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  • Topic: Spacecraft propulsion, Interstellar travel, Beam-powered propulsion
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  • Published : April 22, 2013
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Brian MulderAstronomy 248
Term Paper

Interstellar Space Travel: What does it hold for the future?
Is space travel possible? This seems to be the question that everyone is wondering. If you take a look at the media it’s been all over the place. All sorts of movies depict space travel as easy as riding a bike. All you have to do is hop in your space cruiser, kick it in to hyper drive and boom! You are now visiting your friends on the other side of the galaxy, only a few ten thousand light-years away. If space travel is in fact that easy in the future (even though it won’t be, not for a long, long time anyways), I believe that we may be asking the wrong question. We can say that space travel will be possible, and it is possible at the moment, but only to an extent. The real question should be, what are we looking for in the universe? Why should we pursue the rest of our universe? It’s not like we even think about space travel because we believe some green ugly aliens may be out there, as portrayed by the media. I believe what we should be concerned with is why would humans pursue space travel, how would it be possible, and when would it be possible?

The future. Why else would we want to pursue interstellar travel? The truth is, our future will eventually depend on it. There is of course a tremendous deal of knowledge we could gain exploring our infinitesimal universe. Therein lies the next major reason for exploring the universe, exploration. Well you could say that is the reasons humans study any sort of science, to understand the unknown, but we won’t get into that. Humans are curious in nature, and we’ve used science to explain things and understand. Looking at our geological past we can infer that eventually humans need to get off this earth. "If we don’t eventually spread out – I’m not saying tomorrow or even 100 years – but if we don’t get off planet it is inevitable that we would go extinct, just like the dinosaurs," Harry Kloor said. Kloor, a workshop attendee at DARPA’s 100 Year Starship Project, believes that either a natural or unnatural event will occur that will wipe us out. And he is most likely right when we look back at major extinctions of our Earth. “The 100 Year Starship study is an effort seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible.” DARPA or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is an agency of the government that develops new technology for the military. Its 100 Year starship project is basically a knowledge base and pooling of information for the next 100 years to move towards interstellar travel. To continue the human civilization and to continue exploring science and the extent of our universe, interstellar travel seems a necessary goal to strive for. Now that we know why we explore space, how are we going to do it?

Interstellar travel within itself is a big challenge and there are many varying ways to attempt it. However, as times progress some options seem to stand out among others, and some options seem to make better use of the energy needed to surpass these millions of mile. Well we can start by determining achievable goals for interstellar space travel. Planets obviously form when stellar gas gathers around a forming star. So in turn we can determine that planets must be close to star, and therefore we should focus on closer star systems, for instance there are around 60 stellar systems within 20 light-years of the Earth. Well there are different methods for reaching such travel destinations. The only known ways of travel at present are slower than light. We've been to the moon and sent probes to the planets in our solar system, but to get to even the nearest stars would mean travelling tens of thousands of times further than this. From this we can concur that newer technology is needed. And there have...
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