Monday, January 22, 2007

Ion Space Ships To Power Lunar-Earth Flights? Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
In an age where chemical rockets rule on Earth and space, new technology could enable humanity to travel from the Moon to our home world, saving us money on the trip back to our our planet.

(New Scientist Space) Spacecraft could one day be propelled by ion beams shooting up from the Moon, according to a recent concept study.

Other spacecraft, such as Deep Space 1 and SMART-1, have flown with ion engines, which work by stripping electrons off gas atoms and accelerating the ions with an electric field. The ions create thrust as they are shot out of the engine. [...]

To catch the ion wind, each spacecraft would be equipped with one or more sails. In a passive version of the concept, the stream of ions – possibly xenon or argon - physically pushes against the sails. In an active version, the sail could be positively charged and repel the positively charged ions, giving extra thrust; or perhaps the charge on different sails could be altered to steer the spacecraft.

While the idea is a new approach towards human travel, scientists still have to figure out a way to keep the ion beams from repelling each other while being shot out. If successful however, ion transport could prove to be quite useful, as it would end up saving NASA and the alt-space community billions in hauling fuel to the lunar surface.

Note: This ion canon could (ironically) be used to power lifters on a lunar space elevator, if it could provide enough energy for thrust that is.

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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