Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Railroad to the Stars: Riding the Lightways
We used and still use the oceans to sail ships to The New World, and everywhere else.
We used railroads to get our Steam Locomotives and later Electric Locomotives from city to city and all points in between. Still do.
We use asphalt to do the same for Tractor-trailers, to drive to and from work, and to visit Grandma on the weekend as all good young parents should.
So who the heck are we to think we won't have to have another media like oceans, railroad tracks, and smooth asphalt, that is to say the seas, the rails, and the highways, to do the same when it comes to getting to the stars?
The news is good. We know how to do it. Or at least I know, and I know I'm not the first with this idea, for I have done the research. So it's not just me.
I'm just writing to publicize; to get the word out that the Engineering is a done deal. All that remains is first agreement, then commitment from the PTB, then the energy, which means money. But if you have commitment, the money then energy will flow. Been my experience.
We already know, and people are planning, the next media of transportation:
We will do it with light. Good old photons.
The way to build it, and this is my idea but I'm probably not the first, is to have a series of stationary Light Stations strung between Sol System and Tau Ceti or Procyon.
The Light Stations would beam laser light of a specific magnitude and frequency at "starships" riding the "lightways." Being the "locomotives" of this system, the starships would be built and automated to receive the laser "boost" which would free them from having to carry on-board fuel which means extra mass.
Unless of course, some "genius" figures out how to extract energy from the vacuum first. Good luck on that one. Even a prognosticator like me won't go there.
There are several resources I used in coming up with this idea, but before I give them ...
The essential point is to design and build these lightway stations first, then launch them to their permanent (relative to two star systems) spacial positions. They will of course be refurbished on a regular basis of families and material, but that's not the essential first point. It will however make the first future young enterprising person to act on such a repeat business a very wealthy person.
We can do this. We have a lot of humans who want to work but can't today due to the lack of jobs. We can give them jobs. We also have too many freshly minted PhD's in Physics and Mathematics who are struggling to find permanent positions in their fields, whose knowledge and skills can be fruitfully applied to making this so.
So let's make it so.
(With apologies to Jean-Luc)
World's 2nd biggest Space Nut after the professional Astronomer Phil Plait who writes the most excellent (Garth said) weblog: Bad Astronomy. I'll never be better than No. 2 because nobody can top Phil.
Dec. 15, 2010
P.S. Things must be done in stages with steps, therefore here is my proposal No. 1: Start with experiments in cislunar space, that is the space between Earth and the Moon. Make the project Apollo-like, which means hitting up on Governments and the Globals (I know, kissy-assy time, I hate it too). Start with unmanneds, then dogs, chimps, and finally people, otherwise known as "Spam in the can." Or forget the dogs and chimps, sacrifice some lab-grown bacteria instead. PETA will be pleased. After that, build a lightway to the moon, and points outward after that. A circular lightway in orbit around the Earth after testing and proof will most likely be the first step. Well whatever the first step, let's get steppin'! Ciao.
Wikipedia entry on Interstellar travel. Ignore the "Urgent Appeal of Wikipedia (Co-)Founder Jimmy Wales." He just wants us to send him money or he's threatening to charge us for access to Wikipedia. Yeah, screw that, I'll just go back to the Encyclopedia Britannica. At least those entries have to be peer-acceptable. No lies. And definitely no money from me. They still have libraries, right?
Wikipedia entry on Beam-powered propulsion. Again with the Jimmy Wales, sheesh.
Fine-tuning The Interstellar Lightsail
About the weblog: Centauri Dreams :
Tracking Research into Deep Space Exploration
Alpha Centauri and other nearby stars seem impossible destinations not just for manned missions but even for robotic probes like Cassini or Galileo. Nonetheless, serious work on propulsion, communications, long-life electronics and spacecraft autonomy continues at NASA, ESA and many other venues, some in academia, some in private industry. The goal of reaching the stars is a distant one and the work remains low-key, but fascinating ideas continue to emerge. This site will track current research. I’ll also throw in the occasional musing about the literary and cultural implications of interstellar flight. Ultimately, the challenge may be as much philosophical as technological: to reassert the value of the long haul in a time of jittery short-term thinking.