Nearly 50 years ago we set foot on the surface of the moon and in doing so opened up the vision and imaginations of literally billion of people. After all the technological advancements we have made, a slow spacecraft is putting a limitation on our dream to head to the space and head fast.
With our current technology, it’s estimated it’ll take humans around five months to reach Mars.
BBC had earlier reported that the current human speed record is shared equally by the trio of astronauts who flew Nasa s Apollo 10 mission. On their way back from a lap around the Moon in 1969, the astronauts capsule hit a peak of 24,790mph (39,897km/h) relative to planet Earth. I think a hundred years ago, we probably wouldn t have imagined a human could travel in space at almost 40,000 kilometres per hour, says Jim Bray of the aerospace firm Lockheed Martin.
In other words, travel close to the speed of light and you’ll be bombarded with so much radiation that you kick the bucket.
But NASA scientist Philip Lubin is working on a system where lasers propel spacecraft with giant sails to the Red Planet in as little as three days. Recent dramatic and poorly-appreciated technological advancements in directed energy have made what we propose possible, though difficult. There has been a game change in directed energy technology whose consequences are profound for many applications including photon driven propulsion. This allows for a completely modular and scalable technology without dead ends.
There are recent advances that take this from science fiction to science reality, Lubin explains. There is no known reason why we can not do this.
In a video for NASA 360, Lubin explains that the technology is very much readily available, and that the system could easily be scaled up.
He feels that electromagnetic acceleration is the answer. Electromagnetic acceleration is only limited by the speed of light while chemical systems are limited to the energy of chemical processes, writes Lubin in a paper on the technology.
He states that, We propose a system that will allow us to take the step to interstellar exploration using directed energy propulsion combined with miniature probes including some where we would put an entire spacecraft on a wafer to achieve relativistic flight and allow us to reach nearby stars in a human lifetime.
While Lubin and his team haven’t yet tried out their system, their calculations show that photonic propulsion could get a 100-kg robotic craft to Mars in just three days.
Lubin adds that in the 10 minutes it will take to get the SLS into orbit, photonic propulsion could propel a spacecraft to an unheard-of 30 percent the speed of light – and it would also use a similar amount of chemical energy (50 to 100 gigawatts) to do so.