Interstellar travel Definition and 7 Discussions

Interstellar travel refers to the travel by interstellar probes or crewed spacecraft between stars or planetary systems in a galaxy. Interstellar travel would be much more difficult than interplanetary spaceflight. Whereas the distances between the planets in the Solar System are less than 30 astronomical units (AU), the distances between stars are typically hundreds of thousands of AU, and usually expressed in light-years. Because of the vastness of those distances, practical interstellar travel based on known physics would need to occur at a high percentage of the speed of light; even so, travel times would be long, at least decades and perhaps millennia or longer.The speeds required for interstellar travel in a human lifetime far exceed what current methods of space travel can provide. Even with a hypothetically perfectly efficient propulsion system, the kinetic energy corresponding to those speeds is enormous by today's standards of energy development. Moreover, collisions by the spacecraft with cosmic dust and gas can be very dangerous for both passengers and the spacecraft itself.A number of strategies have been proposed to deal with these problems, ranging from giant arks that would carry entire societies and ecosystems, to microscopic space probes. Many different spacecraft propulsion systems have been proposed to give spacecraft the required speeds, including nuclear propulsion, beam-powered propulsion, and methods based on speculative physics.For both crewed and uncrewed interstellar travel, considerable technological and economic challenges need to be met. Even the most optimistic views about interstellar travel see it as only being feasible decades from now. However, in spite of the challenges, if or when interstellar travel is realized, a wide range of scientific benefits is expected.Most interstellar travel concepts require a developed space logistics system capable of moving millions of tonnes to a construction / operating location, and most would require gigawatt-scale power for construction or power (such as Star Wisp or Light Sail type concepts). Such a system could grow organically if space-based solar power became a significant component of Earth's energy mix. Consumer demand for a multi-terawatt system would create the necessary multi-million ton/year logistical system.

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  1. Strato Incendus

    Wall thickness of ring habitats for radiation shielding

    This is a topic that will be relevant for anyone who plans to use "realistic" artificial gravity (of the centrifugal kind, rather than the "acceleration-based" kind) in their stories - be it on spaceships or space stations: How much of the ring walls has to be dedicated to radiation shielding...
  2. Strato Incendus

    What can realistically go wrong on an interstellar journey?

    Alright, since I’m still stuck on my sci-fi story because I can’t exactly outline the mid-point plot twist with a realistic catastrophe on board an interstellar spaceship, I thought I’d widen the scope a little — towards full-on open brainstorming: What, if anything, can realistically go wrong...
  3. Strato Incendus

    Wood as a precious resource on spaceships

    A lot of fictional examples of interstellar spaceships, be they generation ships or sleeper ships, have some sort of arboretum. However, those often just tend to be places for recreation, like a forest for joggers. Or, if the ship is transporting any animals, too, those might inhabit the...
  4. D

    Exploring Electron Rockets for Interstellar Travel

    Hi all, Why not build an electron rocket? Why won't this idea work? Seems like someone could just hitch an electron gun onto a spaceship. Boom! Electron Rocket. I was thinking about ion thrusters. These use ions to achieve thrust. They are problematic for achieving a high delta V because...
  5. LaurelAnnyse

    Questions about space travel

    Hey there! My name is Laurel, and I'm working on a short story with a friend about, among other thing, space travel. I've just got some questions about exiting the atmosphere in order to fly a spaceship around looking for other stuff. I don't want you to feel you have to over simplify things...
  6. Jigsaw674

    I Interstellar travel/centrifugal couching

    Given: original project Orion My idea is the addition of a centrifugal couch to regulate gravity to crew during the acceleration and deceleration phases of the trip. The Orion concept, for an interstellar ark concept, relies on...
  7. GiantSheeps

    Is a warp drive possible? How long until we develop one?

    Is a warp drive actually possible to create? If so, how long until we can develop one? Is it at all possible that they could be developed during our lifetimes? I'm asking because of this article...