I have been an avid reader of Centauri Dreams for a while now, the idea of being able to explore new worlds and new star systems is one I’ve been facinated with for some time. Whilst most of my life I accepted that there would be little in the way of space exploration any time soon, and not much in my lifetime if any, I was astounded to come accross Centauri Dreams and read that theoretically we have the ability to explore space in a much more rapid way then we have been doing upto now, and one that could work out cheaper!
Something called Project Orion was established in the first years of NASA, it was led by some very clever and ambitious men, Ted Taylor and Freeman Dyson. Their plan was to send a large rocket into space using nuclear power, literally small nuclear bombs causing the lift needed to get it into space, once in space an Orion spacecraft could jet it’s way to Mars in a few days to a few weeks, depending on how fast one wanted to go, and to the outer reaches of the Solar System and back in a little under a few months.
This would have been ready to test in the early sixties and could have, if there had been some political will, been in space by the time the Apollo programe apparently reached the Moon. Only it wouldn’t have stopped at the Moon, Dyson was writing about reaching Saturn in the seventies and further out in the eighties. The ships could have been huge, anything from 800 to 8,000,000 tonnes, which is a bit more ambitious then the now defunct Shuttle programme, it would have been a realistic way to get into space and begin a new expansion of our frontiers. As was, the politicians werent interested and decided to go for the Apollo Programme which got them their Moon landings and that was that, because space has never been about doing something, it was all about politics and show.
Nuclear power could be used even now to power exploration of a new frontier, it could give us a place to move to, a place to flee from the coming dark age of world totalitarianism, but perhaps that is why only governments can access nuclear technology, and why governments have opposed private attempts to reach to the stars?
Another interesting point, is that the very same nuclear power, could take us to Alpha Centauri, with the technology we had fifty years ago! Well, I’m sure there are problems with this as we don’t really know whats between us and Alpha Centauri, if we were to travel at up to one tenth the speed of light, which is apparently feasable, we could get there in forty years or so, if we were to wait until we could get a better system of nuclear propulsion, we could up that to twenty or thirty or maybe even fifty percent?
Then Alpha Centauri could be a decade or so away, and take into account Einstein’s Twin Paradox and it may seem like a lot less time to the travellers!
And all this is possible, but we have seen our treasure wasted on ‘Diversity’ and ‘Multi cultural’ programmes, on tackling ever increasing poverty and depravity, more money on pensions and government bureaucracy and ever increasing, ever more expensive wars, instead of allowing people to dream big and make a go for it! All the wasted time and effort on those things which can’t be mended, and which we are now suffering ourselves, whilst up there, possibly, could be where our future lies and where could have been our present!