Monday, February 8, 2010

Theories: Space Flight

I just watched the Space Shuttle get propelled into orbit, and an idea came back to me that I've been trying to work on for a few years.
Everyone knows that in order to get into orbit nowadays, we have to sit our astronauts and payload on a gigantic bomb.
There have been many tragedies when it comes to launching and landing our craft. It occurs to me that in at least the launching part, why must we rely on a large bomb to get us there?
I'm sure a lot of rocket scientists could answer that question, but since one's not available at the moment and not being one myself, but being very imaginative, I have to ask, why must we accelerate ourselves so fast? What's the hurry?
Conventional jet aircraft can reach 30-50,000 feet fairly quickly, and comfortably enough so that the common man and woman can ride it.
What's wrong with building a craft that can gradually reach orbit using conventional jet fuel.
Yes, I know that jets won't work at extreme altitudes. But let them get us to a reasonable altitude and find some other method than rockets to get us the rest of the way to orbit.
Aye, there's the rub. What other methods of propulsion are there?
As I've said, I've been playing with this idea for years, and use it to some degree in my science fiction writing. In my writing, I don't explain how it's done, because I'm not that deep into the subject.
Could Maglev be used to gradually increase our altitude and speed? Gravity on Earth pulls us down at 9.8 m/sec, so in order to go up consistently, we only have to exceed that amount of acceleration. say, 9.9 m/s, which will land us in orbit sometime in the next century. No I won't do the math. I know it will take a while.
But let's say we can accelerate at a comfortable rate, say between 2-3g. We'll reach orbit slowly, but we'll reach it.
In my books, my character Bobby designs a craft (which is a hologram) that can do just that. There is no visible means of propulsion, it's a small, silent craft, maybe holds 3-4 people comfortably and enough oxygen and other supplies to last for the duration of the mission. It's not a large payload any way you look at it. I'm sure someone could figure out the amount of thrust necessary to accomplish that.
But based on current research that's probably impossible, but then it's the job of the science fiction writer to imagine what seems impossible now so that drives today's scientists to prove whether it is or not.
One of my favorite writers of all time, H.G. Wells, imagined many things that seemed impossible at this time, yet have somehow come to fruition. The same with Jules Verne. Even programs like Star Trek have predicted certain things, such as communicators, that have essentially come true within my lifetime.
So any scientists out there who are looking for things to research, and happen to be reading this blog ('What are the odds of that, Mr. Spock?' 'I'm sorry, captain, they are too high to be computed.') are more than welcome to take some of these ideas and run, just a small amount of credit to me when you're successful is all I ask.
Well, it was worth a shot. Anything to get off that damned rocket.
Have a wonderful day!