Starship

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A starship, starcraft, or interstellar spacecraft is a theoretical spacecraft designed for traveling between planetary systems.[1]

The term is mostly found in science fiction. Reference to a "star-ship" appears as early as 1882 in Oahspe: A New Bible.[2]

While NASA's Voyager and Pioneer probes have traveled into local interstellar space, the purpose of these uncrewed craft was specifically interplanetary, and they are not predicted to reach another star system (although Voyager 1 will travel to within 1.7 light years of Gliese 445 in approximately 40,000 years).[3] Several preliminary designs for starships have been undertaken through exploratory engineering, using feasibility studies with modern technology or technology thought likely to be available in the near future.

In April 2016, scientists announced Breakthrough Starshot, a Breakthrough Initiatives program, to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of small centimeter-sized light sail spacecraft named StarChip,[4] capable of making the journey to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system, at speeds of 20%[5][6] and 15%[7] of the speed of light, taking between 20 and 30 years to reach the star system, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival.

Research

Artist's conception of British Interplanetary Society's Project Daedalus (1978), a fusion powered interstellar probe

To travel between stars in a reasonable time using rocket-like technology requires very high effective exhaust velocity jet and enormous energy to power this, such as might be provided by fusion power or antimatter.

There are very few scientific studies that investigate the issues in building a starship. Some examples of this include:

The Bussard ramjet is an idea to use nuclear fusion of interstellar gas to provide propulsion.

Examined in an October 1973 issue of Analog, the Enzmann Starship proposed using a 12,000-ton ball of frozen deuterium to power pulse propulsion units. Twice as long as the Empire State Building and assembled in-orbit, the proposed spacecraft would be part of a larger project preceded by interstellar probes and telescopic observation of target star systems.

The NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program (1996–2002) was a professional scientific study examining advanced spacecraft propulsion systems.

Fictional types

A common science-fiction device is to posit a faster-than-light propulsion system (such as warp drive) or travel through hyperspace, although some posit starships as outfitted for centuries-long journeys of slower-than-light travel. Other designs posit a way to boost the ship to near-lightspeed, allowing relatively "quick" travel (i.e. decades, not centuries) to nearer stars. This results in a general categorization[according to whom?] of the kinds of starships:[citation needed]

  • Sleeper, which put their passengers into stasis during a long trip. This includes cryonics-based systems that freeze passengers for the duration of the journey.
  • Generation, in which the destination would be reached by descendants of the original passengers.
  • Relativistic, taking advantage of time dilation at close-to-light-speeds, so long trips will seem much shorter (but still take the same amount of time for outside observers).
  • Faster-than-light (FTL), which can move between places very quickly (using inter-dimensional shortcuts or wormholes).

Theoretical possibilities

The Alcubierre drive is a speculative warp drive conjectured by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre in a 1994 paper which has not been peer-reviewed.[8] The paper suggests that space itself could be topographically warped to create a local region of spacetime wherein the region ahead of the "warp bubble" is compressed, allowed to resume normalcy within the bubble, and then rapidly expanded behind the bubble creating an effect that results in apparent FTL travel, all in a manner consistent with the Einstein field equations of general relativity and without the introduction of wormholes.[9] However, the actual construction of such a drive would face other serious theoretical difficulties.

Fictional examples

There are widely known vessels in various science fiction franchises. The most prominent cultural use and one of the earliest common uses of the term starship was in Star Trek: The Original Series.

See also

References

  1. ^ Erik Sofge (20 September 2012). "What Would a Actually Look Like?". Popularmechanics. Archived from the original on 13 July 2001. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Oahspe - Index". gailallen.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-11-30.; "Oahspe - Book of Divinity: Chapter XVI". gailallen.com. Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  3. ^ "Voyager 1 Has Date with a Star in 40,000 Years". Space.com. Archived from the original on 2015-07-24. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  4. ^ Gilster, Paul (12 April 2016). "Breakthrough Starshot: Mission to Alpha Centauri". Centauri Dreams. Archived from the original on 15 April 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  5. ^ Overbye, Dennis (12 April 2016). "A Visionary Project Aims for Alpha Centauri, a Star 4.37 Light-Years Away". New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  6. ^ Stone, Maddie (12 April 2016). "Stephen Hawking and a Russian Billionaire Want to Build an Interstellar Starship". Gizmodo. Archived from the original on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  7. ^ Staff (12 April 2016). "Breakthrough Starshot". Breakthrough Initiatives. Archived from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  8. ^ Alcubierre, Miguel (1994). "The warp drive: hyper-fast travel within general relativity". Classical and Quantum Gravity. Institute of Physics. 11 (5). (Letter to the Editor)
  9. ^ Alcubierre, Miguel (5 September 2000). "The warp drive: hyper-fast travel within general relativity". Arxiv. doi:10.1088/0264-9381/11/5/001. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External links

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