Sunday, 29 July 2012

Space travel, the possible escape factor

I am not a futurists that likes to think of the romantic side of sci fi or who thinks that technology is going to change everything. After all the internet seems to have a good influence on information exchange, but then again I don't want to know everything like gossip or hurtful comments by trolls. Science in what ever angle you look at it have positive and negative sides.

Take Space travel and all the crazy film influences of war in space, industry in space and the possibility of living in space makes me think of the practicalities that are need for planetary travel. I look at that and think how do we travel to orbit, and prepare for any dangers along the way?

My guess is that the liquid fuel and oxidizer mixed and burned in a thrust chamber is an old idea which has its problems. Even with solid fuel rockets that are the large equivalent of strapping on a firework and flying to orbit Wile E Coyote style, has a fundamental flaw. There is so much energy wasted for a vertical lift, and with the fuel spent the dead weight is the empty rocket tanks that carried you there.

Hopefully the use of modern engines will take you high orbit where you can use a solid fuel booster can push you the rest of the way. Or my new favorite way is that the use of scram jets which works at mach 6 gives you the speed to break orbit and by momentum allow you to reach the space station.

Safety is a factor for space tourists and I wonder if there will be any possibility for escape?. After all from the  looks of the new virgin galaxy craft the only precaution for a passenger is the space suits and the fact the hybrid rocket motor has the ability to shut down at any time by the Pilot. Granted the flights to space is a 50,000 ft climb and a stop and enjoy the moment while experiencing zero G, before a gradual decent to the space port.
Could future flights be equipped with escape pods or something?. My guess the small transport vehicles might not have this, though I wonder if it would be possible for High altitude skydives.
Felix Baumgartner might be the key to this answer. In january 2010 Baumgartner was working with a team of scientists and sponsor Red Bull to attempt the highest sky-dive on record. Despite the law suit of Daniel Hogan in Los Angeles claiming the idea originated from his 2004 idea for  parachute dive from the edge of space, Baumgartner did complete 2 test jumps from 71,581 feet. early this year he completed a 2nd of planned test jumps at 96,640 feet, which is less then one twelfth of the way of the height of the International space station (370 km). The highest jump anyone has attempted was 102,800 feet by Joe kitinger in 1960, this 20 mile is approximately 1 tenth if the distance of the International space station.

Considering the facts that there will be more traffic into space through space tourism, and that new engines like the scram jet will be reliable form of propulsion. I am guessing that there needs to be some safety feature. Escape pods might be a possibility in the form of a craft no bigger then ourselves with maneuverability for final descent and a parachute for a landing phase. The craft would handle protection from  high temperatures and possible timed landing and navigation functions ( who would want to land in the middle of nowhere). Flying skills shouldn't be required for a passenger.

As time moves on for the space tourist, they will eventually be equipped for escape and pioneers like Joe kitinger and Felix Baumgartner will have made it possible for a relatively safe experience. Today the possibility of the International space station crashing into space junk is a true threat. In june the ISS has been threatened by space junk, which is a third time in 12 years. The increase in space junk is a real threat that the crew on the ISS have sheltering exercises.
In the years to come there will be escape pods that will be designed for the unskilled passenger, but until then I am thinking you will be entering space at your own risk.

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