"Because in Cyberspace, no one can hear you scream."
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
(Hat Tip: The Star Spangled Cosmos)
(Palm Beach Post) Physicists in the U.S., Japan, England and France have demonstrated the workability of fusion by sustaining reactions in the laboratory for up to 24 seconds. The problem is that plasma--the primordial gas resulting when hydrogen atoms are heated to 100 million degrees--is difficult to contain in small reactors. (Media Source*)
A five story reactor is being built in France and is sponsored in party by Japan, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the US (which may cut domestic programs in order to fund this project). Although some may be nervous about using nuclear powered shuttles in the future, there may be no other alternative if humanity is determined to colonize other worlds. Chemical fuel is simply too expensive while solar sails, although promising, may be more suitable as a hobby than for space travel.
As scientists are working on new ways to power the next star ships, the European Space Agency may have developed a new type of plasma engine that may remind some people of Star Trek.
(Universe Today) ESA has confirmed the principle of a new space thruster that may ultimately give much more thrust than today's electric propulsion techniques. The concept is an ingenious one, inspired by the northern and southern aurorae, the glows in the sky that signal increased solar activity.
"Essentially the concept exploits a natural phenomenon we see taking place in space," says Dr Roger Walker of ESA's Advanced Concepts Team. "When the solar wind, a 'plasma' of electrified gas released by the Sun, hits the magnetic field of the Earth, it creates a boundary consisting of two plasma layers. Each layer has differing electrical properties and this can accelerate some particles of the solar wind across the boundary, causing them to collide with the EarthÂs atmosphere and create the aurora." (Media Source*)
If such an engine can be built this would enable star craft to reduce the time and hassle traveling to other worlds. This would also allow colonists to power needed systems upon arrival, as very few worlds contain adequate fuel resources abundant upon their surfaces (Saturn's Titan and Earth's Moon are the only known worlds harboring energy resources).
Image Credit: Helicon reactor in operation. Photo from ESA, via Universe Today.
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