Interstellar Spacecrafts Future | Space Technology

Interstellar Spacecrafts Future

In science fiction, spacecraft explore every inch of our universe. Starships travel at warp speed across the Milky Way. Massive space stations drift through the cosmos, harboring ships and spaceplanes from strange planets, orbiting different suns. Science fiction paints a pretty picture of interstellar transportation, but will humans ever explore the universe beyond our solar system? For the last five decades, unmanned cosmic probes have inched closer to exploring the uncharted regions of our galaxy.

In 1973, the British Interplanetary Society designed a theoretical spacecraft to fly outside of our solar system. It was a fusion nuclear pulse rocket, propelled by thermonuclear bombs detonated inside a small magnetic field. In theory, these explosions would generate enough force to launch their spacecraft at speeds up to 18,000 miles per second. That’s over 510 times faster than the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet aircraft ever built. At breakneck speeds, Project Daedalus would shoot past Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, break free from the Sun’s magnetic field and perform a one-shot fly-by of Barnard’s Star, about six light-years or 35 trillion miles from Earth. Project Daedalus ended in 1978 without a working prototype; but the project was a crucial experiment, which proved interstellar travel was not only possible but on the horizon. Since Project Daedalus, several revolutionary spacecraft have made the perilous journey to the outer boundary of our solar system, but the first was actually unplanned.

In 1972, preceding Project Daedalus started, Pioneer 10 was planned and sent off by NASA to fly by the biggest planet in our planetary group, the gas monster Jupiter. Pioneer 10 was the first man-made object to fly by Jupiter and its icy moons, but its journey was far from finished. In the wake of concentrating on Jupiter, Pioneer passed the vitally space rock belt and the bantam planet, Pluto. Pioneer 10 discovered asteroids, comets, and icy bodies at the outer limit of our solar system, where it studied solar winds and provided NASA with crucial information for future interplanetary missions. While Pioneer 10's science mission authoritatively finished in 1997, it stays on the edges of our nearby planet group, billions of miles from Earth, going about as a messenger for our species. The Pioneer 10 conveys a gold-anodized aluminum plaque, depicting humankind and the area of Earth for any lifeforms that might find our test going through space. If left undisturbed, Pioneer 10 is aiming for the red star Aldebaran, a journey lasting approximately 2 million years.

In 1973, a sister spaceship, the Pioneer 11, followed its predecessor on the long journey to interstellar space. Trailblazer 11, conveying a second brilliant plaque, finished its science mission in 1995. Today, Pioneer 11 is another ghost ship drifting through our galaxy. Unfortunately, contact with both Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 has been lost.

In the 1970s, NASA launched two more spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, both designed to fly to the outer limit of our heliosphere. The heliosphere is a “bubble” around our solar system at the edge of the sun’s magnetic field, which commonly defines the boundary between stellar and interstellar space. While heading to the edge of the heliosphere, Voyager 1 captured the surfaces of our gas monsters. It discovered active volcanoes on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, and closely examined the Rings of Saturn. Similarly, Voyager 2 researched Uranus and Neptune, becoming the first spacecraft to directly observe either of these distant planets. In 2012, forty years after its departure from Earth, Voyager 1 surpassed the heliosphere and entered the interstellar territory. Voyager 2 followed a simple six years after the fact. Like Pioneer 10 and 11, both Voyager probes are now floating away from our solar system, traveling deeper into interstellar space. Years after the Pioneer and Voyager missions, NASA initiated Project Longshot, which designed a theoretical spacecraft intended to enter the orbit of Alpha Centauri B, a star similar in mass and diameter to our Sun. Alpha Centauri B is situated in a triple star framework over 4.3 light-years from Earth. It would have taken their specialty north of 100 years to cross this inconceivable distance and four additional years for information to arrive on our planet. Another near-interstellar ship, designed by NASA’s New Horizons, launched in 2006 and surpassed Pluto in 2015.

Four years later, it arrived in the Kuiper Belt to examine ancient, miniature worlds made of rock and ice. Its examination provided NASA with a basic look into the arrangement of youthful nearby planet groups. By 2043, New Horizons may enter interstellar space, where it will conduct a detailed study of space outside the heliosphere. The next interstellar spacecraft will not launch until at least the 2030s. NASA plans to slingshot a 1700-pound, nuclear-powered spacecraft around Jupiter and again around the Sun to propel this probe out of our solar system. The spacecraft is called Interstellar Probe, and it will travel 92 billion miles in just seven years. That is 79 billion miles farther than Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 in a small part of the time. Another project, called Breakthrough Starshot, proposed a fly-by of an exoplanet called Proxima Centauri B, over 4.2 light-years from Earth. Project Starshot guessed an ultralight, verification of-idea rocket named Star Chip. Star Chip features a light-powered propulsion system that reaches speeds up to 37,000 miles per second. Though Star Chip remains conceptual, its innovative propulsion system may lay the foundation for interstellar travel in the next century. Another creative propulsion system is the EmDrive, also known as the Impossible Drive.

The EmDrive is a hypothetical engine that utilizations reflected microwaves to make tremendous measures of push without utilizing a force like fuel; in this way abusing a few laws of material science, including the conservation of momentum. There is no working design for the EmDrive, but NASA has built and experimented with several prototypes. So far, the Impossible Drive has lived up to its name. The EmDrive may be physically impossible, so aerospace engineers have theorized another propulsion system, replacing nuclear reactors with antimatter thrusters. According to NASA, antimatter is the most powerful source of fuel known to humanity. For comparison, a nuclear spaceflight to Mars would consume tons upon tons of chemical fuel. The same journey, aboard an antimatter spacecraft, would require only tens of milligrams of antimatter.

Unfortunately, antimatter is rare, unstable, and incredibly expensive. This brings us to a staple of science fiction, which has become synonymous with interstellar spacecraft over the years: will spaceships ever warp through our galaxy at the speed of light? There aren’t any warping starships on the horizon, but one NASA scientist has designed a warp drive on a theoretical craft called the IXS Enterprise. Named and modeled after the famous fictional starship, the IXS Enterprise uses hypothetical particles called the exotic matter to travel faster than the speed of light—a feat no human-made spacecraft has ever accomplished. In the last 50 years, we have explored and studied the outer boundary of our solar system, breaking through the heliosphere into interstellar space. Now, leaders in the field have set their sights on star systems and exoplanets trillions of miles from Earth. We may not be able to warp across the Milky Way anytime soon; but, over time, as we experiment, innovate, and explore, our spacecraft may travel out of our solar system and beyond.


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