Long Range Space Travel In Interstellar

  • Words 1299
  • Pages 3
Download PDF


Long range space travel is a new area of research and development in the area of space travel. This report will look at the application, limitations, impact and development of long range space travel. The main article used to create this report was an article by Dave Gilbert for CNN in October 2016 ‘Deep space: Are we smart enough to beat the physics?’, with additional resources used to support the concepts and information contained in the main article. Contrary to common belief, humans have managed interstellar exploration several times with spacecraft on escape trajectories, meaning that they have left or are leaving the solar system, and these space craft were the Voyager, Pioneer and New Horizon space craft CITATION Gil16 l 3081 (Gilbert, 2016). The idea of long range space travel for humans is a completely theoretical concept, with no working concepts of long range travel being created outside of the Voyager and Pioneer unmanned probes which were not created for human interstellar travel.

Image SEQ Image * ARABIC 1 (3D rendering of Voyager 2 Spacecraft)

Click to get a unique essay

Our writers can write you a new plagiarism-free essay on any topic

Relevant Physics Concept’s

The physics behind long range space travel which includes interstellar travel, is extremely complicated with Physicists only understanding small parts and each component of travel having its own physics concepts. As long range space travel occurs in the vacuum of space, the spacecraft does not require to be propelled constantly to keep a constant speed, as factors such as air resistance and gravity, do not occur in the vacuum of space. Interstellar travel is possible according to laws of physics, as no law forbids interstellar travel but according to laws of physics there is a speed limit. As shown by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, as an “object approaches the speed of light, its mass reaches infinity, hence a spacecraft could not travel faster than light” CITATION Eli18 l 3081 (Howell, 2018). In addition, if a spacecraft was to approach the speed of light, the occupants would age slower than those on earth according to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, and hence would return to find their love ones and family much older or dead CITATION Eli18 l 3081 (Howell, 2018).

Applications and Limitations

The potential applications of long distance space travel are endless, NASA and SpaceX are the key leaders in the development of long distance travel which would allow humans to travel and explore other planets throughout the galaxy and possibly beyond.

For all the potential applications, there are huge limitations and issues that need to be overcome for long range space travel to be possible. One of the biggest issues is the negative psychological impact that comes from long distance travel suffered by humans from being in a confined space for an extended period. Additionally, there are actual and potential physical effects created by the absence of gravity and the presence of radiation, that must be overcome for journeys to Mars and beyond, to be safe and possible.

At the present, 5 key areas need to be addressed for long range space travel to be possible. The key areas are: systems to live and breathe, proper propulsion, the ability to hold off the heat, radiation protection, and communication and navigation systems CITATION NAS18 l 3081 (NASA, 2018). Each of these systems needs to be addressed to an exceptional standard, to make long range travel possible. Radiation protection is a major issue for long range missions that extend beyond the protection of earth’s magnetic field, as the radiation found in space can be a major issue for on-board computers and avionics in addition to the fatal effects radiation has on living objects aboard the space craft CITATION Pau19 l 3081 (Sutter, 2019).


Scientific progress in the field of long range space travel is an important area with ground breaking developments being made rapidly, particularly in the area of propulsion. Companies throughout the world have joined forces to create the first mid / long range space travel aimed towards Mars. The three main competitors are NASA, Boeing Aerospace and SpaceX. Each of these companies have experimented with different types of proposition such as solar sails, photon laser thrusters and anti-matter drives, and all of these have been theatrically been tested, but cannot be physically tested due to current limitations such as the capture of antimatter using a magnetic field, and the cost to test each system CITATION Gil16 l 3081 (Gilbert, 2016). An anti-matter drive is a promising type of futuristic propulsion system which theoretically works by matter being collided with anti-matter causing a huge burst of energy, capable of propelling a spacecraft to half the speed of light or 1.5x108ms-1 CITATION Gil16 l 3081 (Gilbert, 2016). The first anti-matter drive is planned to be tested within the next 15 years if funding continues, due to research being currently partly being funded by private investors CITATION Bru19 l 3081 (Dorminey, n.d.).

The issue of gravity has also been a key area of development which has resulted in the creation of artificial gravity using a rotating ring on a spacecraft such as in image 2, that would create a force pushing everything away from the centre of rotation, but this has issues due to the friction created from the spacecraft needing to also have a non-rotating section for propulsion or other critical systems CITATION Gil16 l 3081 (Gilbert, 2016). Additionally, due to the Coriolis Effect that applies to any object that moves, it would give the apparent motion of the object spinning in the opposite direction to the habitant and as an occupant’s head is closer to the centre of rotation, their head would spin faster than their feet CITATION Ins14 l 3081 (Institute of Physics, 2014). This can be minimised by limiting the rotations to 1 rpm but to create an artificial gravity with 1rpm, the shim must be greater than 900m in diameter CITATION Gil16 l 3081 (Gilbert, 2016), resulting in the concept being unpractical, but it was tested on NASA’s Gemini 11 mission, which showed that the concept worked at a small scale CITATION Cal15 l 3081 (Scharf, 2015).

In regard to the capacity for humans to engage in long range space travel, Russia and the European Space Agency has lead the way in the testing and training of space crews, to be capable of long range space travel through the Mars500 project (see image 3), which took place in 2007 to 2011, to test human psychological capacity to handle long times in confined quarters CITATION Ins14 l 3081 (Institute of Physics, 2014).


In conclusion, long range space travel is a promising area in aerospace that has a lot of real and theoretical issues to overcome. Long range space travel is a steppingstone towards humanity exploring the stars with manned interstellar missions. Humanity and society would benefit from this form of space travel, but there are many issues such as propulsion, heat and radiation shielding, and navigation systems, that need to be solved before travel can take place.


  1. Dorminey, B., n.d. Antimatter Space Propulsion Possible Within A Decade, Say Physicists. [Online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucedorminey/2016/02/24/antimatter-space-propulsion-possible-within-a-decade-say-physicists/#5976a63a5849[Accessed 26 October 2019].
  2. Dunnill, C. W., 2018. How Water Could Power Long-Distance Space Travel. [Online] Available at: https://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2018/07/11/how_water_could_power_long-distance_space_travel_110692.html[Accessed 27 October 2019].
  3. Gilbert, D., 2016. Deep space: Are we smart enough to beat the physics?. [Online] Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2016/10/11/health/interstellar-travel-space-physics/index.html[Accessed 24 October 2019].
  4. Howell, E., 2018. Engage Warp Drive! Why Interstellar Travel’s Harder Than It Looks. [Online] Available at: https://www.space.com/40507-interstellar-space-travel-and-science-fiction.html[Accessed 27 October 2019].
  5. Institute of Physics, 2014. Long-duration space travel. [Online] Available at: https://www.iop.org/resources/topic/archive/spacetravel/index.html#gref[Accessed 23 October 2019].
  6. NASA, 2018. Top Five Technologies Needed for a Spacecraft to Survive Deep Space. [Online] Available at: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/top-five-technologies-needed-for-a-spacecraft-to-survive-deep-space[Accessed 26 October 2019].
  7. Scharf, C. A., 2015. Watch the First Artificial Gravity Experiment. [Online] Available at: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/life-unbounded/watch-the-first-artificial-gravity-experiment/[Accessed 27 October 2019].
  8. Sutter, P., 2019. Is Interstellar Travel Really Possible?. [Online] Available at: https://www.space.com/is-interstellar-travel-possible.html[Accessed 10 October 2019].
  9. Tate, K., 2013. How Interstellar Space Travel Works (Infographic). [Online] Available at: https://www.space.com/17619-how-interstellar-travel-works-infographic.html[Accessed 27 October 2019].


We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy.