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From Here to Eternity

I WARP SPEED, MR. SULUI TETHER PROPULSION SLINGSHOTS IN EARTH AND MARS ORBIT FLING SPACECRAFT BACK AND FORTH r FUSION ROCKET r ALCUBIERRE (WARP) DRIVE FROM HERE TO ETERNITY A FUSION REACTOR HEATS AND EJECTS FUEL FABRIC OF SPACE BENDS INTO A WARP BUBBLE SPACE ELEVATOR LASERS BEAM PAYLOADS ALONG A CARBON- NANOTUBE RIBBON + A track from Earth's surface into orbit promises cheap and easy launches. - Could be damaged by space debris. + Extremely efficient. - The reactors are heavy, so the thrust- to-weight ratio is currently unworkable. If it can PUSH A SPACECRAFT, ENGINEERS ARE TRYING TO HARNESS IT TO FLY THROUGH SPACE + + + + Space contracts in front of the rocket to bring the target closer and expands behind the ship to push it forward. + Thrust comes from a planet's magnetic field, not a propellant. - Impossible to test on the ground. - No one knows how to create a warp bubble. ION THRUSTER NUCLEAR THERMAL ROCKET HEAT FROM A NUCLEAR REACTOR + More efficient ANTIMATTER ROCKET CHEMICAL ROCKET ELECTRIC FIELDS IONIZE AND ACCELERATE XENON GAS + Commercially available; satellites and space probes use them. - Too small, and a bundle of them WORMHOLE FABRIC OF SPACE FOLDS TO FORM A SHORTCUT FUEL AND OXIDIZER IGNITE IN A CONTAINED EXPLOSION + Proven technology, ample performance data. - Inefficient; spacecraft must carry lots of propellant. ACCELERATES A PROPELLANT POSITRONS ANNIHILATE ELECTRONS TO PRODUCE ENERGY + Might enable time travel, too. than chemical might be too heavy and less efficient than a plasma thruster. MAGNETIC SAIL A MAGNETIC FIELD INTERACTS WITH PLASMA PARTICLES IN THE SOLAR WIND - May not exist. rockets: reactor design + Ten milligrams of positrons is familiar. - Exhaust is radioactive, making it hard to test on Earth. might be enough to take a crew to Mars. PLASMA THRUSTER ELECTROMAGNETIC WAVES CONVERT A GAS PROPELLANT INTO PLASMA + Speeds can be finely BEAM PROPULSION SPACE STATIONS GENERATE PLASMA BEAMS TO PROPEL SPACECRAFT + Can travel through the solar system without much + The rocket's onboard propulsion system is small. propellant or power. - Probably too slow for human transport; hard to test on Earth. - Antimatter is very hard to produce. tuned; very efficient. - Need a nuclear reactor to travel interplanetary distances. - Must position the nuclear- powered stations beforehand. Yes, We Can! ++ PROPULSION OPTIONS WITHIN REACH On the Docket+ FUNKY CONCEPTS FOR THE FUTURE In Your Dreams, Nerds ++ SIGNIFICANTLY SPECULATIVE DESIGNS B ++ Boldly Going Nowhere MANY MORE EINSTEINS REQUIRED

From Here to Eternity

shared by Mikesolita on Jul 20
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This originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of IEEE Spectrum, as part of a special report on the realities facing space travel to Mars. I pitched the graphic as an interesting sidebar to accomp...


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