Thursday, September 05, 2013

Ad Astra?

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Even though I knew the distances were so great, by the time I was in my teens, I used to hope I'd live long enough to see the first interstellar star ships being built. I assumed at the time that Mars was merely a stepping stone too, that by the time I was forty, a human being would have stood on Mars. I assumed that we'd have a moon base as well, and a permanent space station big enough to begin construction of the first interstellar vessel. In my naiveté I dreamed up design after design, each more sophisticated than the last. I watched the shuttles going up, the first when I was still in primary school. I read about the shuttle program and Space Station Alpha and I believd it all.

Then I read about Project Daedalus and I realised I was never going to see interstellar travel happen. The Apollo program was the most succesful attempt to move human beings out of Low Earth Orbit and it was reported to Congress in 1973 as having cost $25.4 billion. A single Apollo launch in 1969 cost up to $375 million. The Daedalus ship was twenty five times more powerful than a Saturn V rocket. Its energy out put would equal one quarter of the entire energy output of Planet Earth. It would require an orbital construction facility and a lunar mining project to provide the quantities of helium-3 needed to provide its full capacity of deuterium/helium-3 fuel.

Apollo was discontinued I believe, to pay for the Vietnam War.


1 comment:

Grimsby Mariner said...

Like you I thought "it was just a matter of time". I now realise I'm never going into space even with the advent of the cruise ships from Virgin and the like. Oh well - maybe my grandkids will have the thrill of a new frontier.