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- Posts: 430
- Joined: Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:00 pm UTC
- Location: Well, the sign says "You Are Here"...
I agree to all this.
Now, I'll try to answer a question that has come up on IRC discussions:
How does human space travel work?
Early human space travel was extremely slow. Once humanity colonized the rest of the solar system in the mid-22nd century, it took decades to reach the stars closest to Earth, since human technology had not achieved any sort of faster-than-light travel yet. During these early years, human settlers would be kept in suspension while the colony fleet traveled at roughly a tenth of the speed of light, which is still remarkably fast compared to our current spacecraft. Reaching Alpha Centauri would take approximately half a century, while Sirius would take twice that. Naturally, these colonists left Earth without any expectation of returning home again, and as happened to a few unfortunate expeditions, without any expectation of actually finding the planets in the system to be habitable. Others would be lost adrift in space due to an unexpected impact or hardware failure, without any interstellar rescue infrastructure to provide assistance. Needless to say, early human space travel was horrifically inefficient, and usually fatal. Out of the millions that were willing to brave the earliest colony fleets, less than half ultimately reached their destinations, and less than a tenth of those actually managed to establish successful colonies. From a historical standpoint, it is only important that these lucky settlers were able to create the first human outposts beyond the solar system.
As time progressed and humanity reached out into the stars, further improvements in propulsion techniques permitted for faster, safer travel. Earlier human spacecraft were driven by advanced ion propulsion systems, but as the limits of the technology were reached, other techniques came into use. The creation of antimatter engines were a significant first step in accelerating humanity's colonization efforts, ultimately allowing for the typical spacecraft to accelerate up to a fifth of the speed of light, and the first commercial lanes were opened up between stars, with enormous freighter fleets exchanging untold wealth and billions of colonists from the old worlds to the new frontier. Over the course of the 23rd century, terraforming had reached a point where even the most barren, hostile worlds could be colonized, and marginal worlds could be turned into lush paradises. Newly terraformed planets brought on prospects of employment, living space, and a wealth of natural resources. With interstellar travel more practical than it ever was before, many were willing to embark on the exodus to the stars.
By the 24th century, another breakthrough had been reached. Long thought impossible, the first stable wormholes had not only been demonstrated by human scientists, but the creation of wormholes of sufficiently large size to permit the passage of spacecraft were soon to follow. Early tests in the solar system allowed for instantaneous travel between points as distant as Mercury and the Kuiper Belt, with no apparent ill effects on those that were brave enough to serve as test subjects. At last, with faster-than-light travel achieved, humanity was no longer constrained by the limits of propulsion technology, as distances that once took centuries, then decades to reach were now made trivial to span. Of course, one could not simply make a wormhole to an arbitrary destination, as two points need to be connected. Thus, it took some time to establish wormhole links between systems, but once the routes were set up, there was no longer a need to wait. Many travelers that had been progressing through the old-fashioned method of travel to the inner systems emerged, only to discover to their surprise that the trip back home would take little more than seconds. Some were elated, others frustrated that they had given up on the possibility of seeing their families again, only for their long journey to have been made pointless. Technology marches on.
Wormholes in space are invisible, although they do produce noticeable distortion around them, particularly in regards to the view of background stars and large objects. Due to this, they are typically surrounded with some sort of structure to mark their presence, and support facilities are often located nearby to assist ships with repairs and refueling. Since they directly connect two points in space, travel through one is instantaneous, with the observer being completely unaware that any time had elapsed since they last left their old system. Special drives are not needed to traverse a wormhole, and a ship can simply accelerate through one with their standard propulsion systems, which at this point could be antimatter-based, or possibly more advanced. Since a wormhole of sufficient size to allow the passage of spacecraft needs to be carefully maintained and stabilized, there is typically one per system, with larger ones possibly containing a second or third, and planets are reached the old-fashioned way.
Stable wormholes have been encountered in certain localities that humans have only just discovered, but it is currently unknown just why they have formed, or who is behind them, if anything.
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Sounds interesting enough to read more but sounds kind of ordinary as well. Space travel and how it is done is an over-used series of similar ideas but we can't really do anything about it.
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