Having landed on the Moon a half century ago we should have fleets of spaceships traveling the solar system by now. You would think. The reality is the public does not understand what would define a true spaceship. Though I have always disliked similes concerning space, especially those like JFK’s calling space an ocean, it has some utility.
- A spaceship, like a ship on the ocean, must be capable of crossing an ocean. The space analogy of a small ocean, like the Mediterranean, might be from the Earth to Mars. The Pacific analogy might be Pluto. The analogy to oceanic storms would be radiation and the equivalent to running aground would be meteorite damage.
- The basic requirement to travel interplanetary space, that is, Human Spaceflight Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (HSF-BELO), is to weather space storms. If radiation is the equivalent of an ocean storm it is interesting that taking a microcosm of an ocean into space as a kiloton+ cosmic radiation shield seems to be the prerequisite.
- The next requirement for HSF-BELO is speed. It relates directly to the first problem because though 400 tons are needed to shield a small capsule, humans have psychological limits concerning living space and mission time which equates to thousands of tons of water. And pushing those kilotons requires nuclear energy. There is only one practical nuclear propulsion system: Bombs.
- Along with dosing there is long term microgravity debilitation which will require tether generated artificial gravity. Micrometeorite shielding will require more mass and a warning and deflection system for larger particles. The unavoidable mass penalty for multi-year HSF-BELO missions is going to be ten thousand tons plus.
- A “true spaceship”, versus a spacecraft, would likely mass well over ten thousand tons minimum, carrying a couple thousand nuclear bombs, at least a thousand tons of water for cosmic ray shielding, using either a metal disc or a parachute of some kind as an engine. Water would be acquired from, and assembly and testing would be done on, or in the vicinity of, the Moon.
- On multi-year missions the true spaceship would spend most of the time split in half with equal or spaced masses spinning at the end of a several thousand foot tether system. The larger the disc (or “spinnaker” in a Medusa type) the more efficient, faster, and longer ranged, likely operating between Ceres and Neptune.
- Relocating the superpower nuclear arsenals into deep space to ratchet down the cold war launch-on-warning situation is perhaps the only enabler for HSF-BEO. Fleets of such “space boomers” would also protect Earth from impact threats and allow for guest scientists on voyages of exploration to the gas and ice giants.
4 thoughts on “The Spaceship”
Have you heard of the Spacecoach idea? Rotates for some artificial gravity, uses water for propulsion, radiation shielding, and hygiene/drinking water: https://www.centauri-dreams.org/2015/05/01/a-stagecoach-to-the-stars/
Not that interesting Hug. You have to understand the Parker-Dyson-Spudis Continuum. The “Parker Minimum” is 400 tons of water shielding for a small capsule which equates to a minimum of a kiloton for any long duration mission. The ONLY practical propulsion system to date, and there is nothing else in sight, uses bombs. The ONLY place to acquire those thousands of tons of water, assemble, test, and launch nuclear missions, is the vicinity of the Moon.
If you have plenty of water for radiation protection and sufficient gravity to avoid bone dimineralization and other side effects of zero-g, why does it matter if it takes a few weeks or a few months to get to your destination? Wouldn’t NASA benefit from having simple, easily upgradeable spacecraft that can be refueled almost anywhere? The Moon, the near-Earth asteroids, Ceres, and beyond? Project Orion-style spacecraft sound really cool but with the public’s stupidity I don’t see them being happy about the government putting thousands of nuclear weapons into space.
Why does it matter? Because it does not take a few months, it takes YEARS. Using bombs to quickly accelerate to around 100,000 miles an hour essentially brings most of the solar system into range of multi-YEAR missions. NASA would benefit from a simple spacecraft that can be refueled anywhere and there is nothing simpler than a metal plate. The bombs work- even an occasional dud would not doom a mission, unlike more complicated engines failing. The plasma the bombs project against the plate can be generated from water derived from icy bodies. The H-bombs themselves are of course very small and weigh less than a hundred pounds, it is the slugs attached to the bomb that can be filled with water taken from icy bodies like Ceres or the ocean moons of the gas and ice giants.
You don’t “see” them (the stupid public) being happy about thousands of nuclear weapons?
Puh-leez. If you are going to start with the contrarian nagging don’t bother commenting.
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