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(Popular Mechanics)   What would a starship actually look like? Depends on the decade I suppose   (popularmechanics.com) divider line 168
    More: Interesting, Centrifugal Force, aerodynamics, Icarus, ion engines, metal spinning, burps, JAXA, spacecrafts  
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19784 clicks; posted to Main » on 22 Sep 2012 at 4:58 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-09-22 06:12:38 PM  
Hadn't this already been discussed in a previous article where an author said that the most efficient craft wouldn't even have humans on board. It would basically be a container with nanites, some sort of memory chip containing people's minds, and perhaps some basic raw materials. That why the vessel wouldn't need artificial gravity or anything. It would be sent towards a planet, when it lands it would assemble whatever was necessary with the nanites, the humans would be cloned or whatever, and then their memories would be implanted.
 
2012-09-22 06:17:31 PM  

ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?


Well, the Earth is heated by radiation from the sun. So radiation from a form of radiator will leave the source of the radiation.
 
2012-09-22 06:18:04 PM  
It's all kind of laughable isn't it. It's like the best science writers of the 19th century trying to guess what the early 21st century would be like on a day to day basis. People flying around on bicycles and everyone wearing jumpsuits. bowler hats and bow ties. No one has a clue, yet, what or how we'll travel. If we travel. I like the description of interstellar flight in the Ender's Game (series) of novels. I never really thought about the idea that even though very short periods of time elapse aboard the vessel, due to the Einstein effect life continues on, relativistically. 10 days at light speed = 22 years of earth time. How would we communicate at that rate? Everyone we've ever know would be dead by the time we got to our destination, even though a year or two would have passed aboard ship.
 
2012-09-22 06:20:46 PM  

Gergesa: Hadn't this already been discussed in a previous article where an author said that the most efficient craft wouldn't even have humans on board. It would basically be a container with nanites, some sort of memory chip containing people's minds, and perhaps some basic raw materials. That why the vessel wouldn't need artificial gravity or anything. It would be sent towards a planet, when it lands it would assemble whatever was necessary with the nanites, the humans would be cloned or whatever, and then their memories would be implanted.


So, ship full of nanites assembling humans from scratch and downloading consciousness into them, not farfetched at all. But self-contained ecosystems and centrifuges, totally absurd.

Right.

/The most efficient method of exploring the universe would be to create a computer simulation of the entire universe. But that's missing the point entirely.
 
2012-09-22 06:22:02 PM  
i2.listal.com

Starships with curves are still okay.

Like this one.
 
2012-09-22 06:27:24 PM  

Quantum Apostrophe: [images.wikia.com image 530x370]

Mean radius 6,371.0 km[6]
Equatorial radius 6,378.1 km[7][8]
Polar radius 6,356.8 km[9]
Flattening 0.0033528[10]
Circumference 40,075.017 km (equatorial)[8]
40,007.86 km (meridional)[11][12]
Surface area

510,072,000 km2[13][14][note 5] 148,940,000 km2 land (29.2 %)
361,132,000 km2 water (70.8 %)
Volume 1.08321×1012 km3[3]
Mass 5.9736×1024 kg[3]
Mean density 5.515 g/cm3[3]


Too slow.
 
2012-09-22 06:34:24 PM  

Great Janitor: ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?

Well, the Earth is heated by radiation from the sun. So radiation from a form of radiator will leave the source of the radiation.


Umn... that's not going to do the trick unless there's a radiator out there that shoots out photons. Heat is excited molecules, which can transfer to other molecules it comes into contact with. The energy we get from the sun comes in the form of photons, which are released when excited electrons move to a lower energy state. By the time the molecules in a would-be radiator got hot enough for the individual electrons to go into higher energy states, it would be a molten mess. Just think about lava. Stone, so hot it melts and glows. That's what it takes.
 
2012-09-22 06:35:19 PM  
Realistically it would depend on your demands. Do you want it to be able to land? Than something akin to a "space plane" would be needed. If you just want to go somewhere and look menacing from orbit I'd go with completely round (best volume to surface ratio, plus spinning for gravity) or a long tube (spinning around a central axis). Warships would probably be round(ish) due to the reduced surface area, giving it a sleek look would just mean that more of the surface is exposed compared to the minimum required space to house equipment. In space you can get attacked from any and all directions (even by people who are flying upside down) so reducing size in the direction you are most likely to be attacked from doesn't work with other shapes.
 
2012-09-22 06:36:19 PM  
i849.photobucket.com"> 

I like this one!
 
2012-09-22 06:41:13 PM  

ZoeNekros: Great Janitor: ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?

Well, the Earth is heated by radiation from the sun. So radiation from a form of radiator will leave the source of the radiation.

Umn... that's not going to do the trick unless there's a radiator out there that shoots out photons. Heat is excited molecules, which can transfer to other molecules it comes into contact with. The energy we get from the sun comes in the form of photons, which are released when excited electrons move to a lower energy state. By the time the molecules in a would-be radiator got hot enough for the individual electrons to go into higher energy states, it would be a molten mess. Just think about lava. Stone, so hot it melts and glows. That's what it takes.


Well, someone has never heard of infrared radiation.
 
2012-09-22 06:41:33 PM  

DerAppie: Realistically it would depend on your demands. Do you want it to be able to land? Than something akin to a "space plane" would be needed. If you just want to go somewhere and look menacing from orbit I'd go with completely round (best volume to surface ratio, plus spinning for gravity) or a long tube (spinning around a central axis). Warships would probably be round(ish) due to the reduced surface area, giving it a sleek look would just mean that more of the surface is exposed compared to the minimum required space to house equipment. In space you can get attacked from any and all directions (even by people who are flying upside down) so reducing size in the direction you are most likely to be attacked from doesn't work with other shapes.


I was thinking a doughnut shape would possibly be good for creating gravity.
 
2012-09-22 06:43:08 PM  

Mr. Ekshun: Unfortunately there are just too many unsolved problems surrounding the idea of manned space exploration, and we haven't been working on solving any of them. We're more concerned with what the celebrity of the week is doing, which power-hungry political monster will ruin the world less than the others, and whose invisible friend would win in a fight. We spend more money on movies about going into space than we spend actually farking doing it. Maybe in three or four hundred years there will be some hope but for now sci-fi geeks like myself would have better luck looking forward to the reality in any post-apocalyptic movie starring Kevin Costner.

That said, my vote is for something like the Borg Cube. Good space efficiency (pun!) and easy to prefab before being assembled in orbit.


So you're theory is that there are people who could be working on the problems of interstellar travel, but are instead too caught up in celebrity gossip?
 
2012-09-22 06:44:04 PM  

ZoeNekros: Great Janitor: ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?

Well, the Earth is heated by radiation from the sun. So radiation from a form of radiator will leave the source of the radiation.

Umn... that's not going to do the trick unless there's a radiator out there that shoots out photons. Heat is excited molecules, which can transfer to other molecules it comes into contact with. The energy we get from the sun comes in the form of photons, which are released when excited electrons move to a lower energy state. By the time the molecules in a would-be radiator got hot enough for the individual electrons to go into higher energy states, it would be a molten mess. Just think about lava. Stone, so hot it melts and glows. That's what it takes.



I'm not sure if this is a troll, but I'll bite... one form of heat is infra-red light. That's one mechanism all radiators work by. While a vacuum is an excellent insulator against conductive heat transfer, radiative transfer works just fine. The radiator does not have to be molten hot to work anymore than an object needs to be red-hot to be the color red.
 
2012-09-22 06:45:01 PM  

ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?


Space is cold.. if the radiator is exposed to space, i imagine it would cool.
 
2012-09-22 06:49:24 PM  

MonkeyAngst: So you're theory is that there are people who could be working on the problems of interstellar travel, but are instead too caught up in celebrity gossip?


Hmm... I wondered why I hadn't been asked to work on the interstellar travel thing...
 
2012-09-22 06:51:39 PM  
I doubt that starships would even be solid. They would probably look like a combination oil refinery/holiday resort floating inside an utility nebula made out of nanobots that would keep in the atmosphere and keep out the radiation.
 
2012-09-22 06:52:50 PM  

Coelacanth: I doubt that starships would even be solid. They would probably look like a combination oil refinery/holiday resort floating inside an utility nebula made out of nanobots that would keep in the atmosphere and keep out the radiation.


That's an interesting idea. Would also be useful for dealing with micrometeors.
 
2012-09-22 06:54:05 PM  
bhcompy:

ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?

Space is cold.. if the radiator is exposed to space, i imagine it would cool.


Yeah, but only through radiation of infrared light. There's no convection or conduction, because there's no matter to transfer heat to.

Interestingly enough one of the biggest problems with designing spacesuits is how to get *RID* of the excess heat. An adult body puts out over 100W of heat, and to get rid of it you would either have to have huge bat-wing radiator panels, or you'd have to do what NASA does and use a refrigerator module to store the heat in the backpack. That's actually a bigger limit on how long people can spacewalk than their air supply.
 
2012-09-22 06:55:32 PM  
All these posts and we've forgotten the awesome er... horror of the very badly designed?

d2oz5j6ef5tbf6.cloudfront.net

It had... BREASTS.

Then again, that whole movie is a headache in a can.

Red Dwarf gets an honorable mention for the GD-awful starbug:

application.denofgeek.com

And Serenity just looks a little too much like the Chuck Jones buzzard:

application.denofgeek.com

media.kickstatic.com
 
2012-09-22 06:57:20 PM  

maxheck: bhcompy:

ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?

Space is cold.. if the radiator is exposed to space, i imagine it would cool.

Yeah, but only through radiation of infrared light. There's no convection or conduction, because there's no matter to transfer heat to.

Interestingly enough one of the biggest problems with designing spacesuits is how to get *RID* of the excess heat. An adult body puts out over 100W of heat, and to get rid of it you would either have to have huge bat-wing radiator panels, or you'd have to do what NASA does and use a refrigerator module to store the heat in the backpack. That's actually a bigger limit on how long people can spacewalk than their air supply.


Also the side of anything that faces the sun heats up very quickly. The shadow side on the other hand may well be a few hundred degrees cooler. A very useful material would be one that transfers this heat around and radiates it away as a function of its inherent properties.
 
2012-09-22 07:01:22 PM  

ISO15693: [i2.listal.com image 850x999]

Starships with curves are still okay.

Like this one.


Mother of god.

Also...

imageshack.us
 
2012-09-22 07:06:44 PM  
www.freewebs.com

/My own recommendation.
//Dark Eldar always have the coolest stuff... and about as durable as wet Kleenex.
 
2012-09-22 07:07:22 PM  

bhcompy: ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?

Space is cold.. if the radiator is exposed to space, i imagine it would cool.


Space isn't cold. Sigh. Does your coffee cool in a thermos?
 
2012-09-22 07:08:37 PM  
www.cyberpunkreview.com

orbitalvector.com 

blog.animeinstrumentality.net
 
2012-09-22 07:11:02 PM  
TheDirtyNacho:

Also the side of anything that faces the sun heats up very quickly. The shadow side on the other hand may well be a few hundred degrees cooler. A very useful material would be one that transfers this heat around and radiates it away as a function of its inherent properties.

The dark side of an object isn't necessarily cooler because, as has been said, it can only shed heat through radiation. They rotate spacecraft to keep them evenly toasted though.

It's also quite easy to keep the sunlit side of something cool. A flimsy sheet of reflective foil held just off the surface will do that... It's the equivalent of a dewar flask. That's half the reason that space probes are swaddled in gold foil, the other reason being radiation shielding.

So far as your smart material, if you have a lot of electrical power you could probably do something with the thermoelectric effect, but it's not very efficient with current (ha!) materials, and you'd still need a big radiator.

Some of the more far out suggestions I've seen in fiction involve a "laser refrigerator" for use in extreme conditions like the outer atmosphere of a star. Using some method of converting heat to light (which is never described) and dumping the excess power away in the form of a laser beam.
 
2012-09-22 07:14:32 PM  

ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?


Heat moves to cold...always.
 
2012-09-22 07:14:40 PM  

ZoeNekros: Great Janitor: ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?

Well, the Earth is heated by radiation from the sun. So radiation from a form of radiator will leave the source of the radiation.

Umn... that's not going to do the trick unless there's a radiator out there that shoots out photons. Heat is excited molecules, which can transfer to other molecules it comes into contact with. The energy we get from the sun comes in the form of photons, which are released when excited electrons move to a lower energy state. By the time the molecules in a would-be radiator got hot enough for the individual electrons to go into higher energy states, it would be a molten mess. Just think about lava. Stone, so hot it melts and glows. That's what it takes.


No.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_radiation
 
2012-09-22 07:17:40 PM  
Because of the risk of dust impact the front of the spacecraft as it moves forward, you'd be looking at something ten meters wide, and several hundred thousand long.

That or just build something that you can attach to the backside of a impact absorbing asteroid or comet. It would likely have to have some kind of spinny thing to give gravity. Add engines, fuel storage, greenhouses for oxygen and food, some electro-magnetic device to dampen radiation from external sources, and some kind of bay for shuttles and probes. Seeing interstellar travel would be a one way trip, it would need to have room for a population to grow in it. You'd be looking at a cubic mile or more per person. Considering the number of people needed to maintain a viable population, the damn thing will be the size of Kansas.

That said, let's just launch Kansas into space.
 
2012-09-22 07:17:55 PM  
Heat is radiated via black body radiation
 
2012-09-22 07:32:12 PM  

Quantum Apostrophe: bhcompy: ZoeNekros: Wait, how would radiators work in space? They work with an atmosphere, because the heat excess energy is transferred to the air... In space, wouldn't it just continue to get hotter and hotter?

Space is cold.. if the radiator is exposed to space, i imagine it would cool.

Space isn't cold. Sigh. Does your coffee cool in a thermos?


That doesn't even make sense. Thermoses don't have radiators as a rule, to keep the outside from affecting the inside. "Space", as it were, can be as cold as 3 kelvin. Our solar system gets as cold as 40 kelvin.
 
2012-09-22 07:36:26 PM  
Yamato, Smiley Face from Heavy Metal, Nadesico, or the Millennium Falcon. Maybe Serenity if I were feeling a bit mellow.

Enterprise? Ghei.
 
2012-09-22 07:42:06 PM  

r1niceboy: Because of the risk of dust impact the front of the spacecraft as it moves forward, you'd be looking at something ten meters wide, and several hundred thousand long.

That or just build something that you can attach to the backside of a impact absorbing asteroid or comet. It would likely have to have some kind of spinny thing to give gravity. Add engines, fuel storage, greenhouses for oxygen and food, some electro-magnetic device to dampen radiation from external sources, and some kind of bay for shuttles and probes. Seeing interstellar travel would be a one way trip, it would need to have room for a population to grow in it. You'd be looking at a cubic mile or more per person. Considering the number of people needed to maintain a viable population, the damn thing will be the size of Kansas.

That said, let's just launch Kansas into space.


Or some sort of shielding that prevents impacts from space dust and debris. Of course, I do wonder how much debris exists outside of the solar systems. I do, however, think the bigger problem right now is fuel. It takes a lot of energy to get moving quick enough for it to matter. You could go with the slow and grow method as you outlined, but what could end up happening is that your colony ships end up getting passed as technology continues to allow for more and more efficient means of transportation.
 
2012-09-22 07:43:42 PM  
While a manned interstellar mission isn't exactly on NASA's upcoming schedule

Thanks to zero, Manned flight isn't even on NASA's schedule.
 
2012-09-22 07:50:52 PM  
www.homebuilderwholesale.com
 
2012-09-22 07:56:40 PM  

bhcompy: That doesn't even make sense. Thermoses don't have radiators as a rule, to keep the outside from affecting the inside. "Space", as it were, can be as cold as 3 kelvin. Our solar system gets as cold as 40 kelvin.


Space isn't "cold" in the sense air is cold. You can only radiate heat into space, you can't convect or conduct it... So unless you have this great big radiator, you aren't going to experience that much cold. And then if you expose this radiator to direct sunlight, you'll soon find it hot instead of cold. And there's this really big light in the middle of the solar system.
 
2012-09-22 08:03:17 PM  

Quantum Apostrophe: bhcompy: That doesn't even make sense. Thermoses don't have radiators as a rule, to keep the outside from affecting the inside. "Space", as it were, can be as cold as 3 kelvin. Our solar system gets as cold as 40 kelvin.

Space isn't "cold" in the sense air is cold. You can only radiate heat into space, you can't convect or conduct it... So unless you have this great big radiator, you aren't going to experience that much cold. And then if you expose this radiator to direct sunlight, you'll soon find it hot instead of cold. And there's this really big light in the middle of the solar system.


No, space absolutely is cold - unless you happen to be hanging out right next to a source of heat. The difference is that a vacuum isn't a good conductor. Considering that we're talking about interstellar travel here, the sun really isn't an issue. Nor, oddly enough, is any star. In the depths of interstellar space, radiating heat won't be a problem as long as the system is designed appropriately.
 
2012-09-22 08:08:22 PM  

anthonix: If it doesn't look like this, I'm not interested.

[anthonyjosephevans.com image 750x443] 

This spaceship design just spoiled me. Nothing could ever beat it.


That shape was actually designed to give optimal firing arcs to the turbolasers. For instance, all port and starboard batteries can also be fired forward, giving 100% firepower available to targets in the forward arc.

Thats why the Rebel ships preferred to engage broadside.
 
2012-09-22 08:09:09 PM  
Actually, the design from "Contact" may be valid.

You are utilizing the spinning rings to create a relativistic warp
but instead of it being centralized on a large body of mass,
you're pulling it in minor terms and 3 dimensionally to the spinning rings,
thus creating one end of a worm hole...of course there needs to be an syncronized ending elsewhere.

The warp would be small enough that the falling orb with staff inside would hit it,
instantaneously transferred to the other side.

I'm thinking the rings would be super-dense and balanced, of some significant mass...
and likely have some type of EM field working in conjunction.

And you "may" have to use synced particles making up the rings on both sides to join the wormhole,
kind of like aligning address paths...but I'm not sure about that...

Now in the book/media's case, the transfer there & back was seemingly flowing...with observers noting no transport.
But I would guess that would be dependent on the length of time spent elsewhere.

However, I think the mechanics would be viable.
We'd just have to figure out the engineering and budget to build something of that scale and complexity.
 
2012-09-22 08:09:21 PM  

Glitchwerks: [www.lunarbistro.com image 720x478]


WOha, I had that game! I may still have my copy somewhere.
 
2012-09-22 08:17:40 PM  

bmfderek: Great Janitor: What would it look like? Well, it depends on what inertia dampeners will look like, what artificial gravity generators look like, navigational deflectors required size to operate effectively to keep dust and space crap out of the way, and the size of the faster than light engines needed as well the size needed for the hydrogen ram scoops.

And, let's face this fact: if the ship really can't travel fast enough to make the travel time from one star system to the other in a short enough amount of time, it will only have two functions: generational vessel to establish new colonies and robotic probes to explore space. And in both cases, the biggest problem is communication between colonies and space probes. The time it would take would be years. If we developed a way of communicating at the speed of light, it would take four and a half years to communicate between Earth and Alpha Centuri.

In all honesty, I believe that we should look towards finding earth like planets with no intelligent life, that could be colonized by a group of people knowing full well, that it would be a one way trip. Given the population of Earth, sending out 3 billion people or so would help the Earth. And it really wouldn't be hard to find that many people willing to go. Just tell the Christians that these planets need to be colonized in the name of Jesus and that there is no such things as Space Muslims.

Do you really want a bunch of Christians colonizing planets in the name of, and representing, mankind?


yeah what if they come basck to earth on a "crusade". Or we could just have a christian planet and a muslim planet and let em fight each other
 
2012-09-22 08:21:57 PM  

ronaprhys: No, space absolutely is cold - unless you happen to be hanging out right next to a source of heat. The difference is that a vacuum isn't a good conductor. Considering that we're talking about interstellar travel here, the sun really isn't an issue. Nor, oddly enough, is any star. In the depths of interstellar space, radiating heat won't be a problem as long as the system is designed appropriately.


I don't think so. A vacuum isn't cold. It isn't hot either. You are talking about the property of being "cold" of an entire system; radiator+environment. Space itself isn't cold or hot. Talking about a background radiation temperature isn't conveying the same meaning of temperature as in everyday use. Just like the noise figure of microwave amps can be specified in Kelvin, doesn't mean that the amplifier is actually condensing nitrogen out of the atmosphere because it has a noise temperature of 55K... (I can prove this, touch it!)

You can cook yourself in your space suit in interstellar space if your suit is as insulative as vacuum itself. Sure, add a radiator, but then what is "cold" here? The vacuum, or the vacuum+radiator?
 
2012-09-22 08:27:16 PM  
Not quite a starship, but one of the most realistic-looking space vehicles IMO:

1.bp.blogspot.com

/image is hotter than a lunar thermonuclear disaster
 
2012-09-22 08:32:08 PM  
STARSHIP
STARSHIP TAKE ME
TAKE ME WHERE I WANNA GO

www.the-rudy.com

LEAVING THE SOLAR SYSTEM LEAVING THE SOLAR SYSTEM LEAVING THE SOLAR SYSTEM LEAVING THE SOLAR SYSTEM
 
2012-09-22 08:36:33 PM  
As a lad, I was partial to the hollowed-out asteroid:

Link

lh6.ggpht.com

lh6.ggpht.com
 
2012-09-22 08:39:09 PM  
I assume that the vast 'bulk' of star ships will be force fields only micrometers thick. Once we learn how to manipulate magnetic fields and give the illusion of solidity, we can make things whatever shape we want.
 
2012-09-22 08:41:04 PM  

Quantum Apostrophe: ronaprhys: No, space absolutely is cold - unless you happen to be hanging out right next to a source of heat. The difference is that a vacuum isn't a good conductor. Considering that we're talking about interstellar travel here, the sun really isn't an issue. Nor, oddly enough, is any star. In the depths of interstellar space, radiating heat won't be a problem as long as the system is designed appropriately.

I don't think so. A vacuum isn't cold. It isn't hot either. You are talking about the property of being "cold" of an entire system; radiator+environment. Space itself isn't cold or hot. Talking about a background radiation temperature isn't conveying the same meaning of temperature as in everyday use. Just like the noise figure of microwave amps can be specified in Kelvin, doesn't mean that the amplifier is actually condensing nitrogen out of the atmosphere because it has a noise temperature of 55K... (I can prove this, touch it!)

You can cook yourself in your space suit in interstellar space if your suit is as insulative as vacuum itself. Sure, add a radiator, but then what is "cold" here? The vacuum, or the vacuum+radiator?


Let me throw in my 2¢. "Hot" and "cold" refer to a system's temperature. Temperature is defined as a measure of the internal kinetic energy of the system's constituent particles. If space were truly empty, then it would be accurate to say space is neither hot nor cold. However, space is not completely empty and those few particles that are present can and do contribute to what is correctly termed a temperature. This is what the ~40 K temperature of our solar system mentioned somewhere up-thread refers to. (I don't know if that number is correct, but it seems reasonable.

The CMB is something else entirely. That's the residual, red-shifted radiation from the end of the cosmic dark ages.
 
2012-09-22 08:43:40 PM  

r1niceboy: Because of the risk of dust impact the front of the spacecraft as it moves forward, you'd be looking at something ten meters wide, and several hundred thousand long.

That or just build something that you can attach to the backside of a impact absorbing asteroid or comet. It would likely have to have some kind of spinny thing to give gravity. Add engines, fuel storage, greenhouses for oxygen and food, some electro-magnetic device to dampen radiation from external sources, and some kind of bay for shuttles and probes. Seeing interstellar travel would be a one way trip, it would need to have room for a population to grow in it. You'd be looking at a cubic mile or more per person. Considering the number of people needed to maintain a viable population, the damn thing will be the size of Kansas.

That said, let's just launch Kansas into space.


wilybadger.files.wordpress.com

Kind of like this?
 
2012-09-22 08:44:21 PM  
"Staying Cool on the International Space Station"

The universe is a place of wide extremes: light, dark... wet, dry... air, vacuum... hungry, fed. Human life tends to flourish in the balance. We feel most comfortable in places that are not too hot or too cold, not too light or too dark -- in other words, places that are "just right."

Most of our planet fits that description. As long as you stay away from the South Pole and don't fall into a volcano, Earth is a pretty comfortable world. But now that humans are venturing into space -- not as visitors, but as homesteaders -- finding the right balance is more of a challenge.

Consider, for example, the International Space Station (ISS).

Without thermal controls, the temperature of the orbiting Space Station's Sun-facing side would soar to 250 degrees F (121 C), while thermometers on the dark side would plunge to minus 250 degrees F (-157 C). There might be a comfortable spot somewhere in the middle of the Station, but searching for it wouldn't be much fun!

Fortunately for the crew and all the Station's hardware, the ISS is designed and built with thermal balance in mind -- and it is equipped with a thermal control system that keeps the astronauts in their orbiting home cool and comfortable.

The first design consideration for thermal control is insulation -- to keep heat in for warmth and to keep it out for cooling.

Here on Earth, environmental heat is transferred in the air primarily by conduction (collisions between individual air molecules) and convection (the circulation or bulk motion of air).

"This is why you can insulate your house basically using the air trapped inside your insulation," said Andrew Hong, an engineer and thermal control specialist at NASA's Johnson Space Center. "Air is a poor conductor of heat, and the fibers of home insulation that hold the air still minimize convection."

"In space there is no air for conduction or convection," he added. Space is a radiation-dominated environment. Objects heat up by absorbing sunlight and they cool off by emitting infrared energy, a form of radiation which is invisible to the human eye.

As a result, insulation for the International Space Station doesn't look like the fluffy mat of pink fibers you often find in Earth homes. The Station's insulation is instead a highly-reflective blanket called Multi-Layer Insulation (or MLI) made of Mylar and dacron.

Above, left: Common home insulation on Earth. Above, right: Multi Layer Insulation -- or MLI -- for the International Space Station. The reflective silver mesh is aluminized Mylar. The copper-colored material is kapton, a heavier layer that protects the sheets of fragile Mylar, which are usually only 0.3 mil or 3/10000 of an inch thick. Photo courtesy Andrew Hong, JSC.

"The Mylar is aluminized so that solar thermal radiation can't get through it," explains Hong. Here on Earth, we use blankets containing aluminized Mylar to wrap people who have been exposed to cold or trauma. Such blankets are especially popular among hunters and campers!

"Layers of dacron fabric keep the Mylar sheets separated, which prevents heat from being conducted between layers," he continued. "This ensures radiation will be the most dominant heat transfer method through the blanket."

Except for its windows, most of the ISS is covered with the radiation-stopping MLI.

see caption"Windows are a tremendous heat leak," said Hong, "but astronauts need them for ergonomics and also for their research. It's something we have to design around."

MLI insulation does a double-duty job: keeping solar radiation out, and keeping the bitter cold of space from penetrating the Station's metal skin.

It does its work so well that the ISS presents another thermal challenge for engineers -- dealing with internal temperatures that are always on the rise inside this super-insulated orbiting laboratory fully stocked with many kinds of heat-producing instruments.

Right: MLI thermal blankets are just one of the many space-age materials that protect the ISS from the harsh elements of space. [more information]

Imagine that "your house was really, really well insulated and you closed it up and shut off the air-conditioning," said Gene Ungar, a thermal fluid analysis specialist at NASA's Johnson Space Center. "Almost every watt of power that came through the electric wires would end up as heat."

This is just what happens on the Space Station. Energy from the solar arrays flows into the ISS to run avionics, electronics ... all of the Station's many systems. They all produce heat, and something has to be done to get rid of the excess.

The basic answer is to install heat exchangers. Designers created the Active Thermal Control System, or ATCS for short, to take the heat out of the spacecraft.

Waste heat is removed in two ways, through cold plates and heat exchangers, both of which are cooled by a circulating water loop. Air and water heat exchangers cool and dehumidify the spacecraft's internal atmosphere. High heat generators are attached to custom-built cold plates. Cold water -- circulated by a 17,000-rpm impeller the size of a quarter -- courses through these heat-exchanging devices to cool the equipment.

"The excess heat is removed by this very efficient liquid heat-exchange system," said Ungar. "Then we send the energy to radiators to reject that heat into space."

Above: This picture of the International Space Station, captured last month by the crew of STS-98, shows the station's outstretched aluminum radiators. Click for a close-up view.

But water circulated in pipes outside the space station would quickly freeze. To make this fluid-based system work, waste heat is exchanged a second time to another loop containing ammonia in place of water. Ammonia freezes at -107 degrees F (-77 C) at standard atmospheric pressure. The heated ammonia circulates through huge radiators located on the exterior of the Space Station, releasing the heat as infrared radiation and cooling as it flows.

The Station's outstretched radiators are made of honeycomb aluminum panels. There are 14 panels, each measuring 6 by 10 feet (1.8 by 3 meters), for a total of 1680 square feet (156 square meters) of ammonia-tubing-filled heat exchange area. Compare that majestic radiator with the 3-square-foot grid of coils found in typical home air conditioners and you can begin to appreciate the scope and challenge of doing "routine" things in space.

Finally, thermal control engineers must address air flow within the Space Station. The movement of air is a major factor in achieving the balance between hot and cold.

The ATCS works in tandem with the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that controls air quality and flow in the ISS. In orbital free-fall conditions -- equivalent to zero-G -- hot and cold air don't rise and fall as they do on Earth. Proper air circulation helps prevent unwanted cold spots that could produce condensation, electrical shocks, serious corrosion and even biological problems such as microbial growth. Corrosive fungi were a nagging problem on Russia's Mir space station, and ISS mission planners want to avoid a repeat infestation.

Above: Floating through space in short sleeves and bare feet? It must be comfortable up there!

It is indeed a strange new world on the ISS. Hot air that doesn't rise ... heat that doesn't conduct ... radiators too cold for liquid water ... it's enough to give a thermal engineer gray hairs! But thanks to the Station's efficient integrated thermal control systems, the crew needn't worry -- staying cool on the ISS is no problem!

Editor's note: One reader asks, "If the temperature of the shadowed side of the Space Station can plunge to -250 F and if the freezing point of ammonia is only -107 F, why doesn't the ammonia in the station's radiators freeze?" The reason is that the heat-bearing ammonia can't lose heat fast enough to reach its freezing point before the liquid circulates back inside the warmer confines of the Space Station. If (as a thought experiment) we turned off the pumps and oriented the Station so that the radiator was in the shadow of, say, a solar panel, the ammonia would likely freeze after some period of time.
 
2012-09-22 08:48:53 PM  

Quantum Apostrophe: ronaprhys: No, space absolutely is cold - unless you happen to be hanging out right next to a source of heat. The difference is that a vacuum isn't a good conductor. Considering that we're talking about interstellar travel here, the sun really isn't an issue. Nor, oddly enough, is any star. In the depths of interstellar space, radiating heat won't be a problem as long as the system is designed appropriately.

I don't think so. A vacuum isn't cold. It isn't hot either. You are talking about the property of being "cold" of an entire system; radiator+environment. Space itself isn't cold or hot. Talking about a background radiation temperature isn't conveying the same meaning of temperature as in everyday use. Just like the noise figure of microwave amps can be specified in Kelvin, doesn't mean that the amplifier is actually condensing nitrogen out of the atmosphere because it has a noise temperature of 55K... (I can prove this, touch it!)

You can cook yourself in your space suit in interstellar space if your suit is as insulative as vacuum itself. Sure, add a radiator, but then what is "cold" here? The vacuum, or the vacuum+radiator?


Fail - look up the definition of the word conductor and the actual temperature of space. Maybe science isn't your strong suit...
 
2012-09-22 08:49:56 PM  
No Battlestar Galactica?

Kinda bummed.
 
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