | Space.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    What shields? Bearing in mind that this forum is about science, rather than fiction.
    The following link shows what may be a good start at developing a decent shield for a space craft. For more links search on plasma shield .

    Diamagnetic Cavity Shields For Spacecraft? | Space.com
    I believe that the best shield we could possibly make would copy Earth's. Namely, an atmosphere/magnetic field combo.

    A starship with this would look like a mini planet Earth, minus any land, just a small ship in the center surrounding by a bunch of blue sky. The benefits of this are huge.

    1. You could breath outside your spaceship.

    2. Stuff would burn up in your huge atmospheric shield before it ever hit you, plus you could likely dodge at anyway (your at the center of the big ball).

    3. The atmospheric/magnetic shield would also shield you from radiation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    What shields? Bearing in mind that this forum is about science, rather than fiction.
    The following link shows what may be a good start at developing a decent shield for a space craft. For more links search on plasma shield .

    Diamagnetic Cavity Shields For Spacecraft? | Space.com
    I believe that the best shield we could possibly make would copy Earth's. Namely, an atmosphere/magnetic field combo.

    A starship with this would look like a mini planet Earth, minus any land, just a small ship in the center surrounding by a bunch of blue sky. The benefits of this are huge.

    1. You could breath outside your spaceship.

    2. Stuff would burn up in your huge atmospheric shield before it ever hit you, plus you could likely dodge at anyway (your at the center of the big ball).

    3. The atmospheric/magnetic shield would also shield you from radiation.
    We can't make any kind of shield that would contain an atmosphere. Also, a plain magnetic shield would only help block charged particles, and lots of radiation would not be blocked. A diamagnetic shield can be filled with very hot plasma that would be able to block all the electromagnetic radiation including the UV, X-rays and gamma radiation. Also there would be some protection against small meteoroids due to both the magnetic and plasma parts of the shield.

    The only draw back I can see with this type of shield is that it would interfere with communications. So if you needed to talk to anyone on the other side of your shield, you would have to shut the shield down first.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    my space pair of space ships would look kind of like a bola
    I like it. While most designs are overbuilt because people imagine spacecraft need the structural integrity of battleships, you've offered something appropriate, and elegant. Smaller proof-of-concept could be put in orbit with today's rockets: one bus-sized module per rocket, and the lightweight tethers stowed neatly during transport.

    Unfortunately there's no really good radius/velocity for these artificial gravity schemes. If it's small, a standing person will feel a difference pronounced by any movement they make (imagine sideways acceleration on a ping-pong ball as it arcs toward the pivot, then away); but if it's large you need a huge craft and moving about the craft is tedious.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Maybe the crew could have some kind of elevator thing that moves along the cable to enable them to get from one ship to the other.
    How about this: Imagine four modules spaced equally, say at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock. Now slowly rearrange the modules into twp pairs, like 2 and 4, 8 and 10 o'clock. You're now docked with an adjacent module and may step through a hatch. This shuffling could be scheduled several times per day, with sewing machine motors and fishing line. It can't unbalance the craft because just drawing two modules together forces the opposite two likewise.



    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo
    What Shape Would You Prefer For A Starship And Why?
    This I worked out in some detail years ago, so I've ready answers if anyone has questions. My starship (well, colony) would include two basic shapes for two different purposes.


    The first purpose is to sustain life generally, for a practical eternity. I'd gather a lot of ice into a ball and apply just enough heat and light inside to make it mostly liquid, but not boiling the crust. I'd create a spacious bubble of atmosphere in the middle. Then stick soil to the air/water boundary. This is all still weightless, so without buoyancy things will tend to cling in this arrangement. Inoculate with diverse species including microbes and nasties like mosquitoes, it'll be no Eden but hopefully a crude little Gaia self-regulating in spite of human incompetence. Kinda a space fishtank biosphere. This ball is 99% unprocessed material cheaply harvested from space and also huge.

    The starship may be expanded casually by adding material to it (like ice or pulverized rock), when that's available. An excessively large starship may also be divided.


    The second purpose of the starship is to continue the human trajectory, that is: expanding our own population and civilization. Its function is that of a town, with amenities, where we live and work. This relatively small but costly part I would float in the air bubble, right in the middle. Thus it is not exactly "in space" so its construction may be loose and somewhat ...rustic... and probably use materials like locally made particleboard and hemp rope. You can open a window to refill the hummingbird feeder.

    This inner "living/command module" part of the starship would be a helix, slowly spinning on its axis. A helix has some advantages over a cylinder or ring. It can grow by modest additions to the ends. It is fairly compact, though ungainly if very long. But most importantly it's the best form for replication. Since this is (really) a vessel for replicating humans, the vessel itself must replicate easily. So, as crew population increases and they want more space, they build at perfect convenience an intertwined copy of the original helix. You don't have crews in spacesuits welding together a complete new starship before they can occupy it. Rather, you build your daughter's house just across the street, so to speak.

    After both the helical town and the population have doubled, the way to keep expanding is obvious: unscrew the two complete towns, let them drift apart, and just keep doubling and doubling forever. See why it's important that the larger vessels these towns inhabit may also grow and divide.
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    Using only technology and no "handwavium" I think a star ship will have to be large enough to contain a self sustaining society over multiple generations. It will be a space going living environment that only secondarily is a mode of transport. The drive will be what ever we can work out that will allow the environmet to move around seeking new sources of raw materials. Basicly it is a space going city. It has mines and refinerys, factorys, farms, power plants, waste reclaimation plants and residential neighborhoods. Very likely the whole thing will be in rotation simply because in freefall it would take too much energy trying to stop rotation, rotation being the norm.

    I like the helix Idea. Not so sure about the living in a bubble inside a snow ball but that might work.
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    If we copy what's known to endure and prosper, we secure our future as indispensable genes within cells. How else can we build a cell in space?
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    To Pong

    Your idea is well thought out. I do not agree, but not because it is not a good idea. The thing is that you have, as you said, designed a space colony rather than a starship, which is the OP question.

    A starship will have to be designed for minimal mass that has no essential function. So coopting a giant snowball, or asteroid or whatever, is not viable. Too much excess mass with no function. My view is that a starship will be carefully designed with no mass to be carried that is useless.

    The bola idea has merit, but is really a design for a small craft. If a craft is designed to carry a human population for decades or centuries, it will be enormous. A craft of that size will spin for gravity, and will be large enough that the two spinning habitats will merge into a complete whole, like the Rama space craft of Clarke's book. That is : a giant rotating cylinder.

    So my belief is that the ideal spacecraft will be a rotating cylinder of size big enough to hold thousands of people, and the central axle will hold the ion drive engines. It will have to carry enormous amounts of reaction mass, which might be in a giant balloon type object in the nose.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    I believe that the best shield we could possibly make would copy Earth's. Namely, an atmosphere/magnetic field combo.

    A starship with this would look like a mini planet Earth, minus any land, just a small ship in the center surrounding by a bunch of blue sky. The benefits of this are huge.

    1. You could breath outside your spaceship.

    2. Stuff would burn up in your huge atmospheric shield before it ever hit you, plus you could likely dodge at anyway (your at the center of the big ball).

    3. The atmospheric/magnetic shield would also shield you from radiation.
    Magnetic fields don't keep air in. It would dissipate rapidly. You could use gravitation, but then you'd need air that massed more than a small planet, and it would be very hard to move. You'd also have to heat it to keep it warm enough to breathe (indeed to keep it gaseous at all.)

    A simpler solution, often proposed, is to just find an asteroid and "hide behind it." Place your spacecraft behind it and start pushing. As you approach a fraction of C most of the "bad stuff" (energetic radiation, dust etc) comes from in front and the asteroid protects you. If you choose it well (one that has some water, some iron, some chondrites etc) you could also use it for reaction mass, water, food and air.
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    Ignore him Billvon, more ridiculous crap from lorbo.
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    I believe that the best shield we could possibly make would copy Earth's. Namely, an atmosphere/magnetic field combo.

    A starship with this would look like a mini planet Earth, minus any land, just a small ship in the center surrounding by a bunch of blue sky. The benefits of this are huge.

    1. You could breath outside your spaceship.

    2. Stuff would burn up in your huge atmospheric shield before it ever hit you, plus you could likely dodge at anyway (your at the center of the big ball).

    3. The atmospheric/magnetic shield would also shield you from radiation.
    Magnetic fields don't keep air in. It would dissipate rapidly. You could use gravitation, but then you'd need air that massed more than a small planet, and it would be very hard to move. You'd also have to heat it to keep it warm enough to breathe (indeed to keep it gaseous at all.)

    A simpler solution, often proposed, is to just find an asteroid and "hide behind it." Place your spacecraft behind it and start pushing. As you approach a fraction of C most of the "bad stuff" (energetic radiation, dust etc) comes from in front and the asteroid protects you. If you choose it well (one that has some water, some iron, some chondrites etc) you could also use it for reaction mass, water, food and air.
    A good solution, there is only one issue I can think of. Radiation will still hit the ship from the back and the sides. Radiation travels at light speed anyway. So unless you have some really thick walls between the engine area and the living area, people will still get cancer level doses of radiation.

    Your spaceship would have to be inside the asteroid, minus the rocket nozzle which would be on the outside.

    Only problem now is getting some brave astrounauts to go round up a few asteroids. May their brave souls be remembered for the work they did. Since they will undoubtedly die of cancer, being the first, and lacking the COMPLETE shielding an asteroid would provide. Unless of course they put a lotta water, concrete/lead between their living space and outer space, they will get cancer sooner or later.

    Doing that would take a while anyhow, since we have no way of bringing massive stuff to orbit already put together (too heavy). We would build it in space after getting the parts rocketed up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    you have, as you said, designed a space colony rather than a starship, which is the OP question.
    Point well taken. My "starship" is supposed to travel between stars, but over spans of time unreasonable to us. A glacier is not a skier. What sort of timescales make a starship? A decade? A hundred or a thousand years?

    Our units of measure must be based on human activity. So vacation would be the shortest. Next up would be assignment where an individual trained on Earth would apply those skills at destination. Beyond that, it's personal like the girl who dreamed of traveling to another star, wheezing over a hundred-candle cake in victorious orbit. Then families, like "Grandpa says the darnedest things about life on Earth". Then society that maintains the same identity and aspirations as those who sent them. Finally, running off the chart (I hope) we have humanity. Any further, and we're just some form of evolved life, we've become aliens.

    Pick one of the above and say why.


    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    A starship will have to be designed for minimal mass that has no essential function.
    For speed, yeah totally. In that case here's an "outside-box" trick we might employ: You know why we use multi-stage rockets right? It's a drag to haul mass you don't need at the moment. We can do this in reverse too. Start our journey hauling far less fuel mass than we'll ultimately consume. Pick up fuel along the way, that was (or will be) shot along the path. This is not just racecars and strategic bombers, but common motorcycle roadtrips, bird migrations, lots of proof it works. The starship fuel would be in packets, that burn part of their mass to reach the right velocity at the right place and time for interception. This is not the most efficient use of fuel, but it allows the starship to do 1G for the entire trip.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong View Post
    Pick up fuel along the way, that was (or will be) shot along the path. This is not just racecars and strategic bombers, but common motorcycle roadtrips, bird migrations, lots of proof it works. The starship fuel would be in packets,
    that burn part of their mass to reach the right velocity at the right place and time for interception. This is not the most efficient use of fuel, but it allows the starship to do 1G for the entire trip.
    That would take some juggling, surely?
    Probably use more fuel manoeuvring to pick up the extra than you would gain by actually collecting it.
    Or involve multi-stage refuelling packets that take more industrial effort than would be involved in just putting the fuel on board the ship in the first place.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong View Post
    Pick up fuel along the way, that was (or will be) shot along the path. This is not just racecars and strategic bombers, but common motorcycle roadtrips, bird migrations, lots of proof it works. The starship fuel would be in packets,
    that burn part of their mass to reach the right velocity at the right place and time for interception. This is not the most efficient use of fuel, but it allows the starship to do 1G for the entire trip.
    That would take some juggling, surely?
    Probably use more fuel manoeuvring to pick up the extra than you would gain by actually collecting it.
    Or involve multi-stage refuelling packets that take more industrial effort than would be involved in just putting the fuel on board the ship in the first place.
    Juggling, yes you mean calculating a stream of interceptions, few minds can do the physics but it's surely doable, since you can pull alongside another car on the highway.

    Maneuvering, the starship wouldn't do any maneuvers. The fuel would dock under its own power... though under starship control surely. If we're doing 1G that's artificial gravity and it shouldn't let up for a moment.

    More industrial effort, yeah true. But booster rockets are throw-away fuel packets and we're spending them. I don't think you'd add years to the journey to save on fuel. Most people rank fast travel a top priority.

    But honestly I haven't a clue how worthwhile this scheme is. Any physicist care to estimate?
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  86. #85  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong View Post
    but it's surely doable, since you can pull alongside another car on the highway.
    But that's the difference - and the problem.
    Cars can turn and manoeuvre without using fuel (except for that required to maintain forward motion). Spaceships (or fuel packets), on the other hand, use fuel to adjust position, and the faster they're going the more fuel is required to deflect the course (in any reasonable amount of time).
    I'm not saying it couldn't be done, but, offhand I'd be more inclined to suggest "drop tanks" (and maybe booster rocket engines). Carry as much fuel as possible from the start, and let go of tanks as they're emptied - that way you're at least reducing on-board mass the further you travel.
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    The advantage for fuel packets would be that they can be initially accelerated much faster than 4g's, because they have no human occupants. That includes the possibility of gravitationally sling shotting them off of Jupiter, Saturn, and/or Uranus. Or if we built a giant ion hurler and hurled lots of ions at the fuel packet from the Moon or something to get it started.

    The problem is aiming them. At such a long distance, they could end up very far from the (human occupied) space ship's destination. As Dywyddyr pointed out, course corrections would be costly.

    This leads to a question: where is the (human occupied) space ship heading? Do we have a point of reference to aim at? Like say a particular star?
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  88. #87  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    The advantage for fuel packets would be that they can be initially accelerated much faster than 4g's
    But you also run into other problems: are they powered themselves? In which case how do they differ from the orginal ship? If they're not powered then they have to launched so that their velocity will match that of the ship at the pick-up point. Oops, how do you get matching velocities in that case? One (the fuel packet) is eesntially coasting at a given speed from launch and the other (the ship) is constantly accelerating - and it set off first.
    Provides an extremely narrow window of opportunity when velocities match sufficiently well to dock together...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    Delta Flyer Vulcan Dkyr class [] It's hard not to like this Vulcan ship.

    The Vulcans loved this ship enough to put a ring on it?
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    So if there were many fuel packets, we'd be constantly having to match velocity and location again and again. I can see quite a lot of potential for that to go wrong. Miss just one fuel packet docking and maybe the whole project fails.

    I could see some gain in having two space ships. One manned, the other unmanned. The unmanned one gets accelerated a lot faster than 1g during the initial launch stage, by using the aforementioned methods (hurling ions at it, and gravity slingshots), and then once it gets too far away to hit it with ions anymore, and starts self accelerating it just accelerates slower than 1g for a while in order to allow the (human occupied) space ship to catch up.

    Then we're only worried about one docking event. But that plan also only changes things a little bit.
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  91. #90  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    The advantage for fuel packets would be that they can be initially accelerated much faster than 4g's
    But you also run into other problems: are they powered themselves? In which case how do they differ from the orginal ship?
    They must burn fuel at least to dock. I assume they'd expend a significant portion of their mass getting to the rendezvous, even with some kind of assistance exiting the solar system. A packet could correct its course often enough that wild shots aren't an issue. But again, this isn't about fuel-efficiency - it's just to shorten the starship's travel time.

    How they differ. Well the starship wouldn't need a fixed fuel container. The fuel packets wouldn't need the starship stuff - just an engine on a can.

    Now I'm wondering if it might be better so: Starship with no fuel and no engine! Just some tethers or struts to hook up with each thruster stage. While there are more chances to fail, the failure mode is infinitely better: they could wait for the next stage if one didn't make it or failed during use. A single fixed engine on a starship must not fail ever. It might be a nice gesture to send some extra thrusters into orbit around the destination, so they have the option of returning.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    we'd be constantly having to match velocity and location again and again. I can see quite a lot of potential for that to go wrong
    Well it's been done to death all around the solar system so nobody high-fives anymore when a probe circles a Jovian moon at just the right velocity at just the right time. A system failure is more likely.
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  92. #91  
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    The idea of fuel packets carries the same problem that solar sails, and ground lasers carry. It would be useful in the early stages, but hopeless after a sizeable velocity has been reached. I know of no way you can accelerate fuel packets to a speed of a high fraction of light speed, unless they are full sized starships themselves. If we have to build a starship to carry fuel, then why not just build a starship to carry people?

    On radiation.
    In theory, surrounding a starship with a suitable magnetic field will deflect charged particles and so protect from cosmic rays. This should be possible with future technology.

    A second option is to shield the starship with a layer of something that has a lot of hydrogen (cement will not do it). Water ice that is 3 metres thick would do it, but that means a lot of mass to be carried. That is still possible if the starship is sufficiently big that the extra mass is not much proportionally.

    A third option is to raise our astronauts from genetically modified babies, that are radiation resistant. This can, in theory, be done by inserting genes for DNA repair, that are much more efficient than the ones we already have. Future technology?

    The destination.
    The obvious first destination would be Alpha Centauri, which is the closest star system outside of our own solar system. 4.3 light years. Realistically, this will be many decades away, even with massively improved technology. This is why (assuming no breakthroughs in things like suspended animation), we will need very large starships able to carry lots of people and support them for very long periods of time.

    By the time such starships are possible, we will have highly sophisticated robotics. This means that robot probes can explore all the nearer star systems before humans leave home. Not only will we know in advance what to expect, but those robots can build habitats for humans well before those humans arrive.

    On accelerating at 1G.
    If that were technically possible over such distances ( it isn't), the starship would reach a whisker short of light speed in about one year. It would then coast at that speed for over 3 years to Alpha Centauri , before decelerating at 1G for a year to become stationary with respect to its destination. So most of the voyage would be under zero gravity. Even more if the destination were further afield. This means that rotation for gravity is still needed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    A third option is to raise our astronauts from genetically modified babies, that are radiation resistant. This can, in theory, be done by inserting genes for DNA repair, that are much more efficient than the ones we already have. Future technology?
    Funny you mention this idea. I was making a fictional work where the aliens are uniquely suited for space travel even though they look humanoid.

    Immune to cosmic radiation

    Can heal damaged body parts with electrical shock (they can still get burned by electricity, so caution is needed).

    Nearly immortal: Don't degenerate into old age pass their 20's. But they do go into a sleep like coma every 100 years that requires a 100 year nap. They usually do it in cocoons on or brought from the home world.
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  94. #93  
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    There is a bacterium, Deinococcus radiodurans, which thrives inside the cooling water of nuclear reactors, surviving massive doses of radioactivity. Their secret is rapid repair of DNA by superior genes for such repair. Obviously this is not possible right now, but I see no reason why, with a superior genetic technology, we should not be able to genetically modify humans to have a much better DNA repair mechanism, and hence survive much higher levels of radiation than we can today. It would probably also render them much less susceptible to cancer.
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  95. #94 Asteroids 
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    I predict our mode of transportation through the vastness of space will be in Asteroids that we burrow into. Impacts are a huge issue in traditional spacecraft, problem solved on an Asteroid. It will be easier to grow food and build tools on an Asteroid. We will travel around like hermit crabs on spacecraft that looks more like giant potatoes than traditional spacecraft.
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  96. #95  
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    What is the trick to upload pics????
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  97. #96  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    fuel packets ... would be useful in the early stages, but hopeless after a sizeable velocity has been reached.
    That's not much of an argument against, unless it suggests launches from the ground shouldn't bother with a primary booster stage. So you think fuel/thrust staging is useful overall?
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    The destination.
    The obvious first destination would be Alpha Centauri, which is the closest star system outside of our own solar system.
    That was most obvious first pick, while we doubted the existence of planets and assumed stars we visit would have none (like 20 years ago). But remember the ideal goal is a planet not a star. And now we're finding planets at surprising frequency. The Alpha Centauri system is appearing less tempting, because three stars in proximity may be a poor venue for the sorts of planets we'd like to find (and now have cause to expect). Other stars could be more fruitful. But if you're in a hurry to visit any star, then yeah that's still the place to go. We're like blindly choosing between Iceland, Greenland, or that other Land further away.
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    On accelerating at 1G.
    If that were technically possible over such distances ( it isn't), the starship would reach a whisker short of light speed in about one year. It would then coast at that speed for over 3 years to Alpha Centauri , before decelerating at 1G for a year to become stationary with respect to its destination. So most of the voyage would be under zero gravity. Even more if the destination were further afield. This means that rotation for gravity is still needed.
    Thanks, that's an important consideration. For crew's sake we want 1G and a "floor" that persists throughout the mission. As demonstrated by ISS extended living in space inevitably accumulates a lot of clutter and unplanned modifications. Removing, applying, or shifting gravity with such an established environment would be ridiculously disruptive and risk all sorts of accidents.

    A Kojax Bola looks like the perfect solution. It can hang from the thruster(s) during acceleration. Then as acceleration eases off it can spin up to whatever spread maintains a consistent 1G. Bonus, as the mission begins it can already be spinning, and so outfitted internally as in Earth gravity.
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    To Pong

    Re fuel packages.

    To pick up a fuel package and make use of it, the starship has to be travelling just a tiny bit faster than the fuel package. Too slow and it will not catch it. Too fast, and the relative velocity will make pick up impossible. To accelerate a fuel package to a speed that fits could be done using a rail gun or similar device, but it would not reach anything like interstellar speeds. So it would be useful only in the initial stages of a journey, when the starship is going quite slow. The only methods suitable for accelerating to a high fraction of light speed are advanced ion drives, or the Orion drive. To pick up a fuel package at interstellar speeds would require the fuel package to be accelerated using those methods. What you will be doing, in effect, is rendezvous with another starship to pass fuel over. Do you then abandon the second starship because it no longer has the fuel to return home? An expensive option.

    On Alpha Centauri as a destination.
    You may not be aware of this, but one giant planet has been found in this star system. We cannot yet detect Earth size worlds there, but I bet they exist. Long before a human carrying expedition is sent, we will know for sure.
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    @Skeptic.

    Fuel packages. In post #90 I changed the proposal to crewed "starship" with neither fuel nor engine. Unmanned fuel/engine vehicles (let's call them "stages") would intercept the starship, and tow it until spent. Guidance would be autonomous, but starship controlled for docking. You may think of these thrust stages as starships in their own right, but know they'd have no crew and no frills. Just a guidance system to intercept the crew vessel.

    I'm thinking it safest to have the additional stages ahead of the ...crew vessel... and even some extra orbiting the destination for the return trip.


    Alpha Centauri as a destination. I thought there was just a molten Mercury-like planet, but if there's a gas giant I'm in. Maybe large moons there!
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  100. #99  
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    To Pong

    My view is that fuel packages will not be needed. I am not an expert here, and my information comes from an article I read over a decade back by NASA scientists, in which they calculated that an advanced ion drive, carrying its own fuel, would permit a starship to accelerate to at least one tenth of light speed, and then decelerate again. This approach cuts out enormous complication.

    Intercepting fuel packages would be so difficult. For example, if a fuel package was intercepted at a distance of one light year from Earth, incredible precision would be needed in navigaton, just to find it, even with a radio beacon to home in on. It would also be a real problem once your starship was decelerating. Remember that just as much thrust is needed to slow down at the end of the voyage, as to accelerate at the beginning.

    PS
    Just thinking a bit more about it.
    If a fuel package is to be attached to a starship and accelerated ahead, then why not make it part of the same starship? It is, effectively the same thing. You accelerate a fuel package ahead of our main starship, or you attach it and accelerate the two together. So build it into the main starship, rather than accelerating it separately. Duh!
    Last edited by skeptic; January 1st, 2014 at 12:53 PM.
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    I'd be using linked pairs of ships, shape not really an issue, connected by tensile cables, rotating around each other the way a bola does (a hunting weapon with weights at the end of cords, flung to entangle an animals legs) (edit - oops, didn't read every comment and Kojax beat me to this).

    You would get centrifugal 'gravity' without having to build with large diameter with it's engineering constraints or the inner ear problems that come with pseudo gravity spin with insufficient diameter and too rapid rotation. You get redundancy in duplicate as well. Radar/scanning ahead and around probably should be a fleet of separate robotic probes that can be far enough ahead for sufficient warning for leisurely evasive measures.
    Last edited by Ken Fabos; January 1st, 2014 at 03:14 PM.
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