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Tenpinmaster's avatar

Does anyone believe we will ever be able to travel outside of our solar system?

Asked by Tenpinmaster (2925points) February 1st, 2010

Would it be physically possible for us to have some sort of interstellar travel like in the star trek or star wars universe. Do you believe our current knowledge of physics allow a realistic form of travel that will get us to other solar systems within our life time? Any of you think there are other means of propulsion that are beyond our current comprehension and could be used for space flight?

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42 Answers

bean's avatar

one day,in the future, it can happen…. I’m hoping it will

Jack79's avatar

someday, yes. Though not anytime soon, or anywhere too far.

ragingloli's avatar

If humanity exists long enough, then yes.
Current physics already allow the warping of space as well as the existence of interspatial flexures (wormholes), antimatter has been shown to exist and has been produced in minute quantities, and there exists zero point energy, which is essentially a limitless supply of large amounts energy, which means warp drive and wormhole travel are theoretically possible.
We just do not have any idea how to implement it technologically… yet.

grumpyfish's avatar

The cool thing about relativistic travel is that you can travel between just about any location in the galaxy at sub-light speed within a lifetime.

E.g., if you build a propulsion drive that can accelerate you at 1g, you’ll be going as close as that drive can get you to light speed within a year. Traveling at 0.9999c you can travel about 70 light years in 1 onboard year.

0.999999c gets you 700 light years per year.

That means that in 3 years you could travel ~700 light years, IF you have a drive that will accelerate you.

Tenpinmaster's avatar

@ragingloli Wow I didn’t know that warping space was a theoretical possibility. What exactly is antimatter? I know its the opposite of normal matter but what makes it different and can it really be used as a power source? Have we ever located a wormhole using our satellites or telescopes?

ragingloli's avatar

Antimatter is basically just like normal matter, but with opposite charges, e.g. matter electrons have a negative charge, the antimatter electron has a positive charge and is called a positron, the anti proton has a negative charge and is the counterpart to the proton of normal matter which has a positive charge. Combine matter and antimatter and they annihilate each other under the release of huge amounts of energy, dwarfing even nuclear fusion. Using it as a power source however is a bit of a problem, because producing antimatter takes huge amounts of energy itself, more than you would get back in an antimatter reactor.

ragingloli's avatar

And no, we have not observed wormholes, but they are a prediction of the theory of relativity.
And warping space is not only a possibility, it is a reality. Every object with mass warps space and produces a dent in space, a hole so to speak in which other objects can fall into. That is how orbits work. A planet with momentum falls into this dent in spacetime and then swirls around in it, like when you take a small ball thrown into a bowl will swirl around inside.

grumpyfish's avatar

@ragingloli IIRC, even in the Star Trek universe they were accepting energy losses in making antimatter for the ships. If you use solar power to make the antimatter you can then use it as a very dense stored fuel for interstellar travel.

Assuming it doesn’t escape confinement and blow up your ship.

Cruiser's avatar

Impact fusion and laser or microwave beams could provide interspace acceleration to sufficient speeds to get you to where you might want to go…bigger question is can you dodge all the debris in space at those speeds?

DrBill's avatar

We will as soon as we discover trans-warp drive (in 2228)

autumn43's avatar

There are days I think I have…..

filmfann's avatar

@ragingloli Current physics has shown that if matter and anti-matter meet, they do cancel each other out of existence, but there is no large release of energy.
I know, I know. I was disappointed too.

stump's avatar

I am not a physicist, so I don’t know the technical stuff. But when my grandfather was born the model-T car had not been produced, and before he died people were walking on the moon. If that kind of advance can happen in one life-time, then I believe we will be exploring the galaxy in person, some day, hopefully soon.

ragingloli's avatar

Has it? Source please.
Also that would not make any sense. If the matter and antimatter is annihilated, but there would be no release of energy in accordance with mass-energy equivalence E=mc², then you would have a violation of the 1st law of thermodynamics, so by that fact alone, I highly doubt your assertion.

grumpyfish's avatar

@filmfann @ragingloli “In antimatter-matter collisions resulting in photon emission, the entire rest mass of the particles is converted to kinetic energy.” (Wikipedia)


CaptainHarley's avatar

If we can ever learn that cooperation is far better than conflict, that freedom is the natural condition of mankind, and that we are as much a part of the earth as anything else, then yes… nothing will be impossible for us.

Bluefreedom's avatar

Not in my lifetime but I think, eventually, science will find a way to make this possible.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think it’ll definitely happen and that’s exciting, to me.

kidkosmik's avatar

Yes. When our planet looks like it did on WALL-E.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Round trip? You could do the one-way any time.

engineeristerminatorisWOLV's avatar

If you are asking at present, my answer will be no.We don’t have enough technical know how the sent a human mission to any place out side the solar system and to keep the person alive for that period od time,land the mission safely and finally make a return trip.
The first and foremost hindrance is the fuel.A major portion of the rocket fuel gets used on eath itself trying to escape the earth’s gravity.After that,we have to fly past the astriod belt in order to reach the mars.Yes, we have to reach each and every planet and make a revolution around it in order to get enough of momentum to be propelled further in space.The gravitational force between the planet and the spaceship is converted into the centrifugal force of the spaceship and it has to escape tangentially to shoot further into space.
This method is not that easy to put into practice.If something goes wrong the spaceship might crash into the planet or go on circulating around the planet till it runs out of fuel.
The safety and sustenance of human life is another challange.Human beings are not made for such long voyages.A journey to Mars takes around 6 months and for that human beings have to minimize their physical activities in order to consume less and keep themselves going.3 months of stay in pace reduces the bone density upto 40%,so the question is,could anyone take up the challange and if he/she does, would the person be able to accomplish it without collapsing in the midway due to health reasons?
The only answer to it is,speed up the journey along with many fold higher fuel efficiency.The best known space ship moves at the speed of 8KMs/sec,but that’s not good enough to make a person go to exterior of solar system and comeback.May be someday in future we would device more effective ways of space travel and things might be possible that day.If you ask me,I see that quite possible as we know less than an inch if science is compared to a mile and there are numerous things to explore.

mattbrowne's avatar

We should not underestimate the potential of slow interstellar travel. The most promising method is embryo space colonization. Other more difficult alternatives are extended human lifespans, suspended animation and generation ships.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@filmfann Electron-positron annihilation releases 1.022 MeV per event. Easily measured by gamma spectroscopy. Because of the detector geometry, it shows up as a spectrum line at 511 KeV.
Actually harnessing this will take a technological leap. Maybe there is a Zefrem Cochrane out there or yet unborn.

CMaz's avatar

Nope. But, it is always nice to dream.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

I think it is quite likely and will come sooner than many people may expect. However, the technology will catch those who haven’t been paying close attention off-guard.

When it comes it will be much more along the lines of the Field Circus from Accelerando by Charles Stross than anything shown in non-singularity science fiction.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

As @mattbrowne said. We would need to work on suspended-animation or generational colony ships. Theoretically we could use light-sails and ion drive as the propulsion technology. It’s still the “slow boat” method though.

stump's avatar

There was a great book on interstellar flight published about 30 years ago (I think) called “Coattails of the Gods”. It was a description of several possible scenarios for interstellar flight. It was written for the layman, so I don’t know how rigid the physics was, but I remember thinking it was fairly authoritative at the time. My favorite idea for constucting a multi-generational ship was to drill into the center of an asteroid that was high in iron content. Then fill the center with ice, start it spinning, and put it in an orbit that would pass close to the sun. As the asteroid approached the sun, the surface would liquify. When the heat reached the center, the ice would vaporize and blow the asteroid up like a balloon. On the far side of the orbit, the asteroid, now an iron bubble, would cool down. We could cut hole, fill up the giant iron bubble with whatever we needed, and set off for Alpha Centuri. I wish someone who knew what they were doing would write another book like that.

filmfann's avatar

@ragingloli I read that last summer, and cannot find the source at the moment, but I am finding a lot of stuff that supports your position, so I may be remembering it wrong.

DrBill's avatar


Matter = E=mc2

Antimatter = -E=-m-c2

Therefor E=0

This assumes that the matter and antimatter are of equal mass, there may be a small release of energy in direct relation to the difference of mass

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

@DrBill I very highly doubt your doctorate is in physics. Antimatter has neither negative mass nor negative rest mass-energy.

DrBill's avatar


you’re entitled to your opinion.

formula is correct according to Prof. Hawking

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

(Laughs out loud) I’m sure he’ll be happy to have his name associated with such drivel.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@DrBill See my above posting on electron-positron annihilation. This is easily demonstrated using even the most primitive gamma spectrscopy setup and any radioactive source that decays by positron emission.

ragingloli's avatar

That is complete nonsense. Antimatter when converted from mass to energy, does not result in negative energy. Even if it did, if you combined it with matter, the positive and negative energy would cancel each other out, so suddenly the mass and the energy is gone. Where did it go? As I said above, that is a violation of the 1st law of thermodynamics. You can neither create nor destroy energy.

CMaz's avatar

If man was meant to travel through the solar system. He would have been born with…

A completely different physiology.

kidkosmik's avatar

@ChazMaz We just just haven’t evolved into that state yet. ;-)

CMaz's avatar

@kidkosmik – That has to be the BEST answer I have read so far. :-)

mattbrowne's avatar

Negative energy from antimatter? I think @DrBill was joking. An antimatter star would fuse antihydrogen into antihelium keeping antipeople toastily warm.

autumn43's avatar

My Mom used to tell me she could send me to the moon on the end of her foot….

candide's avatar

Who cares? I’m staying right here on this planet.

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