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SPACE TRAVEL
The latest technology helping take mankind to new planets
by Staff Writers
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Mar 30, 2016


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It has been a dream of humankind for centuries to travel to and live on another planet. Ever since early humans watched the stars in the sky, we've wondered what exactly is up there. If you are interested in astronomy, you probably already have some knowledge about the planets and the greater universe, taking in dwarf stars, black holes and galaxies far, far away.

Many new technologies are being developed that test the possibilities of getting to and living on new planets. You may be familiar with plans for humans to journey to Mars, and robot landers have already been exploring the Red Planet. Astronauts on the International Space Station have spent months living in space to see what its effects on the human body might be. With the journey time to Mars currently some eight months, scientists are constantly examining ways to cut down the length of time in space.

Faster than light?
One of the staples of science fiction books and movies is the ability of a spaceship to travel faster than light, often referred to as warp speed. Is this something that can be achieved, or is it just a dream that astrophysicists would dearly love to turn into reality? You might agree with many in the scientific community that traveling faster than light is a physical impossibility, yet a team at the US space agency NASA might have accelerated particles unintentionally to speeds faster than light when using a resonance chamber called the EmDrive. If that really is the case, then EmDrive, a possible method of interstellar propulsion, could be the basis for the starships of the future.

Will it happen? Stranger things have arguably happened in the world of technology. After all, the first rockets only emerged a little over 70 years ago, and you only have to consider what has happened since then to realize that not much stops human ingenuity. It may take a long time, but you probably wouldn't bet on it never happening.

Space entrepreneurs
Even though a number of countries are engaged in space programs - notably the US, Russia, China, India and various European countries that have pooled resources - it's not a cheap option. National bodies such as NASA have been responsible for the moon missions of the late 1960s and into the 1970s, and together with Russia, they have been instrumental in contributing to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA and many other countries also use rockets to put satellites into orbit and carry payloads to the ISS for research purposes.

Today, you are likely to have come across some of the wealthy entrepreneurs that have set up private companies to get involved in space exploration and support. One such company, Blue Origin, was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and is currently working to develop reusable spacecraft and rockets with the intention of launching astronauts into orbital and suborbital space. If this ultimately proves to be successful, there is real potential for slashing the costs of manned space exploration.

Orbital Sciences is another private operator in the aerospace industry and has been developing its Cygnus and Antares space vehicles, making deliveries to the ISS. The success of these types of essential missions to keep the space station resupplied are likely to lead to further technological developments in the field. Spacecraft and satellites have been using renewable energy from the sun for many years, and solar power makes an important contribution in cutting down on emissions from the fuels needed to launch a rocket to break out of Earth's atmosphere.

How possible is it to live on Mars?
On the face of it, living on Mars does not seem very possible without enormous amounts of backup, but that's just what space adventurers are thinking about. There's no reason that humans couldn't survive on this planet, or indeed others in the more distant future, provided that they are protected from the extreme cold and the radiation streaming in from space. Mars is a very hostile environment, but many imaginative minds are already working on what would be needed to survive there.

The first necessity would be spacesuits. These are the first point of protection from extremes of temperature and the constant bombardment of radiation. They deliver oxygen, which Mars lacks, and also provide water to drink when carrying out spacewalks outside the space station. It isn't just the hard exterior of the suit that is important. Underneath it, astronauts wear an undergarment that has tubes circulating water to keep cool when on a spacewalk mission.

New developments in garment technology, such as ultrasonic cutting technology for textile provide what may be a significant advantage for clothing for spacefarers in that the edges that are cut do not fray. Suitable for non-woven fabrics and textiles, the technology seals the cut edge through heat generated by ultrasonic vibrations in the area of the cutting zone. It's also possible to emboss, punch or weld together several textiles. The seams are watertight and airtight, which is ideal for a harsh exterior environment.

Living quarters will have to be hermetically sealed. Experiments have been carried out with a team of scientists living for a year in a dome similar to one that could be used on Mars. The human body is extremely tough, but living with artificial gravity is likely to be a necessity for living on another planet. Energy sources will need to be provided, not just to create appropriate climactic conditions for the explorers but to power state-of-the-at computers and other essential equipment for communications and controlling the interior environment.

You could argue that this is pie in the sky, but it is much closer to reality than many people think. Huge amounts of thinking and resources have been put into action as space agencies and space entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk, work to make what once seemed like an impossible dream into realistic ways of starting the process of colonizing another planet. Science fiction is fast becoming science fact as humans once more stand on the brink of whole new worlds.


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