Can starships survive the journey?

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captdude

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The following link will take you to the full article that has been partially cut & pasted below.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39781225/ns/technology_and_science-discoverycom

Can starships survive the journey?
By beginning of next century, plans will be made to see alien life forms up close


By Ray Villard
Discovery Channel
The search for life on planets orbiting other stars will dominate astronomy for the remainder of this century (unless an incredible space phenomenon that was utterly unimagined pops up).

By the beginning of the next century scientists will be planning on how to travel to other worlds to see alien life forms up close. This will at last provide incontrovertible evidence for astrobiology on a muticellular level.

By 2110 we will have mapped the surfaces of the nearest exoplanets to see oceans, storms, continents, and volcanoes. There will be photometric and spectroscopic evidence for forests and savannahs. We will have also catalog numerous satellite companions.

Once convinced a planet is inhabited (which may not satisfy all scientific skeptics), there will be endless wonder and speculation about the type of creatures that are living there. Imagine beholding the interworking of an entire alien biosphere.
 
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WannabeRocketScientist

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Depends on how fast it is travelling.

If you were to go, say, 1/10th the speed of light, you would inevitably slam into something, destroying your starship. This also doesn't take into account other factors you could run into, like irradiating your ship.


If it were to travel as fast as say, the New Horizons probe, the scientists that launched it would never see it reach its target. In fact, it would most likely take so long future generations would forget about it.


Thus, you run into the conundrum on how interstellar space travel will work. Maybe one day someone will figure out wormholes or how to bend space...
 
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BenS1985

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I don't see how you'd invariably slam into an object if you were going 0.1c. Yes, it'd be catastrophic if you hit anything, but its certainly avoidable. At 0.1c, you should be able to divert your route if an object was ahead of you. With the increases in computing power over the next 100 years, you'd think that we'd have the processor power to track, analyze, and divert a spacecraft away from an object in a fraction of a second, thus avoiding any sort of debris in space.
 
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neilsox

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It does take a lot of energy to change the direction of your space craft by even one second of arc. One second of arc may not be sufficient to change a likely hit to a likely miss, especially for one gram projectiles which likely can not be detected even one millisecond = 30 kilometers at one tenth c ahead. Can someone calculate the g of one second of arc in one millisecond at 1/10 th c? Neil
 
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SpacexULA

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BenS1985":h836mnco said:
I don't see how you'd invariably slam into an object if you were going 0.1c. Yes, it'd be catastrophic if you hit anything, but its certainly avoidable. At 0.1c, you should be able to divert your route if an object was ahead of you. With the increases in computing power over the next 100 years, you'd think that we'd have the processor power to track, analyze, and divert a spacecraft away from an object in a fraction of a second, thus avoiding any sort of debris in space.
It's not that, its the fact that when you are traveling at 29 Million Meters a second, and you hit a piece of iron the size of a pea going 29 Million Meters per second the opposing direction, the energy dispersed would be 0.0283495231*(1.2*10^8) = 3 401 942.77 joules or about the force of 1kg of TNT. At 1/10 of the speed of light your not going to be able to find every single object smaller than a baseball, partially because you would have to worry about such a huge distance in every direction.
 
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Yuri_Armstrong

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So the best option would be some sort of super shield mounted on the front of the ship to protect it from such impacts. Maybe something that can even capture the matter and use it for the ship's energy.
 
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Space_pioneer

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You'll need a very large and protective dust shield to protect the ship from the flying little peices of dust as it's travelling at immense speeds. If not, by the time you get out of the oort cloud, your ship will look like swiss cheese.
 
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SteveCNC

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Perhaps a large tube filled with ice sticking out in front of the ship maybe 1000 meters long and same diameter or possibly larger as the ship so any impacts are absorbed and the radiation is also absorbed by the ice , anything else would not be a direct impact so would likely bounce off a normally protected hull .

I suppose if you had a kevlar mesh every few mm down the tube and filled it originally with liquid water is would make a very strong column and when the water freezes impacts will shatter the crystal which will spread the energy over a large area and it should not erode too fast .
 
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SpacexULA

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The the other issue is with every ounce of shield you put in front, you increase the mass of the ship, and for it to be large enough, it's going to likely outmass your vehicle several fold. Also you can't use water, because at those levels of impacts you would need 100s of meters of water to stop the 1st impacts. We are talking over 100 years of impacts. remember mor mass means WAY more energy to accelerate.


I think with current technology a graphene multi layered shield is the closest to reality, but considering graphene was not a known substance 10 years ago, hopefully we get more unobtainable between now and when this is a real issue.

Personally I have always thought the idea of having a small fleet of unmanned vehicles ahead of you was the best idea, so instead of 1 large shield have 2-300 smaller unmanned shield ships in front of you, each one being little more than a shield and an engine. In real time if 1 get's hit the rest of the small fleet could fall back quite quickly to a space between the main ship the ship that had an impact to defect any other debris. It would allow a dynamic shield, with very little extra fuel, and be completely upgradeable during flight.
 
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Yuri_Armstrong

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But like you said it will be quite a long trip. I'm not sure if even 300 would be enough. It may end up being some combination of a shield on the main ship, with the unmanned vehicle fleet ahead and perhaps with some lasers attached to incinerate any dangerous debris before it can hit anything.
 
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Valcan

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First off our desendents should have technology far more advanced than we have or even expect to build ships with. But here are a few things.

Research is already being done to create a EM field much like a planet creates that will shield the ship from some of the smaller particles and from radiation. Another layer of protection is to put all the reaction mass upfront in a fat pancake shape or some such (Think of a set of barbells) design. This would absorb the radiation streaming in and provide more protection.

There is also technology being examined to charge the surface of say a tank and use that as armor. Basically a missile or round is detected coming in the area is charged up higher to increase its em field which would allow it to absorb the force of the impact and deflect it.

Again ALL of this will probably change or be common place....IF humanity gets its head out of its but and goes to the stars in ever increasing numbers. For instance a shield system would be a must for any ship exploring around jupiter.
 
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neutrino78x

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Some have theorized that a magnetic gas bubble could protect a starship from debris at high speeds. Presumably, small specks of dust and other material would simply bounce off such a bubble.

See this Science Daily article, for example. :)

The original Stanford Torus study (a NASA sponsored study at the world renowned Stanford University here in Silicon Valley) discounted electric/magnetic shielding, and instead proposes that the living areas of the space station/ship should be surrounded by 6 feet (2 m) of asteroid/lunar material, enclosed by an aluminum shell. On that link, you want to click Table of Contents, and under Chapter 4, it says Shielding. :)

This site gives a little more detail on the lunar material shield concept. :)

--Brian
 
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SpacexULA

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Yuri_Armstrong":27kalj7c said:
But like you said it will be quite a long trip. I'm not sure if even 300 would be enough. It may end up being some combination of a shield on the main ship, with the unmanned vehicle fleet ahead and perhaps with some lasers attached to incinerate any dangerous debris before it can hit anything.
I agree, having unmanned ships in front would not negate the need for one on the main ship, but it would reduce the damage over the years to the main impact shield on the front, and would allow for it to be smaller.

Those "shield ships" could serve a dual purpose also, when not needed you just have them ahead of the main vehicle to act as a shield, but when your vesicle is coming close to a significant mass that is traveling close to, or along side the ship, you could send one of the shield ships over to grab the mass and bring it to the ship. From what I have read very few asteroids are dry, A ship could always use more water and building material, especially carbon.
 
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