Charles Stross on the feasibility of Starships

Last year a read a couple of books by the accomplished science fiction writer Charles Stross. If you haven’t read anything by him I suggest that you do. On his blog he has a new post on the feasibility of starships entitled “The myth of the starship”.

“Actually, I tell a lie. There are five starships that we know of; Pioneer 10,Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, Voyager 2, and New Horizons. But they’re a far cry from the gleaming interstellar transports of science fiction. New Horizons is the most recent of them. Launched in late 2006, it is the fastest human-launched vehicle so far. It raced past Lunar orbit within nine hours of take-off: nevertheless, it will take around 10 years to reach Pluto (its proximate target — for a three-hour flyby). It weighs around 478 Kg, and is currently travelling outwards from the sun at around 17km/sec — about fifty times as fast as a rifle bullet.

We are 4.37 light years, or 140 million light-seconds, from Alpha Centauri, give or take. One light second is 300,000 km; it takes New Horizons about five hours to travel one light second. So: in very roughly 30 million days, or on the order of 300,000 years (if it was going in the right direction, which it isn’t), New Horizons could reach Alpha Centauri.

And that’s the best we’ve done to date, admittedly without really trying …” -Charles Stross at Charlie’s Diary

read the entire article here

This entry was posted in Daily Journals. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Charles Stross on the feasibility of Starships

  1. R2K says:

    I LOVE gun research like this, but I remain very skeptical of them ever launching much into space. The things we launch to space are just too fragile, they fold, have working parts, and by nature need to have high mass fractions and gossamer parts.

    A very long gun (several KM) does make sense, like a mass driver on the moon, but guns like SHARP are only good for launching things like metal or plastic slugs. And even still, orbital velocity in the atmosphere is a really dangerous condition. Even if you get 15KM/Sec from a gun, you would have a hard time retaining enough of that to use for orbit. So that means rocket stages anyway, which begs the question why not just use larger rocket stages as normal, or air launch smaller rocket stages?

    In other words, more gun research please, but dont expect this to change LEO costs. Better rockets are probably still our only hope. (Bigger dumb rockets, or maybe smaller cheaper rockets like the Falcon.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s