How Far Can Man Really Travel in Space?
For centuries, mankind has dreamed of visiting and living amongst the stars. Naturally, we must also be able to make the daily commute between planets and even solar systems, should this ever become a new home for Mankind. But how to do this and how far can we go? Is it even possible?
According to NASA studies, yes travel is possible. We already are, of course, with chemical propulsion as in everyday jets. However this just is not practical in the vastness of outer space. The moon, closest extra terrestrial object to our planet, on average takes about 40 days to reach traveling at 1000 miles per hour. The moon also resides about 240,000 miles away. Another planet, Mars is also fairly close and widely discussed for exploration/habitation. Unfortunately, it would take over 6 months experts say to reach the planet with standard jet propulsion; reaching speeds in excess of 24,000 miles per hour or more. It is simply not viable for interstellar travel.
Sadly, the science-fiction shows of worm holes and light-speed travel are also currently beyond mankind's means of traveling between worlds or any distance at the present time. However, scientists are considering Thermonuclear Propulsion as the next step. Which according to NASA experts can increase speeds over 100x more then the chemical propulsion systems of jet engines. Most of our transport systems is currently fueled both on and off world.
While effective and a vast improvement over chemical fuels, long distance travel through space via Nuclear propulsion is still very much costly, literally time consuming, and unpractical for long distance space travel. One scientist with NASA, Franklin R. Chang-Diaz believes he may have found the answer with his studies in VASIMR (Variable Specific Impulse Magneto Plasma Rocket) System. This system utilities a mixture of hydrogen and electric motor power to power spacecraft to and from interstellar destinations quickly. Which then will help limit effects such as exposure to solar radiation or the immense amount of time it now takes to make the same journey. So why Hydrogen? Simply, it is a common element in the solar system that can fairly easily be turned into a usable fuel source. Another but highly unlikely mode of travel is wormholes. However, these are extremely unstable and uncontrollable, with no way to know where the end is, if an exit exists or if travel through one is even possible. For the most part and for obvious reasons, research on this is currently, strictly theoretical and not realistic for interstellar travel.
It definitely is not light speed or any kind of folding space technology but it is a significant step forward. One that in time may provide at least a basis for relatively quick interstellar travel. One that if implemented will likely see use until the various dream technologies of the science fiction universe becomes science reality. More information on this study and similar can be found on the NASA and various associated websites.