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Thread: Effect of high-speed travel in space on the astronauts

  1. #1
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    Effect of high-speed travel in space on the astronauts

    Hi Fraser and others,
    I have a simple question about travelling at a high speed in space in a space-craft.
    Let's say we are travelling at a very high speed (may be closer to speed of light) and we see some obstruction (rocks, Planetoid etc. ) in front. How will the space-craft avoid/dodge it?
    If it changes course, the centrifugal force inside the space craft will kill the astronauts.
    If it tries to slow down by braking(reverse thrust) it will have similar impact on astronauts.
    If the space craft collides with a small particle at that high speed, then the change of momentum will generate huge force on the spacecraft and it might be severely damaged?

    OR, space craft will be designed with very sophisticated radar which will detect the obstructions very early and may change course gradually without generating high centrifugal force? Still there might be some immanency/unforeseen cases, where the space craft need to dodge the obstruction rapidly.

    Best regards,
    Bhaskar

  2. #2
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    You should never go faster than your guardian angel can fly, so yes, you should have means that warns you of obstacles fast enough that avoidance is still possible (in terms of manoevrability and sustained forces) or makes a collision survivable. So the solutions would either be a very far reaching radar like sensor, or some kind of shield (physical shield, "beam", projectiles) that destroy the obstacle and/or reduce the impact felt by the craft.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    You should never go faster than your guardian angel can fly, so yes, you should have means that warns you of obstacles fast enough that avoidance is still possible (in terms of manoevrability and sustained forces) or makes a collision survivable. So the solutions would either be a very far reaching radar like sensor, or some kind of shield (physical shield, "beam", projectiles) that destroy the obstacle and/or reduce the impact felt by the craft.
    Appreciate your reply

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    You should never go faster than your guardian angel can fly...
    What an eloquent way to answer the question!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by bhasky View Post
    I have a simple question about travelling at a high speed in space in a space-craft.
    Let's say we are travelling at a very high speed (may be closer to speed of light) and we see some obstruction (rocks, Planetoid etc. ) in front. How will the space-craft avoid/dodge it?
    At such a high rate of speed, there are, fortunately, a few benefits that help offset, somewhat, the impact risk.
    1) The objects will appear brighter than normal since the photon flux rate will increase as you zoom toward any object. So detection is improved.
    2) The wavelength will blueshift and shorter wavelengths improve resolution. [I think this is right.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

  6. #6
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    Shielding options;

    1. Accelerate a comet or other large piece of debris to fly in front of your craft by several thousand km. The debris acts as a fender and takes the hit, not the spacecraft. Two fenders would be better. The downside is you need to also decelerate the fender(s) to slow down with your spacecraft in order to reach your destination. (Plus it's probably poor form to leave large chunks of debris flying around the galaxy at relativistic speeds.)

    2. Clad your spacecraft in a really thick layer of ice, especially in the front. However this option degrades in function as the obstacle size increases.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    What an eloquent way to answer the question!
    Overhere it's a standard phrase, most often aimed towards motorcyclists.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  8. #8
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    Didn't I read about accelerating the ship's fuel to speed and then flying in that stream as protection on this website (cosmoquest)? It seems both hi-tech and low tech at the same time.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    Didn't I read about accelerating the ship's fuel to speed and then flying in that stream as protection on this website (cosmoquest)? It seems both hi-tech and low tech at the same time.
    Or you can build a loop, harness the stream's momentum magnetically as it passes and THEN use it as fuel. Like those water-cannon jetpacks you see on the YouTube.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  10. #10
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    Is there any simpler solution or artificial gravity field ?

  11. #11
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    There Are Other Problems

    Oncoming photons will appear to be gamma rays, IIRC. Plan on dying from the radiation before impacts.

    It is a good question, however. Kiloton explosions from impacting dust particles is frightening.

    If you can find a copy of Poul Anderson's Boat of a Million Years, it has much relevant material. Again, IIRC, Poul ha length contraction wrong (there is NO expansion in width), but the rest is good.

    Regards, John M.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bhasky View Post
    Is there any simpler solution or artificial gravity field ?
    No. The laws of motion are inescapable. And it may (may) be more accurate to refer to gravitational force as an alteration of space.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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