Interstellar Travel without 'Magic'

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G. Woodcock (2013), JBIS, 66, pp.334-340

Refcode: 2013.66.334
Keywords: Interstellar travel, fusion, antimatter, worldships

The possibility of interstellar space travel has become a popular subject. Distances of light years are an entirely new realm for human space travel. New means of propulsion are needed. Speculation about propulsion has included "magic", space warps, faster-than-light travel, known physics such as antimatter for which no practical implementation is known and also physics for which current research offers at least a hint of implementation, i.e. fusion. Performance estimates are presented for the latter and used to create vehicle concepts. Fusion propulsion will mean travel times of hundreds of years, so we adopt the "space colony" concepts of O'Neill as a ship design that could support a small civilization indefinitely; this provides the technical means. Economic reasoning is presented, arguing that development and production of "space colony" habitats for relief of Earth's population, with addition of fusion engines, will lead to vessels that can go interstellar. Scenarios are presented and a speculative estimate of a timetable is given.


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