Acceleration in space question

• Xyius
In summary: Drag causes the rocket to slow down gradually as it approaches the target star, and the rocket will never reach the target star if drag is not taken into account.In summary, we need to carry extra fuel to make our rockets go faster. Even if we use relativistic rocket equations, drag will always cause the rocket to slow down and never reach its destination.
Xyius
If there is little to no drag in space, what is stopping us from just continuously accelerating and reaching speeds close to the speed of light? Shouldn't we just be able to just keep going faster and faster?

You need a force to act on you in order to accelerate. Why do you think that we should accelerate?
The absence of friction allows things to keep their speed constant, if no force is acting on them.

Xyius said:
If there is little to no drag in space, what is stopping us from just continuously accelerating and reaching speeds close to the speed of light? Shouldn't we just be able to just keep going faster and faster?

It's simple. Whenever you provide energy to increase velocity of body (accelerate) , fraction of the energy increases mass of the body. The mass will increase and reach infinite at speed of light.
Its given by M=m/sqrt(1-(v/c)^2)
So you need infinite energy to make it (ofcourse you cannot do that)
Only massless particle can do that, they are only photons.

Its the nature. This is the behaviour of nature and you cannot make question to it. It is that bitter fact that we have to accept after understanding the two postulates of theory of special relativity.

Xyius said:
If there is little to no drag in space, what is stopping us from just continuously accelerating and reaching speeds close to the speed of light? Shouldn't we just be able to just keep going faster and faster?
Let's go over these one by one.

1. There is little to no drag in space.
This is not true at relativistic velocities. Interstellar space, and even intergalactic space is not utterly void of substance. Drag due to the interstellar material is very, very small at the kinds of velocities our spacecraft have attained to date. Due to relativistic concerns, drag becomes a very significant issue at very high velocities relative to the interstellar medium.

2. What is stopping us from just continuously accelerating ...
The only way we know how to do that now is to carry the fuel needed for that acceleration with the vehicle. For now, I'll ignore relativistic concerns. Let's look at a rocket that burns all of its fuel. When all the fuel is spent the rocket continues on at a constant velocity (ignoring drag, of course). Suppose we want to make that final velocity a tiny bit faster. That means that we now have to have a tiny bit more fuel left than we would have when the rocket previously had burnt all its fuel. However, that tiny bit of extra fuel now needs to be accelerated along with the rocket. You need extra fuel to make that happen. Taking this all the way back down to the ground, a whole lot more fuel is needed at launch to make the rocket end up with a slight increase in final velocity. This is described mathematically by the ideal rocket equation. If you want to go a whole lot faster you will need a bigger fuel tank. You need to accelerate this, too. Eventually you will get to the point where you need a bigger rocket -- and you need to accelerate that as well! The ideal rocket equation places severe restrictions on how fast we can practically go, and this is without even addressing relativistic concerns.

3. ... and reaching speeds close to the speed of light?
Nasty as the ideal rocket equation is, the relativistic version of it, the relativistic rocket equation, is much, much worse. One of the key parameters in the ideal rocket equation is the velocity of the exhaust relative to the vehicle. The best that can be possibly be achieved is to have the exhaust be in the form of photons. Suppose some futuristic rocket is equipped with a photon drive. We want to use this rocket to travel to some target star. The rocket is to accelerate at 1g proper acceleration until it reaches the half-way point and then decelerate at 1g until it finally comes to a rest at the target star. To go to the nearest star (4.3 light years away), the rocket will "only" need to carry 38 kilograms of fuel for each kilogram of payload (rocket+fuel tanks+people+life support+...). To go to a star 27 light years away, that factor of 38 balloons to a factor of 886. To go to the center of the galaxy, the factor of 38 becomes 955 million.

To add insult to injury, these calculations ignore drag due to the interstellar medium.

The concept of continuously accelerating in space is not as straightforward as it may seem. While it is true that there is little to no drag in space, there are still other factors that limit our ability to continuously accelerate to near the speed of light.

One factor is the limited amount of fuel and energy that we have available. In order to continuously accelerate, we would need an infinite amount of energy, which is not currently possible with our current technology.

Additionally, as we approach the speed of light, the amount of energy required to accelerate becomes exponentially greater. This means that even with an infinite amount of energy, it would still take an infinitely long time to reach the speed of light.

Another factor to consider is the effects of relativity. As we approach the speed of light, time dilation occurs, meaning that time appears to slow down for the accelerating object. This would make it seem like we are not making any progress in our acceleration, even though we are actually moving closer to the speed of light.

In summary, while there is little to no drag in space, there are still limitations and constraints that prevent us from continuously accelerating to near the speed of light. It is not as simple as just adding more and more speed, and we must consider the laws of physics and the limitations of our technology.

1. What is acceleration in space?

Acceleration in space refers to the rate of change in velocity of an object in space. It can either be positive (speeding up) or negative (slowing down).

2. How is acceleration in space different from acceleration on Earth?

Acceleration in space is different from acceleration on Earth because in space, there is no air resistance or other external forces to slow down objects. This means that objects can accelerate for longer periods of time and reach higher speeds in space.

3. What is the unit of measurement for acceleration in space?

The unit of measurement for acceleration in space is meters per second squared (m/s^2).

4. How is acceleration in space calculated?

Acceleration in space can be calculated by dividing the change in velocity by the time it takes for the change to occur. The formula for acceleration is: a = (vf - vi)/t, where a is acceleration, vf is final velocity, vi is initial velocity, and t is time.

5. How does acceleration in space affect astronauts?

Acceleration in space can have various effects on astronauts, depending on the amount and direction of acceleration. It can cause changes in blood flow, muscle and bone density, and sensory perception. Astronauts also need to be trained to handle high levels of acceleration during space missions.

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