Putting Atomic Bombs To Good Use
The morning of 16th July, 1945 was a morning like no other for on that morning, at 5:30am, mankind successfully unleashed the destructive power of the atomic bomb. Codenamed Trinity, this bomb was a fission-device which was detonated on a remote corner of Alamogordo Airbase in New Mexico, by scientists working alongside the Manhattan Project; the plan to create an atomic bomb before the Germans could. The explosion was so intense that being at the centre of it would of being equivalent to been dropped into the sun.
Since that period of time, the threat of nuclear annihilation has been a real possibility, with the two main superpowers of the time, USA and USSR at times coming close to actually launching a nuclear attack on the other. The closest of such times was back in October 1962 when the US president John Kennedy and his administration discovered the soviets were placing nuclear weapons in Cuba and as such, gave the Soviets a 12 day deadline to remove the missiles, else USA would launch a nuclear attack on USSR. Needless to say, global disaster was narrowly averted.
What most people don’t appreciate through is that just as atomic weapons could be the destroyer of mankind and most other species on the planet (except cockroaches!) they could also be used to lift humanity into the next stage of human evolution. By this, I mean enable us to become an interplanetary species by colonising other parts of the solar system – and even travelling out beyond our solar system to some of our nearest interstellar neighbours.
This may sound rather far-fetched but is completely true. Since the 1950s, scientists working on Project Orion discovered that it was indeed possible to propel a spacecraft using a series of atomic explosions, to distances way beyond that which even current day space technology can achieve. Headed by physicist Freeman Dyson and Ted Taylor from General Atomics, it was discovered that it would have been possible to reach the Moon in hours, Mars in a few days and the outer edges of the solar system within a month. And in theory it would of being possible to reach Alpha Centauri, our nearest star within 60 years.
Project Orion Starship
So what happened? Why aren't there highways within the solar system – spaceships flying in-between all the various planets and moons within the solar system, transporting cargo and passengers to cities, etc. on other worlds? Although it gained lots of support in the 1950s, support turned against the project when people began to consider the fallout effects that these ships would produce. For effectively one is detonating a series of atomic explosions, one right after another. Whilst in space this wouldn’t have caused any harm, no major world power wanted to be the one to build such a ship and launch it from their country. If you’d ever seen the old films of rocket test launches from the 1950s, you’d seen the damage a normal chemical rocket can do when things don’t go according to plan. Make that a nuclear powered rocket, and you’d end up with a 10 mile wide crater where the ship once stood, and a continent completely contaminated with radioactive fallout.
Despite the heavy risk involved in such technology, I personally believe that it was wrong for humanity to give up on the development of nuclear powered spacecraft. Whilst it is still true that launching a nuclear propulsion rocket from the surface of the Earth would be a very foolish thing to do, the technology does exist for building such a craft in space. Like the international Space Station, there is no reason why our governments can’t use a fleet of space shuttles to carry components of the craft into space, where it would be assembled up and ready for launch. By doing so, we could launch the craft off as a spacecraft to take humans around the solar system. A roundtrip mission to Mars could occur in days rather than weeks, and as it is in space the destructive fallout from the atomic explosions wouldn’t affect life on Earth in anyway at all.
So why isn't this being done? In my opinion this is the million dollar question. We have lived with the threat of nuclear annihilation for over 70 years, it is about time that we (and our leaders collectively) stopped playing stupid games and started using atomic weapons for the benefit of all mankind. As a species, we are playing a very risky game if we decide to confine ourselves to this one planet. Through environmental damage, viral outbreaks, asteroid impacts, super volcanic eruptions, etc. it will only be a matter of time before life on Earth will become very difficult. As such, the sooner we as a species can spread ourselves out amongst the rest of the solar system, the greater our chances of survival. Whilst it would be a terrible shame if all life on Earth were to be destroyed by an asteroid impact, it wouldn’t be so dire if a decent percentage of humanity were living on the other planets in the solar system, in self-sustaining communities.
So what is preventing us humans from achieving this? The answer in my opinion can best be summed up as the will and lack of forward planning by our leaders collectively!