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The Future of Space Travel

Updated on April 7, 2016

Orion Test Launch Leaves Earth on December 5,2014

The Orion Spacecraft

Orion's launch vehicle

Instead of developing all new systems, NASA

has turned to adapting existing systems to speed

the development of Orion, including the use of

America's workhorse launch vehicle, the Delta IV

Heavy, for placement into orbit.


Orion Launch

The Rocket that will Carry Orion into Space

The Dawn of a New Age in Space Exploration

NASA's new Orion spacecraft is built to take the human

race farther than they've ever gone before. Orion will

launch atop NASA's new heavy-lift rocket, the Space

Launch System (SLS). More powerful than any other

rocket ever built, the SLS will be capable of sending

humans to deep space destinations such as an

asteroid and eventually Mars. On its first test flight

Orion flew 3,600 miles above the earth, 10 times

higher than any other spaceship since the Apollo

Missions in 1972. The next text flight isn't expected

until 2018 because of NASA's limited budget, and

Orion will not carry astronauts until 2021 at the

earliest.

The Different Configurations of Orion

The Many Faces of Orion

The Space Shuttle was designed for low

earth orbit, the Orion is a deep space

vehicle capable of handling missions to

the Moon, Venus, Mercury, Ceres, and with

the ultimate goal of reaching Mars.

Orion on its way to the Moon

The Dawn of Orion

The Orion spacecraft looks much like the older

Apollo spacecraft of the 1970s, conical in shape the design is

essential for the return from deep space missions. These

missions experience extreme heat conditions upon their

return to earth, the conical shape effectively gives

the spacecraft the maximum flexibility of angle for that

return, enabling the capsule better control where to land.

Orion Returning Back to Earth from Deep Space

Orion Returning to Earth

NASA has constructed several Orion capsules

for testing purposes. If Congress would approve

the budget, NASA could put Orion into Service next

year, ferrying astronauts to the International Space

Station as a test of its orbital duration systems as

well as reducing the US reliance on Russia for crew

access to our orbiting research laboratory.

Space Elevator 60,000 miles up in Space

60,000 miles up in Space NASA's concept of the Space Elevator.
60,000 miles up in Space NASA's concept of the Space Elevator. | Source
Source

The Space Elevator and Man's Quest to Explore Space

Imagine a ribbon roughly one hundred million times long as

it is wide. All this can be achieved because of carbon

nanotechnology, which has a tensile strength that is almost

one hundred times stronger than steel cable. The idea of

climbing such a ribbon with just your own body weight sounds

crazy enough, but the ribbon predicted by a new report from the

International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) will be able to carry

up to seven 20-ton payloads at once. It will serve as a tether

stretching far beyond geostationary (geosynchronous) orbit and

held taught by an anchor of roughly two million kilograms (2000

metric tons or 4,409,245lbs). Sending payloads up this elevator

could basically overnight change the human relationship with

space. The report spends 350 pages lying out a detailed case for

this device called a space elevator. The central point is that we

should build a space elevator as soon as possible.

The Space Elevator

A package rising through the clouds on the space elevator.
A package rising through the clouds on the space elevator. | Source
The Space Elevator anchored at sea.
The Space Elevator anchored at sea. | Source
Concept drawing of the Space Elevator.
Concept drawing of the Space Elevator. | Source

The Space Elevator: Stairway to Heaven

The Space Elevator

The fact is that a space elevator could bring the

cost-per-kilogram of a launch to geostationary orbit

from $20,000 to as little as $500. Not only is a geostationary

orbit intrinsically useful for satellites, but it's far enough

away from Earth's gravity to make it possible for cheap

Earth-assisted launches. A mission to Mars might begin

by pushing off near the top of the tether and using small

rockets to move into a predictably unstable fall, then just

one, two, three loops around the Earth and off we go with

enough pep to cut huge fractions off the fuel budget. Setting

up a base on the Moon or Mars would become relatively

trivial with a space elevator in place. A space elevator would

be useful to scientist, telecoms and militaries alike as Moon

and asteroid-based mining is becoming less hare-brained by

the minute. It will certainly be very expensive, probably the

biggest mega-project of all time, but since a space elevator can

offer a solid value proposition to anyone from Google to DARPA to

Exxon, funding might end up being a non-issue.

Space Elevator Base on the Ocean

Clouds in Space
Clouds in Space | Source
Space Elevator Base on the ocean concept drawing.
Space Elevator Base on the ocean concept drawing. | Source

Conclusion

The Obayashi Corporation the Japanese construction

giant has announced that it has the capacity to build a

space elevator and have it up and running by the year

2050. A company spokesman has stated that the elevator

would reach 59,652 miles into space, and will use robotic cars

powered by magnetic linear motors (maglev, as seen in high

speed rail lines around Asia and Europe) to ferry cargo and

humans to a new space station. Obayashi is not the only

company working on the feasibility of a space elevator, which

could provide cheap solar power, provide a hub for space

exploration and boost space tourism. In 2012, former NASA

contractor Michael Laine launched a kick-starter to raise funds

to research the feasibility of a lunar space elevator. Building a

space elevator, however, will likely require an international effort,

and the International Elevator Consortium is already attempting to

coordinate efforts. Only time will tell, but soon into the next decade

we might see science fiction become reality as the wheels of change

grind relentlessly forward. Its certain man's future is in space, and if we

can develop a way to get there cheaper and safer that future might be

tomorrow.

The International Space Station

The International Space Station a prime example what happens when man works together to accomplish goals in space exploration.
The International Space Station a prime example what happens when man works together to accomplish goals in space exploration. | Source
Windows on the ISS taken form Star Wars Millennium Falcon.
Windows on the ISS taken form Star Wars Millennium Falcon. | Source
The International Space Station as it streaks through the sky.
The International Space Station as it streaks through the sky. | Source

The Space Elevator

Do you think its possible to build a Space Elevator?

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