The first successful space expedition of mankind was called “Vostok 1” and was carried out by Yuri Gagarin on the 12th of April 1961.
The first man to walk on the moon in 1967 during the “Apollo 11” mission was Neil Alden Armstrong.
The first space station “Salut 1” was launched in 1971, then Space Shuttle program took place, and then… it all began: space tourism, people approached closer to the sun, Mars, Jupiter and other sorts of exploration expeditions.
The most awaited moments of the beginning of the 21st century were the launches of SpaceX rockets, such as Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy which have brought humankind a few steps closer to a new level of space subjugation: colonization of another planet. The prime goal of SpaceX is the reduction in space transportation costs which have previously been the major concern of failure of any long and important missions.
So where is humankind aiming in the nearest future?
The human desire for outgoing earth’s boundaries as well as the growing concerns over climate change all over the world made the scientists wonder about any possible ways future space technology will help us to leave our beloved planet Earth to live on other parts of our solar system or maybe even further away.
A well-known to the most project named the Colonization of Mars was planned to be performed by Mars One organization which was estimated to happen by 2024 gave a world an enormous amount of hope. However, the temporary financial issues have put a delay on this project.
Looking at this delay in a positive light, we can conclude that it was, either way, necessary to be done as there is still a huge pool of difficulties in space technology to be faced with before financing and launching such type of the project. And the biggest hurdle to overcome, apart from transportation costs, is time. How fast can we travel in space with current technology? Reaching Mars takes 39 days with the closest possible approach and 289 days with the farthest possible approach which is not fast enough if we compare it to the human’s usual lifespan.
What are the Possibilities?
Here are some options to achieve greater speed of rockets using fewer fuel:
1) Solar sails. Sails of enormous size made of special mirrors that allow ships to navigate using solar winds are one option for achieving more power. This newest space technology was implemented and proven to work on Japan’s Ikaros probe which flew by Venus in 2010. The downside, however, remains undiscovered – with solar energy comes solar radiation that can damage ships if they are exposed to it over a long period. NASA is currently developing new types of batteries for a future mission to Europa – one of Jupiter’s many moons. These will be able to work in extreme temperatures and radioactive conditions.
2) Nuclear Pulse Propulsion. A more destructive and old method of creating impulse which has been banned at the Partial Test Ban Treaty since 1963. Although it is dangerous and emits radiation, a spacecraft that moves by effectively dropping nuclear bombs behind it and riding the force of those explosions could travel as fast as 12% the speed of light.
3) Ion thrusters and Fusion engines. Both have low fuel requirements but can power a ship over long distances with relatively little thrust. NASA still develops the technology behind fusion engines. Deep Space 1 probe in 1998 used a gas ion engine.
4) Radioisotope thermoelectric generators or RTGs. They use decayed plutonium to create heat and power so that generators can last for decades. Nevertheless, it faces similar concerns to nuclear pulse propulsion namely that an RTG could be proven to be a deadly cargo if it became damaged in any way.
5) Teleportation. Rather fictional idea was proven to work thanks to the growing field of Quantum teleportation awareness. In 2017, Chinese researchers have successfully teleported a photon from Earth to a satellite in space, making it the longest distance for which entanglement has been measured. Of course, we still have a long road to discover: from teleporting particles to teleporting a living human being.