Aug 21, 2015

The Next Frontier in Space: Necessary Technology

There is a difference between science and engineering. Nothing illustrates this better than the Manhattan Project, where some of the greatest minds of the century turned theoretical physics into an engineering reality. Space travel is currently undergoing the same disruptive shift in technology. Some things sit on the science side and others are now on the engineering side. The new version of space travel needs to be able to sit firmly on the fence between the two.

3D Printers And A Scoop

Carrying all of the supplies that may ever be needed is a problem for space travelers. It gets worse the farther from Earth we travel. A trip to Mars would take nine months one way, making a trip home to grab things that were forgotten out of the question. So manufacturing what we need while away is mandatory for space travel. Engineering has caught up with science in the form of 3D printing.

According to an article for manufacturer Apple Rubber, the international space station will be receiving a portable 3D printer and raw materials that will allow the astronauts the ability to create almost any device that they may need. For longer trips, like a Mars mission, harvesting raw materials from the planet’s surface will let would-be terraformers create structures and machines without needing a propulsion payload.

Field Propulsion

Warping space, faster-than-light travel, and worm holes are all theoretically possible deep space travel methods that are a long way off of the practical engineering front. Field propulsion systems look like they may make the cut into engineering practicality. Following the same idea of using the resources available in space, field propulsion moves a spacecraft by riding the high and low cosmic pressure waves like a surfer on the ocean. This reduces the need for solid propellant which is heavy and non-renewable.


Humans are social creatures, so communication is obligatory to tether space travelers to their home planet. We are already accustomed to social media networks to make friends and stay connected with loved ones. The problem is that, as we get farther away, it takes more time for the messages to get to the intended target. An engineering solution is to use quantum communication and a trail of bread crumb style relays. Quantum communication uses paired vibrations between quantum particles to transmit a message at instantaneous speeds and the relays help reduce degradation of the signal.

Somewhere To Sleep

For travel into deep space, some crew may live, breed, and die in space during a normal life cycle. Others may need to sleep for a good portion of the dull travelling part. Hibernation technology is becoming more and more realistic, both for space travel and Earth-bound medicine. Scientists have found that animals that hibernate have built in approaches to prevent bone loss, muscle atrophy, and cardiovascular issues.

A Really Good Doctor

Systems theory is applied over the sciences from psychology to biology to physics. The concept is that we are part of a system and that tweaking any one part will affect all of the others. In a confined space where gravity, environment, and nutrition are altered, there will be natural stresses on the system, especially the organism of communicable disease. Like any pioneer, the greatest technology that we will bring with us is our human ingenuity and the ability to fix problems when they happen.

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