Going interstellar in style (science video).

Are chemical rockets the only viable option for reaching Mars? Is the Raptor, SpaceX, and Starship the fastest means to tackle the problem?

A.A. speaks with two well-known scientists who have devised a novel method for achieving high interplanetary speeds as well as a long-term strategy for reaching interstellar destinations.

When it comes to space travel, we’re used to thinking of chemical rockets as the go-to method for propelling spacecraft. After all, they’ve been used for decades to send probes and astronauts into space. But what if there was a better way to get to Mars? What if we could use laser thermal drives instead?

Imagine a spacecraft powered by a giant laser that heats up a fuel source, creating intense thrust to propel the ship forward. This may sound like something straight out of a science fiction movie, but the idea of using laser propulsion is actually based on real scientific principles.

In theory, a laser thermal drive could potentially be much more efficient than a chemical rocket, as it would use less fuel to reach the same speeds. And because the fuel would be heated by a laser, it would burn more cleanly and produce less waste.

Of course, there are also some downsides to consider. For example, a laser thermal drive would require a large, powerful laser to function, which would be a significant engineering challenge to build. And the spacecraft would need to be able to withstand the intense heat generated by the laser, which might be tricky.

But let’s not get too bogged down in the details. After all, this is all theoretical, and the idea of laser thermal drives being a viable option to reach Mars is more amusing than realistic, as of today’s technology.

Instead, let’s imagine the possibilities! A spacecraft powered by a laser could be like a giant, interplanetary hot air balloon, soaring through the void of space at incredible speeds. Or maybe it could be like a giant, space-faring toaster oven, baking its way to the Red Planet.

While laser thermal drives as a propulsion system for spacecraft haven’t been prominently featured in science fiction as of yet, there are examples of the use of laser propulsion in science fiction works.

For example, in the novel “The Algebraist” by Iain M. Banks, the character use a “Culture” spacecraft called “The Endless Party” which uses a type of laser propulsion system as a method of propulsion, instead of the traditional chemical rockets.

In “Foundation” series by Isaac Asimov, the characters use a spaceship called “The Orion” which is propelled by a “hyperspace drive” which is based on manipulating space-time using nuclear explosions, but the main principle is similar to laser propulsion in that the explosions are used to generate thrust.

In the game “Elite Dangerous”, the ships uses a type of propulsion system called “Frame Shift Drive” (FSD) which uses hydrogen fuel to power a series of lasers that create a wormhole that allows the ship to travel across vast distances in seconds.

Either way, it’s certainly a fun and amusing concept to think about, and who knows, maybe in the future, we’ll have the technology?

Going interstellar in style (science video).
Going interstellar in style (science video).

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