NASA’s design to travel (almost) at the speed of light

NASA engineer David Burns has created a conceptual design that would allow travel at 99% of the speed of light.

For space travel to go beyond the Solar System, even to travel to the confines of it, the speed of space vehicles has to be significantly increased, specifically to reach the speed of light. This obviousness is evident from the beginning of the space race. When the distance between stars and galaxies began to be measured, the unit of measure that proved most viable was the light years. And this reflects the huge difference between our space technology and the distances in the universe.

Hence, getting to travel at the speed of light is one of the great ambitions, of these utopian milestones, within the aerospace and astronomical sector. At the moment it belongs to science fiction, but NASA works on models to approach this goal.

Recently it has been known that an engineer from the space agency, David Burns, has created a conceptual model of spacecraft theoretically capable of traveling at 99% of the speed of light. It’s all theoretical, but, as its creator points out, it’s worth a try.

The spacecraft would have a helical engine. Its operation would consist of accelerating a set of ions in a circular structure. These would reach almost the speed of light. From there its speed would be manipulated and, consequently, also its mass. The result would be an engine capable of propelling forward without expelling anything backwards.

In search of exoplanets, in search of the speed of light
Burns’s model is questionable. Also theoretically, because there are doubts about the force that a large helical motor could generate. The creator of this model has a simple answer: “If someone says it doesn’t work, I will be the first to say it was worth a try.

asteroides que se acercan a la Tierra

And is that reaching the speed of light is not a goal for which there are concrete plans. Why not try it? Asks Burns. The opposite question can be answered with multiple answers, all with a common denominator. It is worth trying because if the method is successful or you learn something useful, you could aim to reach other systems and some exoplanets.

Keep in mind that the closest star to Earth is Next Centauri, at 4.22 light years. And exoplanets that might look like ours are around that distance. An example of this is the one that was found around the Barnard star, at 6 light years, with triple the Earth’s mass and a significantly lower temperature.

Images: NASA

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