April 02 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Space Year: Beyond Rating: 7
By Dick Pelletier
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the three-hour Las Vegas-Mars Hyperspace Express. In a few moments we will leave Earth atmosphere and experience a quantum leap as we achieve greater than light-speed travel. Be sure to glance out your window during our hyper-speed mode and watch the stars flash by at dizzying speeds; truly one of the most breathtaking views in the galaxy. Expected arrival at Branson-Bigelow Spaceport is noon Martian time; we hope you enjoy your trip.”
The above scenario is fiction of course, but German scientist Burkhard Heim who developed this radical theory believes that hyperspace propulsion systems will become a proven concept within five years; and could be fully operational by the end of this century.
Heim’s theory adds two components to Einstein’s four-dimensional space-time; a repulsive anti-gravity force similar to dark energy that appears to expand the universe, and a bold idea that accelerates a spacecraft without using any fuel.
If Heim’s idea proves correct, it will radically change space travel. Forget spending six months holed up in a rocket on the way to Mars, a round trip on the hyper-drive could take as little as five hours. And for longer trips, adventurers could visit Alpha Centauri, 4 light years away, in as little as 30 days. Hyperspace propulsion could bring travel to the stars within reach for the first time.
However, with hyper-drives estimated to be a hundred years or more into the future, NASA Chief Michael Griffin, in a recent Aviation Week blog, focused on a more realistic program for the next 50 years. “In 2020,” Griffin says, “the first manned-moon mission in two generations will blast off to create an outpost that, by 2024, could host permanent residents.”
With this moon outpost, experts hope to learn how to live off the land, and get a better understanding of the challenges astronauts may face on the manned mega-million-mile roundtrip to Mars, another NASA mission scheduled for 2030.
Griffin cautions that expenses of $85 billion for the moon project and $125 billion for Mars must first gain congressional approval, and he wonders if there will be enough public support. Boy, we could sure use the hundreds of billions spent on the Iraq fiasco, but I guess there’s no use crying over spilled milk.
However, entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Robert Bigelow with their bold dreams of carrying private citizens into space for vacations and jobs in the coming decades, could spark a multi-billion dollar space tourism industry and launch what many predict will be the most lucrative commerce effort in history – asteroid mining – with revenues expected in the trillions by mid-century.
Other ideas predicted for the latter half of the 21st century by visionaries Freeman Dyson, Michio Kaku, and the late Carl Sagan include establishing colonies on Jupiter moons, Io and Europa, and building artificial habitats orbiting Earth. Scientists would utilize molecular nanotech to terraform these new worlds, and apply genetic engineering to strengthen the bodies of our space pioneers enabling them to live a comfortable life in their new homes.
Positive futurists believe that despite concerns over public support, this “magical future” will become reality. By 2108, humanity could be fully occupied with spreading its populations to the stars; and sometime during the next century, more humans could reside in space than on Earth.