How Do I Get There (Another Star?) — Let Me Count the Ways

April 17th, 2013

I am inspired today by Starship Century, a symposium at UCSD May 21-22, involving Gregory Benford, David Brin, Geoffrey Landis, Joe Haldeman, Neal Stephenson, Alan Steele, etc., almost everyone you might think of from the science fiction side, and a lot of folks involved from the science side (Freeman Dyson, Robert Zubrin, John Cramer, etc.).  I’m tempted to go, and will look into it.

What are the plausible ways to get to another star?

There are a number of them with a number of strategies.

The parameter space is something like this:

1. Speed of spacecraft.  We know how to get some speed here, from ion propulsion, solar sails, nuclear propulsion, even if things like Bussard ramjets have technical issues.

2. Relativity bonus (subjective time onboard reduced).

3. Warping of space (literally or via wormhole, hyperspace, etc.).

4. Hibernation/suspended animation.

5. Generation ships.

6. Sending/seeding life to be born en route or on location.

7. Becoming biologically immortal.

8. Becoming mechanically immortal.

9. Sending robots of whatever AI level.

10. Unforeseen tech/magic.

There are a lot of ways to get to another star in some fashion.  The scientists who claim that the energy/time considerations are too great are myopic and silly.  An advanced technological species can solve the problem by finding some corner in the above multi-variable parameter space, and humans can do it this century if sufficiently inspired and willing to invest.  While Mars is challenging, and stars are orders of magnitude more challenging, there’s a solution or two.

Let me suggest two nice books on this topic: The Starflight Handbook and Interstellar Travel and Mutli-Generational Space Ships.

Any other parameters I missed?  I mean, it’s a matter of time and energy and traveler lifetime.  All can be adjusted within limits, even if we never manage to warp space or open worm holes.


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