Credit: NASA

Do You Have Ideas for Deep Space Travel? NASA Wants to Hear from You

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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You’ve probably heard by now how NASA is going to focus more on deep space exploration, both manned and robotic, leaving the low-Earth orbit and suborbital realms to commercial companies, a major change. There is, however, an opportunity for public input for deep space exploration as well, thanks to a new initiative for competitive ideas from universities, students, companies and government agencies. This means that you may have a chance to forward your proposals to help solve the problems that will need to be resolved in the coming years.

NASA’s new technology offices are getting ready to spend millions of dollars, it was announced at a seminar held last Monday as part of the Von Braun Memorial Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA is hoping to get between $375 million and $560 million in the fiscal year 2012 budget, which would be enough for competition prizes of $1 million or more.

“We have a space technology program, and there’s some money behind it,” Marshall Chief Technologist Andrew Keys said at the seminar.

The new heavy-lift rocket being designed will initially cost $1 billion or more, and still use proven conventional technology for its first planned launch in 2017. But as those first rockets are then replaced by larger ones, technological challenges will have to be overcome for new, better boosters to be designed, for example, which will ne necessary to take human farther into deep space to places like Mars.

The solar sail is also a good example of new technology, which is much different from conventional rockets, using the pressure of photons emitted from the Sun for propulsion, a very novel idea which is now being proven to be both possible and useful.

As in other facets of business and technology, competition will be a good thing, helping to bring out the best ideas and concepts from a larger knowledge pool, allowing the space industry to move more quickly and efficiently into the solar system and beyond. We may not have Star Trek-style warp speed yet, but the future is looking bright for space exploration, a future that can be better shared by all of us.

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M
Guest
M
October 27, 2011 8:49 PM

I suggest that they read Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan. It sets out several scenarios for deep space travel.
This and other Sagan books are now available from Amazon Kindle (US residents only)

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
October 30, 2011 5:39 AM

Actually, the author Dan Simmons has a couple of suggestions too. In his Hyperion-series he suggests dragging singularities behind spaceeships to create corridors for later travelers to use. It’s a ‘next step’ thing though – and i have no idea if physics will allow it.

Richard Kirk
Member
Richard Kirk
October 27, 2011 9:15 PM

If you are going to go somewhere far and fast, you want to reduce the payload. Computers use millions of atoms of doped silicon per transistor, where it may be possible to use a few atoms of carbon in the right arrangement. You could send back information coded in molecules that do not spread out, rather than radio signals that do.

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
October 28, 2011 2:25 AM

At that point your bit (0, 1) becomes quantum mechanical and whether your computer is registering a 0 or 1 is no longer boolean, but a quantum probability.

LC

Richard Kirk
Member
Richard Kirk
October 28, 2011 7:52 AM
All states are quantum probabilities to some extent. However, if you have a 10 eV band gap, such as you can get with i-carbon (old figure – may be out of date now), you can be pretty sure what state it is in over a reasonable time. I think we ought to be able to make a conventional computer out of carbon. If the atoms themselves move, then we can probably make a very permanent bit. If we are going to send out a solar sail with a computer and camera to neighbouring stars, then the sail can accelarate us away from Sol, and decelerate at the other end. Rather than transmit the data of what it has… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
October 28, 2011 11:52 AM
lcrowell is correct of course. Even if you try to capture information with chemistry, bond breaking and reforming will destroy it over time by quantum effects alone. Never mind cosmic radiation (CR). Carbon bonds can go to ~ 800 kJ/mole or ~ 8 eV. As a comparison, diamond which is the carbon allotrope with the largest band gap is ~ 5 eV. Graphene has ~ 0 eV. I have never heard of “i-carbon”. Today most electronics are handling such energy densities of course. The difference is that while the active volumes may well be down to quantum levels, the overall structures are still nanosized. Even so CR beats the stuffing out of them, and they have to be… Read more »
Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
October 28, 2011 12:16 PM
This responds to msg below to prevent the “narrow column problem.” Computing on the level of the atom by necessity involves quantum computing. The standard classical bit structure {0, 1} is replaced by |?> = 1/sqrt{2}(|0> + e^{i?}|1&gt which is a superposition of the two on and off states in some two state system. The two states (a quantum bit or qubit) might be the electronic states of some atom. If there are numerous atoms the general state is an n-partite entanglement of states. Already quantum key encryption exists. A quantum state of some bit stream is entangled to an ancillary state so that any attempt by a third party to eavesdrop on the message is detected by… Read more »
Geology Lovell
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Geology Lovell
October 27, 2011 10:00 PM
You bet I have ideas but will not cost you anything because I want so much for you to do well. Trust me if you ever trust anyone. Over 30 years ago I discovered that Earth has a way of recording images of people, Animals and events etc. I found how to get these images from the worlds past that must go all the way back in time to the beginning. There is no one in the world that can do or understand the things I have done unless they see this in person. I insist I can and will show you how this works in person and that there are others that try and tell you about… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
October 27, 2011 10:37 PM

Missouri.

Aqua4U
Member
October 28, 2011 2:17 AM

Definitely Texas…

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
October 28, 2011 2:39 AM

Nah. ‘Missouri’ as in ‘show me…’

Preferably with Sagan’s ‘extraordinary evidence.’

Nathan
Guest
Nathan
October 27, 2011 10:39 PM

I wouldn’t mind trying some of your ‘way of looking at people on rocks’. But that stuff is illegal. Dob’t send a letter to the DEA.

metamaterials
Guest
metamaterials
October 28, 2011 2:57 AM

Please NASA launch a spacecraft that will orbit the sun along the direction of the suns motion in the spiral arm around the galaxy. Have plasma detection instruments and determine if there is an exchange of matter and ionized charge between the sun and the interstellar medium plasma ISM on a streaming course inside filaments wrapping around our galaxy. Search for carbon nanotubes, graphenes, and buckyballs in the spiral arms of our galaxy, and nearest supernova in our galaxy.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
October 28, 2011 11:55 AM

There are no signs of magnetic “filaments wrapping around our galaxy”, rather chaotic structures on the images astronomers present us here.

The search for organics is old and ongoing.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
October 28, 2011 3:36 AM

Everything in the universe goes around circles,therein lies the secret to deep space travel.If ya can’t beat um join um.The space ship as to be built where the cabin is stationary,but the propulsion method would have to be spining around.I think there is a way the speed could be amplified and give the warp speed we need.How we would get spinning propulsion,I am not a rocket scientest and do not have that answer.

Zephyr
Member
October 28, 2011 3:46 AM
Longshot and Daedalus, without a doubt, time to send a probe to Alpha Centaurus. Task 1 has to be breaking the light second to the moon. New Horizons did it in 8 hours, get a vehicle to the moon in a second and Rigel Centaurus is four years away. Such a task though is better suited to planetary exploration. NASA has got to stop sending single probes to the planets, send buses, that carry numerous orbiters and lander/rovers. The establishment of an interplanetary internet. And hubble scale SOHO’s to targets like the great attractor, Sag A*, the center of the Virgo supercluster, that can constantly monitor and map deep space and our directionology. nothing like all the space… Read more »
FrankMonday
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FrankMonday
October 28, 2011 5:08 AM
You are still asking for a propulsion system that hits light speed. As soon as you put the word “light” in front of a specific time, you are asking for the speed of light, be it a second, hour, day, or year. Einstein gets in the way of light speed travel. As the ship approaches the SOL, its mass becomes infinite. There is also time dilation to contend with. Sure the folks on the ship will experience time “normally”. They will get to the Moon in 1 second (although they would probably become stains on the bulkhead due to inertia and other pesky physical issues) or the star in 4 years. Back here at home app. 40 years… Read more »
Richard Kirk
Member
Richard Kirk
October 28, 2011 8:16 AM
While ‘warp drives’ and such make for good SF, the likely fact is that any ‘new physics’ will have a considerable overlap with the current ‘old physics’. There might be something wholly new out there, but it will probably be subtle. In a way, this may be a good thing. We are separated from quasars, but we can look at them from a safe distance. If we could jump to any spot in the universe, then everything else would be connected to us too, and I guess stuff could jump the other way. Maybe we will have to change our concepts of time and exploration. A thousand years is a long time for us today, but most of… Read more »
FrankMonday
Guest
FrankMonday
October 28, 2011 5:14 AM

I meant to clarify a point – light takes longer than 1 second to hit the Moon. In other words, you don’t get to the Moon in 1 light-second.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
October 28, 2011 12:15 PM

To be fair, it is near enough, Moon semi-major axis is ~ 3.8*106 km [Wikipedia] so it will take ~ 1.3 s. I think we should read the claim as breaking the rounded figure for the (unphysical) demo.

ProfMOZ
Member
ProfMOZ
October 28, 2011 10:48 AM
No matter what the critics and pessimists bring up, I am certain we will solve interstellar, maybe even intergalactic, space travel eventually. For now we must do with what science can offer! I am for an ion ion drive/solar sail combo to the nearest solar system containing planets in the habitable zone. Space contains some of the fuels needed and the solar sail can act also as a collector. In addition we should attempt to establish footholds/stations (manned or unmanned) on some of the solar systems moons, beginning with our own, asteroid belt objects, and Mars. Terra-forming could be started in small increments to improve object-conditions over the long run, e.g. bacteria in various forms to produce needed… Read more »
squidgeny
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squidgeny
October 28, 2011 12:00 PM

I would like to see work towards artifical gravity in space. A good starting step would be a habitation module tethered to a heavier counter-weight, rotating about their common centre of mass.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
October 28, 2011 12:05 PM
If only I had fresh ideas, not odds and ends that is picked from what is already out there. So many people have thought about this topic already. But sure, I will take my brain for a spin on this. technological challenges will have to be overcome for new, better boosters to be designed, for example, which will ne necessary to take human farther into deep space to places like Mars. They are not necessary for Mars or, since we now know about the low energy requirement for interplanetary travel, elsewhere in the system. In fact, I think Musk does a valid showcase how smaller, Falcon Heavy sized, launchers maximize ROI for liquid fuels. If you can use… Read more »
Nathan
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Nathan
October 28, 2011 12:53 PM

If you wanna get somewhere fast take the 1982 Chevy Camaro.

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
October 28, 2011 1:12 PM
I think this call involves interplanetary exploration. Interstellar stuff is probably not on the table here. I mention below some of the physics which involves warp drives below and the matter of how things can go faster than light under certain circumstances. I think as with my book on sending probes to other stars that the best approach to propulsion may be to construct large Fresnel lenses that collimate solar photons onto a sail. This permits one to boost a payload to the outer regions of the solar system. It might also be a way to push a large spacecraft meant for human exploration out to Mars or even Jupiter. Once the large craft is in orbit around… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
October 28, 2011 5:16 PM

You have to first build a fuel station on the moon, and launch from there. Fuel can be made with the water on the moon.

metamaterials
Guest
metamaterials
October 28, 2011 6:35 PM

Anything traveling close to light speed over a long course to another star, would have to avoid hitting tiny pebbles and rocks that would vaporize in the collision. We assume outer space is empty, and the Voyager’s are not traveling very fast to be damaged.

Olaf
Member
Olaf
October 28, 2011 9:29 PM

The travelling is not the problem, but you will never see your family and friends ever again unless you take them with you because of time dilation. I can imagine that in the future we have technology that could grow mega-spacecraft and have a group of 1000 or 10,000 settlers take off to another star. Pioneers.

Stephen Russell
Guest
Stephen Russell
October 29, 2011 2:59 PM

Go Interplanetary alone, IE have Commercial Space reuse the Moon.
Send in Perm Orbital Array over Mars for later habitation.
All else use a Next Gen Voyager class Probes for Deep Space.
Yes Next Gen Voyager probes.

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