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Category Archives: Space Travel

Virgin Group to sell shares of space venture to aid travel business – UPI News

Posted: May 14, 2020 at 6:03 pm

May 11 (UPI) -- British billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group conglomerate, will sell as many as 25 million of his shares in the Virgin Galactic space tourism venture, his company said Monday.

The Virgin Group said it's notified U.S. regulators of the plan, which has been influenced by sagging demand in the leisure, retail and travel industries.

Branson's shares are worth about $500 million and will be sold via Virgin subsidiary Vieco 10 Limited.

Virgin said it "intends to use any proceeds to support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19."

Virgin Galactic, unlike Virgin Group's airlines business, has performed well during the health crisis. Its value has nearly double since its October initial public offering from $2.3 billion to $4.3 billion.

Virgin Galactic has been developing space tourism ventures that intended to send passengers in jet-launched spacecraft at a cost of $250,000. Virgin has said it's in the final test stages and has already received more than 600 cash deposits. Branson has said he will go on the first trip, which was scheduled sometime this year.

Virgin Airlines asked the British government in March for up to $616 million in relief aid.

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What to binge next: 10 sci-fi shows to escape into the future –

Posted: at 6:03 pm

May 13 (UPI) -- Many sci-fi writers predicted the distant futures of 2001, 2015 or 2019, but 2020 feels like a world those authors never could have imagined, with people stuck in their homes to avoid a pandemic.

The TV drama derived from possible futures, space travel, far-fetched technology or other sci-fi concepts could be a good escape from the mundane realities of the world. Here are some of the sci-fi series available on streaming platforms that have run at least three seasons.

The Expanse - Prime

Three seasons would have been it for The Expanse on Syfy, but Amazon picked up a fourth season and now streams all four. When humans expanded beyond Earth in the future, that only created more drama between people who populated different planets, ships and even the asteroid belt. Amazon is making a fifth season.

The Outer Limits - Hulu and Prime

The original '60s series only lasted two seasons, but the '90s version lasted seven. Both incarnations are on Hulu and Prime. Each Outer Limits was a standalone story with a new cast, and often a twist ending a la The Twilight Zone. Sci-fi subjects could include aliens, science experiments, time travel, the future or other forward-thinking concepts.

12 Monkeys - Hulu

Based on the hit movie, Syfy elaborated the story over four seasons. James Cole (Aaron Stanford) comes from an apocalyptic future to try to find an antidote for the virus that ravaged the world. Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) grows to believe them, and they try to work with the erratic Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire as a gender-swapped version of Brad Pitt's Jeffrey Goines).

The 100 - Netflix and The CW

In this series, the Earth becomes uninhabitable and a few survivors live on a space station. After a generation of kids grew up in space, their parents sent 100 down to Earth to see if it was possible to restart society. Drama ensued with the 100 kids and tribes who had lived on Earth all along, and with the parents when they returned. The seventh and final season is coming to The CW on May 20.

Black Mirror - Netflix

This British anthology series from Charlie Brooker has an even darker take than The Outer Limits or Twilight Zone. Subjects range from a society in which people live in ad supported cubes, a digital afterlife and a spaceship crew. "Bandersnatch" only could exist on streaming with its interactive options that allow the viewer to choose the outcome. There are five seasons, with no more than six episodes, so it's a shorter total run.

The X-Files - Hulu

For seven seasons, FBI agents Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) investigated possible alien sightings. Scully spent two more years investigating with Agent Doggett (Robert Patrick). After two movies, Scully and Mulder returned for two more short seasons of a revival. All 11 seasons are on Hulu.

Westworld - HBO

Remember that old movie in which Yul Brynner was a cowboy robot who malfunctioned and shot the guests? Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy created a very serious version for HBO. The Old West theme park "hosts" (Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, James Marsden) discovered secrets kept by their creators (Jeffrey Wright, Anthony Hopkins). Guests (Ed Harris, Jimmi Simpson) grew obsessive about the park too. It's still unfolding over three seasons.

Orphan Black - Prime and DirecTV

Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) discovers she's a clone, and keeps meeting new clones as the five seasons continue. Maslany plays every clone distinctly, and they interact thanks to seamless visual effects. It's the Maslany show, but supporting characters like her friend, Felix (Jordan Gavaris), and one clone's husband, Donnie (Kristian Bruun), are memorable, too.

The Twilight Zone - CBS All Access, Hulu, Netflix

Rod Serling created the classic anthology series in 1959 with memorable episodes like "Time Enough At Last," in which one man (Burgess Meredith) hopes to spend the apocalypse reading every book in the library. Or, there's "It's a Good Life," in which adults live in terror of a psychically powered child (Billy Mumy). Netflix has four seasons and Hulu has all five. CBS has all five plus Jordan Peele's modern day reboot.

Star Trek - CBS All Access, Netflix, Prime, Hulu

Gene Roddenberry created the crew of the Starship Enterprise in the 1966 original series, which spun off into many other Star Treks in the '80s, '90s and '00s, and continues with CBS All Access developing even more new series. Trekkers keep exploring new worlds and having new adventures. CBS boasts every Trek series including its exclusives, Discovery and Picard. You also can find the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise on Netflix, Prime and Hulu.

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The sky is full of weird X-shaped galaxies. Here’s why. – Live Science

Posted: at 6:03 pm

Spied through a normal telescope, the galaxy PKS 201455 is an unremarkable smudge of bright light. But look again in radio wavelengths, and you'll see that the galaxy is hiding a gargantuan, glowing treasure at its center and X marks the spot.

PKS 201455 is an X-shaped radio galaxy (XRG), an unusual type of galaxy that looks like an enormous X in the night sky when imaged in radio wavelengths. The long arms of the X each one about 100 times longer than the Milky Way are actually a blazing-fast soup of particles and magnetic fields, blasted out of the galaxy's central black hole and traveling for millions of light-years into space, far beyond the galaxy's edge.

Big jets of radio energy are common in galaxies with hungry black holes at their centers (even the Milky Way has two "bubbles" of radio energy around its gut). However, most of those jets come in orderly pairs that appear to form a straight line or a round bulge when seen from far away. According to William Cotton, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Virginia who studies XRGs, fewer than 10% of known cosmic radio sources take on a distinct X shape like this one.

Related: The biggest black hole findings of 2019

"You see four things poking out of this galaxy," Cotton, lead author of a new study on the galaxy, told Live Science, "and the question is, how did it get that way?"

Now, Cotton and his colleagues may have an answer. In a new study posted May 7 on the pre-print server arXiv and accepted for publication in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers with the NRAO and South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) used the massive MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa's Karoo desert to capture the most detailed image of an XRG ever. The image, shown above, reveals that the strange X bursting out of PKS 201455's center apparently isn't an X at all.

"It's actually a 'double boomerang' shape," Cotton said. "That means something in the galaxy is diverting the flow into these secondary wings."

According to Cotton and the new study, the galaxy's strange shape can be explained by a theory known as the "hydrodynamical backflow model." Here's what's happening, in a nutshell: First, the galaxy's central black hole gobbles up matter for millions of years, until it experiences a bout of cosmic indigestion. The black hole belches twin jets of matter into space, each traveling in opposite directions at incredible speed.

Eventually (tens of thousands of years later), those jets blast through the galaxy's gassy halo, traveling onward into intergalactic space. Pressure slowly builds up in the jets as they travel farther and farther out of the galaxy, ultimately forcing some material in each jet to flip around and flow back toward the center again. This phenomenon is known as "backflow."

Backflow is common in active galaxies, Cotton said, but usually all that returning material bulges up in the middle of the galaxy, rather than bouncing off to the side. In PKS 201455, the galaxy's hot halo of dust and gas is angled in such a way that the backflow is actually "deflected" back out of the galaxy, giving each jet a boomerang-like appearance.

To Cotton and his colleagues, this long cosmic history was evident simply by looking at the contours of the jet flow in the MeerKAT image "We looked at the image for about 10 seconds and just said, 'yeah, that's it,'" Cotton said. But as the team analyzed the brightness of the jets, further details emerged.

According to Cotton, this image shows not one, but three separate black hole burstss separated by tens of millions of years. The two white dots near the picture's center show the most recent event, with twin lobes of energy just beginning to expand out of the black hole and into the galaxy. Beyond these, the two long blue lobes are the decaying remnants of two jets that erupted from the black hole around 10 million years ago, Cotton said.

"And, if you look around the edges of the jets, there's what we call a 'cocoon' the faint remnant of an even earlier outburst," he added. "That's something on the order of 100 million years old."

The fact that all three generations of jets appear to follow the same boomerang pattern suggests that hydrodynamical backflow explains this XRG's shape, rather than some other phenomenon (such as the black hole changing direction between one jet outburst and the next).

The same model may not explain every X-shaped galaxy in the universe each one requires its own analysis, Cotton said. But, at least in the case of PKS 201455, thats one cosmic treasure map solved.

Originally published on Live Science.

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What is Jeff Bezos net worth? – The Scottish Sun

Posted: at 6:03 pm

AMAZON founder Jeff Bezos is one of the richest men in history and could soon become the world's first trillionaire.

But who is the multi-billionaire Amazon founder, how did he start the gigantic tech company and what does he spend his money on?Here's what you need to know...


Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of online marketplace Amazon.

The businessman studied electrical engineering and computer science at Princeton University before working on Wall Street.

In 1994, Bezos, 56, founded Amazon from a garage - five years later he was named Time magazine's person of the year.

As well as Amazon the tech giant is the founder of Blue Origin, a company working to develop commercial space travel.

He also owns the Washington Post and is a volunteer firefighter.

Bezos is a massive Star Trek fan and had a cameo in the last movie, playing an alien Starfleet official.

Jeff Bezos is estimated to be worth over $140bn (112bn) and is on track to becoming the world's first trillionaire.

While the financial future looks bleak for many during the coronavirus crisis, it has never looked better for Bezos who has become even richer during the pandemic.

Amazon is now worth $1.1trillion with its shares hitting an all time high in April 2020.

It helped Bezos see his fortune grow by another $6.4billion.

Using data from the last five years of the Forbes Rich List, Comparisun worked out that Bezos' annual growth rate will make him a trillionaire in 2026 - when he is 62 years old.

The Amazon founder, who owns about 16 per cent of the business' shares, first featured in the Forbes rich list in 1998.

He became the richest man in history when his net worth reached 78bn ($105.5bn).

It made him the first person to amass a 12-digit fortune since Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who has given more than 44billion ($60billion) to charity, achieved the feat back in 1999.


Bezos wrote down the business plan for Amazon during a cross-country drive from New York to Seattle in 1994.

He initially set up the company in his garage after leaving his job at the hedge fund.

In May 2016, Bezos sold slightly more than one million shares of his holdings in the company for $671million (525million).

On August 4, 2016, he sold one million of his shares at a value of $756.7million (592.4million)


AMAZON CRIMEHow Saudi Prince 'taunted' Jeff Bezos over affair after 'hacking his phone'

Jeff Bezos married novelist MacKenzie Bezos in 1993 after meeting while working at a New York hedge fund.

They went on to have four children together.

On January 10, 2019, Bezos and wife MacKenzie revealed their 25-year marriage was over in a joint statement.

The divorce between the pair was finalised in April 2019, with Jeff keeping 75 per cent of the couple's stock amounting to about 81billion.

Since splitting, MacKenzie Bezos has stayed away from the limelight, while her former husband has become a fixture in the tabloids with Lauren Sanchez, his new girlfriend.

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The 100 Series Finale Trailer Teases Screams, Space Travel, and Drastic Haircuts – Gizmodo

Posted: at 6:02 pm

Shout it from the space station, The 100 is back.Photo: CWTrailer FrenzyA special place to find the newest trailers for movies and TV shows you're craving.

So, is The 100 becoming Stargate now?

The new trailer for the seventh and final season of The 100 is here and, as with most things, it all starts fairly expectedly. But as the trailer moves on, the show takes a hard right turn into What the Living Hell Land. Take a look for yourself.

Wormholes to other dimensions? Space charts? Snow planets? What the hell happened to the seemingly simple story of humanitys attempt to repopulate the Earth after total Armageddon? Well, things are ending, thats what, and its time for The 100 to try and answer all the questions, even if this latest look seems to be opening up a bunch of new ones. Though to be fair, the more things change, the more they stay the same too. Everyone, especially Clarke, still seems to be fighting the same battles theyve fought since season one.

The seventh and final season begins on the CW on May 20, but if youre not ready to say goodbye to this wild concept just yet, dont forget there may be a prequel on the way.

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11 Ways Space Travel Will Change in the Next Decade …

Posted: May 4, 2020 at 10:54 pm

So long, space race; hello, international cooperation. Here are 11 ways we can expect space programs to change over the next 10 years.

While it may seem like a gimmick on Earth, 3-D printing could have a huge effect on space travel. Right now, if something goes wrong or a machine part breaks in space, astronauts have to wait days or weeks until a new part can be sent up. In the mean time, they can rig up a temporary solution (sometimes with duct tape). But an onboard 3-D printer could produce a new part in a matter of minutes or hours. Proponents of the process also say space engineers on the ground are already using the printers to bring new and previously impossible ideas to life.

Its about time: the new class of American astronauts is 50 percent women. The eight new astronauts (four men, four women) were selected from a pool of more than 6300 applicantstwice the number of applications the agency usually receives. All eight recruits are under consideration for a trip to Mars.

The Moon is great, but its time in the space-travel spotlight has ended (for now). The American space program has set its sights on new targets, including the aforementioned Mars mission and a trip to a near-Earth asteroid.

As evidenced by the thousands of astronaut applications, space is pretty exciting right now. But even as public interest increases, government funds for space science dwindle. Into this gap come big-thinking entrepreneurs, who are currently trying to develop reliable, commercially available space travel.

Gone are the days of Cold-War-fueled competition. Today, American and Russian astronauts are working together more than ever before. With the 2011 retirement of the space shuttle, our space travelers have had to depend on Russian transport up to and down from the space station. Far from stunting our growth, international collaborations have enabled new ideas and opportunities.

The daily life of an astronaut is more interesting than any job on Earth. So when space travelers take to social media, they find a massive and eager audience. Instead of waiting for their space programs to release official reports of their activities and achievements, todays astronauts can instantly share the details themselves via photos and 140-character messages.

Its already happening: private citizens are hitching rides into space. Like the early days of airplane travel, attempts to build space-going tourist vessels have as yet met with failure (and occasionally disaster), but the thinkers and business minds behind these ventures are determined to make space tourism a reality.

It might surprise you to learn that more than 70 countries boast their own space programs. True, the major players are restricted to a handful of nations, but the playing field is growing, and growing fast.

The latest return of an American astronaut concludes a year-long experiment by our space agency to monitor the effects of space flight and travel on the human body. The results of this experiment will inform future astronaut training and preparation on the ground, as well as activities and accommodations in space.

Space programs are uniquely positioned to study our planet. Scientists have sent dozens of observational satellites into orbit around our planet, each with a different missionsome monitor forest fires, while others track the availability of bird habitats, for example. If the funding is available, experts will continue to rely on the view from outer space to inform how we look after ourselves here on Earth.

The first lunar missions took about three days to reach the moon. A trip to Mars, on the other hand, will last at least six monthsand thats just getting there. Devising a vessel (and preparing its inhabitants) for such long-term, far-reaching travel is a whole new ballgame, and experts are currently figuring out ways to keep astronauts healthy, happy, and well-fedand exploring how they might be able to depend on the Red Planets natural resources once they land.

What seems impossible today will feel like an inevitability tomorrow. Click here to see how some early pioneers believed humankind would someday make it into space.

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The 12 Greatest Challenges for Space Exploration | WIRED

Posted: at 10:54 pm

Humanity began in Africa. But we didnt stay there, not all of usover thousands of years our ancestors walked all over the continent, then out of it. And when they came to the sea, they built boats and sailed tremendous distances to islands they could not have known were there. Why?

Probably for the same reason we look up at the moon and the stars and say, Whats up there? Could we go there? Maybe we could go there. Because its something human beings do.

Photograph by Dan Winters; Nebula by Ash Thorp

Space is, of course, infinitely more hostile to human life than the surface of the sea; escaping Earths gravity entails a good deal more work and expense than shoving off from the shore. But those boats were the cutting-edge technology of their time. Voyagers carefully planned their expensive, dangerous journeys, and many of them died trying to find out what was beyond the horizon. So why keep doing it?

I could tell you about spin-off technologies, ranging from small products of convenience to discoveries that might feed millions or prevent deadly accidents or save the lives of the sick and injured.

I could tell you that we shouldnt keep all our eggs in this increasingly fragile basketone good meteor strike and we all join the non-avian dinosaurs. And have you noticed the weather lately?

I could tell you that it might be good for us to unite behind a project that doesnt involve killing one another, that does involve understanding our home planet and the ways we survive on it and what things are crucial to our continuing to survive on it.

I could tell you that moving farther out into the solar system might be a good plan, if humanity is lucky enough to survive the next 5.5 billion years and the sun expands enough to fry the Earth.

I could tell you all those things: all the reasons we should find some way to live away from this planet, to build space stations and moon bases and cities on Mars and habitats on the moons of Jupiter. All the reasons we should, if we manage that, look out at the stars beyond our sun and say, Could we go there? Maybe we could go there.

Its a huge, dangerous, maybe impossible project. But thats never stopped humans from bloody-mindedly trying anyway.

Humanity was born on Earth. Are we going to stay here? I suspectI hopethe answer is no. Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie is the Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning author of Ancillary Justice.

problem: takeoff

Getting off Earth is a little like getting divorced: You want to do it quickly, with as little baggage as possible. But powerful forces conspire against youspecifically, gravity. If an object on Earths surface wants to fly free, it needs to shoot up and out at speeds exceeding 25,000 mph.

That takes serious oomphread: dollars. It cost nearly $200 million just to launch the Mars Curiosity rover, about a tenth of the missions budget, and any crewed mission would be weighed down by the stuff needed to sustain life. Composite materials like exotic-metal alloys and fibered sheets could reduce the weight; combine that with more efficient, more powerful fuel mixtures and you get a bigger bang for your booster.

But the ultimate money saver will be reusability. As the number of flights increases, economies of scale kick in, says Les Johnson, a technical assistant at NASAs Advanced Concepts Office. Thats the key to getting the cost to drop dramatically. SpaceXs Falcon 9, for example, was designed to relaunch time and again. The more you go to space, the cheaper it gets. Nick Stockton

problem: propulsion

Hurtling through space is easy. Its a vacuum, after all; nothing to slow you down. But getting started? Thats a bear. The larger an objects mass, the more force it takes to move itand rockets are kind of massive. Chemical propellants are great for an initial push, but your precious kerosene will burn up in a matter of minutes. After that, expect to reach the moons of Jupiter in, oh, five to seven years. Thats a heck of a lot of in-flight movies. Propulsion needs a radical new method. Heres a look at what rocket scientists now have, or are working on, or wish they had. Nick Stockton

problem: space junk

Congratulations! Youve successfully launched a rocket into orbit. But before you break into outer space, a rogue bit of broke-ass satellite comes from out of nowhere and caps your second-stage fuel tank. No more rocket.

This is the problem of space debris, and its very real. The US Space Surveillance Network has eyes on 17,000 objectseach at least the size of a softballhurtling around Earth at speeds of more than 17,500 mph; if you count pieces under 10 centimeters, its closer to 500,000 objects. Launch adapters, lens covers, even a fleck of paint can punch a crater in critical systems.

Whipple shieldslayers of metal and Kevlarcan protect against the bitsy pieces, but nothing can save you from a whole satellite. Some 4,000 orbit Earth, most dead in the air. Mission control avoids dangerous paths, but tracking isnt perfect.

Pulling the sats out of orbit isnt realisticit would take a whole mission to capture just one. So starting now, all satellites will have to fall out of orbit on their own. Theyll jettison extra fuel, then use rocket boosters or solar sails to angle down and burn up on reentry. Put decommissioning programs in 90 percent of new launches or youll get the Kessler syndrome: One collision leads to more collisions until theres so much crap up there, no one can fly at all. That might be a century henceor a lot sooner if space war breaks out. If someone (like China?) starts blowing up enemy satellites, it would be a disaster, says Holger Krag, head of the Space Debris Office at the European Space Agency. Essential to the future of space travel: world peace. Jason Kehe

problem: navigation

The Deep Space Network, a collection of antenna arrays in California, Australia, and Spain, is the only navigation tool for space. Everything from student-project satellites to the New Horizons probe meandering through the Kuiper Belt depends on it to stay oriented. An ultraprecise atomic clock on Earth times how long it takes for a signal to get from the network to a spacecraft and back, and navigators use that to determine the crafts position.

But as more and more missions take flight, the network is getting congested. The switchboard is often busy. So in the near term, NASA is working to lighten the load. Atomic clocks on the crafts themselves will cut transmission time in half, allowing distance calculations with a single downlink. And higher-bandwidth lasers will handle big data packages, like photos or video messages.

The farther rockets go from Earth, however, the less reliable this method becomes. Sure, radio waves travel at light speed, but transmissions to deep space still take hours. And the stars can tell you where to go, but theyre too distant to tell you where you are. For future missions, deep-space navigation expert Joseph Guinn wants to design an autonomous system that would collect images of targets and nearby objects and use their relative location to triangulate a spaceships coordinatesno ground control required. Itll be like GPS on Earth, Guinn says. You put a GPS receiver on your car and problem solved. He calls it a deep-space positioning systemDPS for short. Katie M. Palmer

problem: radiation

Outside the safe cocoon of Earths atmosphere and magnetic field, subatomic particles zip around at close to the speed of light. This is space radiation, and its deadly. Aside from cancer, it can also cause cataracts and possibly Alzheimers.

When these particles knock into the atoms of aluminum that make up a spacecraft hull, their nuclei blow up, emitting yet more superfast particles called secondary radiation. Youre actually making the problem worse, says Nasser Barghouty, a physicist at NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center.

A better solution? One word: plastics. Theyre light and strong, and theyre full of hydrogen atoms, whose small nuclei dont produce much secondary radiation. NASA is testing plastics that can mitigate radiation in spaceships or space suits.

Or how about this word: magnets. Scientists on the Space Radiation Superconducting Shield project are working on a magnesium diboride superconductor that would deflect charged particles away from a ship. It works at 263 degrees Celsius, which is balmy for superconductors, but it helps that space is already so damn cold. Sarah Zhang

problem: food and water

Lettuce got to be a hero last August. Thats when astronauts on the ISS ate a few leaves theyd grown in space for the first time. But large-scale gardening in zero g is tricky. Water wants to float around in bubbles instead of trickling through soil, so engineers have devised ceramic tubes that wick it down to the plants roots. Its like a Chia pet, says Raymond Wheeler, a botanist at Kennedy Space Center. Also, existing vehicles are cramped. Some veggies are already pretty space-efficient (ha!), but scientists are working on a genetically modified dwarf plum tree thats just 2 feet tall. Proteins, fats, and carbs could come from a more diverse harvestlike potatoes and peanuts.

All thats for naught, though, if you run out of water. (On the ISS, the pee-and-water recycling system needs periodic fixing, and interplanetary crews wont be able to rely on a resupply of new parts.) GMOs could help here too. Michael Flynn, an engineer at NASA Ames Research Center, is working on a water filter made of genetically modified bacteria. He likens it to how your small intestine recycles what you drink. Basically you are a water recycling system, he says. with a useful life of 75 or 80 years. This filter would continually replenish itself, just like your innards do. Sarah Zhang

problem: bone and muscle wasting

Weightlessness wrecks the body: It makes certain immune cells unable to do their jobs, and red blood cells explode. It gives you kidney stones and makes your heart lazy. Astronauts on the ISS exercise to combat muscle wasting and bone loss, but they still lose bone mass in space, and those zero-g spin cycles dont help the other problems. Artificial gravity would fix all that.

In his lab at MIT, former astronaut Laurence Young is testing a human centrifuge: Victims lie on their side on a platform and pedal a stationary wheel as the whole contraption spins around. The resulting force tugs their feetjust like gravity, but awkward.

Youngs machine is too cramped to use for more than an hour or two a day, though, so for 24/7 gravity, the whole spacecraft will have to become a centrifuge. A spinning spaceship could be shaped like a dumbbell, with two chambers connected by a truss. As it gets easier to send more mass into space, designers could become more ambitiousbut they dont have to reinvent the wheel. Remember the station in 2001: A Space Odyssey? The design has been around since 1903. Sarah Zhang

problem: mental health

When physicians treat stroke or heart attack, they sometimes bring the patients temperature way down, slowing their metabolism to reduce the damage from lack of oxygen. Its a trick that might work for astronauts too. Which is good, because to sign up for interplanetary travel is to sign up for a year (at least) of living in a cramped spacecraft with bad food and zero privacya recipe for space madness. Thats why John Bradford says we should sleep through it. President of the engineering firm SpaceWorks and coauthor of a report for NASA on long missions, Bradford says cold storage would be a twofer: It cuts down on the amount of food, water, and air a crew would need and keeps them sane. If were going to become a multiplanet species, he says, well need a capability like human stasis. Sleep tight, voyagers. Sarah Zhang

problem: touchdown

Planet, ho! Youve been in space for months. Years, maybe. Now a formerly distant world is finally filling up your viewport. All you have to do is land. But youre careening through frictionless space at, oh, call it 200,000 mph (assuming youve cracked fusion). Oh yeah, and theres the planets gravity to worry about. If you dont want your touchdown to be remembered as one small leap for a human and one giant splat for humankind, follow these simple steps. Nick Stockton

problem: resources

When space caravans embark from Earth, theyll leave full of supplies. But you cant take everything with you. Seeds, oxygen generators, maybe a few machines for building infrastructure. But settlers will have to harvest or make everything else.

Luckily, space is far from barren. Every planet has every chemical element in it, says Ian Crawford, a planetary scientist at Birbeck, University of London, though concentrations differ. The moon has lots of aluminum. Mars has silica and iron oxide. Nearby asteroids are a great source of carbon and platinum oresand water, once pioneers figure out how to mine the stuff. If blasters and drillers are too heavy to ship, theyll have to extract those riches with gentler techniques: melting, magnets, or metal-digesting microbes. And NASA is looking into a process that can 3-D-print whole buildingsno need to import special equipment.

In the end, a destinations resources will shape settlements, which makes surveying the drop zone critical. Just think of the moons far side. Its been pummeled by asteroids for billions of years, says Anita Gale, a space shuttle engineer. Whole new materials could be out there. Before humanity books a one-way ticket to Kepler-438b, itll have to study up. Chelsea Leu


Dogs helped humans colonize Earth, but theyd survive on Mars about as well as we would. To spread out on a new world, well need a new best friend: a robot.

See, settling takes a lot of grunt work, and robots can dig all day without having to eat or breathe. Theoretically, at least. Current prototypes bulky, bipedal bots that mimic human physiognomycan barely walk on Earth. So automatons will have to be everything we arentlike, say, a lightweight tracked bot with backhoe claws for arms. Thats the shape of one NASA machine designed to dig for ice on Mars: Its two appendages spin in opposite directions, keeping it from flipping over as it works.

Still, humans have a big leg up when it comes to fingers. If a job requires dexterity and precision, you want people doing itprovided they have the right duds. Todays space suit is designed for weightlessness, not hiking on exoplanets. NASAs prototype Z-2 model has flexible joints and a helmet that gives a clear view of whatever delicate wiring needs fixing. When the jobs done, just hop on an autonomous transporter to get home. Attaboy, Rover. Matt Simon

problem: space is big

The fastest thing humans have ever built is a probe called Helios 2. Its dead now, but if sound traveled in space, youd hear it screaming as it whips around the sun at speeds of more than 157,000 miles per hour. Thats almost 100 times faster than a bullet, but even at that velocity it would take some 19,000 years to reach Earths first stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri. Itd be a multigenerational ship, and nobody dreams of going to space because its a nice place to die of old age.

To beat the clock, you need powerand lots of it. Maybe you could mine Jupiter for enough helium-3 to fuel nuclear fusionafter youve figured out fusion engines. Matter-antimatter annihilation is more scalable, but smashing those pugilistic particles together is dangerous. Youd never want to do that on Earth, says Les Johnson, technical assistant for NASAs Advanced Concepts Office, which works on crazy starship ideas. You do that in deep space, so if you have an accident, you dont destroy a continent. Too intense? How about solar power? All youd need is a sail the size of Texas.

Far more elegant would be hacking the universes source codewith physics. The theoretical Alcubierre drive would compress space in front of your craft and expand space behind it so the stuff in betweenwhere your ship iseffectively moves faster than light. Tweaking the Alcubierre equations gets you a Krasnikov tube, an interstellar subway that shortens your return trip.

All aboard? Not quite. Humanity will need a few more Einsteins working at places like the Large Hadron Collider to untangle all the theoretical knots. Its entirely possible that well make some discovery that changes everything, Johnson says. But you cant count on that breakthrough to save the day. If you want eureka moments, you need to budget for them. That means more cash for NASA and the particle physicists. Until then, Earths space ambitions will look a lot like Helios 2: stuck in a futile race around the same old star. Nick Stockton


A couple decades back, sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson sketched out a future utopia on Mars built by scientists from an overpopulated, overextended Earth. His Mars trilogy made a forceful case for colonization of the solar system. But, really, other than science, why should we go to space?

The need to explore is built into our souls, goes one argumentthe pioneer spirit and manifest destiny. But scientists dont talk about pioneers anymore. You did hear that frontier language 20, 30 years ago, says Heidi Hammel, who helps set exploration priorities at NASA. But since the New Horizons probe passed by Pluto last July, weve explored every type of environment in the solar system at least once, she says. Humans could still go dig in the dirt to study distant geologybut when robots can do it, well, maybe not.

As for manifest destiny? Historians know better. Western expansion was a vicious land grab, and the great explorers were mostly in it for resources or treasure. Human wanderlust expresses itself only in the service of political or economic will.

Of course, Earths impending destruction could provide some incentive. Deplete the planets resources and asteroid-belt mining suddenly seems reasonable. Change the climate and space provides room for humanity (and everything else).

But thats a dangerous line of thinking. It creates a moral hazard, Robinson says. People think if we fuck up here on Earth we can always go to Mars or the stars. Its pernicious. His latest book, Aurora, again makes a forceful case about settlement beyond the solar system: You probably cant. As far as anyone knows, Earth is the only habitable place in the universe. If were going to leave this planet, lets go because we want tonot because we have to. Adam Rogers

This article appears in the March 2016 issue.

Illustrations by 520 Design; Nebula by Ash Thorp

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The 12 Greatest Challenges for Space Exploration | WIRED

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Interstellar travel – Wikipedia

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Hypothetical travel between stars

Interstellar travel is crewed or uncrewed travel between stars or planetary systems. Interstellar travel would be much more difficult than interplanetary spaceflight. Whereas the distances between the planets in the Solar System are less than 30 astronomical units (AU), the distances between stars are typically hundreds of thousands of AU, and usually expressed in light-years. Because of the vastness of those distances, practical interstellar travel based on known physics would need to occur at a high percentage of the speed of light, allowing for significant travel times, at least decades to perhaps millennia or longer.[1]

The speeds required for interstellar travel in a human lifetime far exceed what current methods of spacecraft propulsion can provide. Even with a hypothetically perfectly efficient propulsion system, the kinetic energy corresponding to those speeds is enormous by today's standards of energy development. Moreover, collisions by the spacecraft with cosmic dust and gas can produce very dangerous effects both to passengers and the spacecraft itself.[1]

A number of strategies have been proposed to deal with these problems, ranging from giant arks that would carry entire societies and ecosystems, to microscopic space probes. Many different spacecraft propulsion systems have been proposed to give spacecraft the required speeds, including nuclear propulsion, beam-powered propulsion, and methods based on speculative physics.[2]

For both crewed and uncrewed interstellar travel, considerable technological and economic challenges need to be met. Even the most optimistic views about interstellar travel see it as only being feasible decades from now. However, in spite of the challenges, if or when interstellar travel is realized, a wide range of scientific benefits is expected.[3]

Most interstellar travel concepts require a developed space logistics system capable of moving millions of tonnes to a construction / operating location, and most would require gigawatt-scale power for construction or power (such as Star Wisp or Light Sail type concepts). Such a system could grow organically if space-based solar power became a significant component of Earth's energy mix. Consumer demand for a multi-terawatt system would automatically create the necessary multi-million ton/year logistical system.[4]

Distances between the planets in the Solar System are often measured in astronomical units (AU), defined as the average distance between the Sun and Earth, some 1.5108 kilometers (93million miles). Venus, the closest other planet to Earth is (at closest approach) 0.28 AU away. Neptune, the farthest planet from the Sun, is 29.8 AU away. As of January 25, 2020, Voyager1, the farthest human-made object from Earth, is 148.7 AU away.[5]

The closest known star, Proxima Centauri, is approximately 268,332AU away, or over 9,000 times farther away than Neptune.

Because of this, distances between stars are usually expressed in light-years (defined as the distance that light travels in vacuum in one Julian year) or in parsecs (one parsec is 3.26 ly, the distance at which stellar parallax is exactly one arcsecond, hence the name). Light in a vacuum travels around 300,000 kilometres (186,000mi) per second, so 1 light-year is about 9.4611012 kilometers (5.879trillion miles) or 63,241 AU. Proxima Centauri, the nearest (albeit not naked-eye visible) star, is 4.243 light-years away.

Another way of understanding the vastness of interstellar distances is by scaling: One of the closest stars to the Sun, Alpha Centauri A (a Sun-like star), can be pictured by scaling down the EarthSun distance to one meter (3.28ft). On this scale, the distance to Alpha Centauri A would be 276 kilometers (171 miles).

The fastest outward-bound spacecraft yet sent, Voyager 1, has covered 1/600 of a light-year in 30 years and is currently moving at 1/18,000 the speed of light. At this rate, a journey to Proxima Centauri would take 80,000 years.[6]

A significant factor contributing to the difficulty is the energy that must be supplied to obtain a reasonable travel time. A lower bound for the required energy is the kinetic energy K = 1 2 m v 2 {displaystyle K={tfrac {1}{2}}mv^{2}} where m {displaystyle m} is the final mass. If deceleration on arrival is desired and cannot be achieved by any means other than the engines of the ship, then the lower bound for the required energy is doubled to m v 2 {displaystyle mv^{2}} .[7]

The velocity for a manned round trip of a few decades to even the nearest star is several thousand times greater than those of present space vehicles. This means that due to the v 2 {displaystyle v^{2}} term in the kinetic energy formula, millions of times as much energy is required. Accelerating one ton to one-tenth of the speed of light requires at least 450 petajoules or 4.501017 joules or 125 terawatt-hours[8] (world energy consumption 2008 was 143,851terawatt-hours),[9] without factoring in efficiency of the propulsion mechanism. This energy has to be generated onboard from stored fuel, harvested from the interstellar medium, or projected over immense distances.

A knowledge of the properties of the interstellar gas and dust through which the vehicle must pass is essential for the design of any interstellar space mission.[10] A major issue with traveling at extremely high speeds is that interstellar dust may cause considerable damage to the craft, due to the high relative speeds and large kinetic energies involved. Various shielding methods to mitigate this problem have been proposed.[11] Larger objects (such as macroscopic dust grains) are far less common, but would be much more destructive. The risks of impacting such objects, and methods of mitigating these risks, have been discussed in literature, but many unknowns remain[12] and, owing to the inhomogeneous distribution of interstellar matter around the Sun, will depend on direction travelled.[10] Although a high density interstellar medium may cause difficulties for many interstellar travel concepts, interstellar ramjets, and some proposed concepts for decelerating interstellar spacecraft, would actually benefit from a denser interstellar medium.[10]

The crew of an interstellar ship would face several significant hazards, including the psychological effects of long-term isolation, the effects of exposure to ionizing radiation, and the physiological effects of weightlessness to the muscles, joints, bones, immune system, and eyes. There also exists the risk of impact by micrometeoroids and other space debris. These risks represent challenges that have yet to be overcome.[13]

The physicist Robert L. Forward has argued that an interstellar mission that cannot be completed within 50 years should not be started at all. Instead, assuming that a civilization is still on an increasing curve of propulsion system velocity and not yet having reached the limit, the resources should be invested in designing a better propulsion system. This is because a slow spacecraft would probably be passed by another mission sent later with more advanced propulsion (the incessant obsolescence postulate).[14]

On the other hand, Andrew Kennedy has shown that if one calculates the journey time to a given destination as the rate of travel speed derived from growth (even exponential growth) increases, there is a clear minimum in the total time to that destination from now.[15] Voyages undertaken before the minimum will be overtaken by those that leave at the minimum, whereas voyages that leave after the minimum will never overtake those that left at the minimum.

There are 59 known stellar systems within 40 light years of the Sun, containing 81 visible stars. The following could be considered prime targets for interstellar missions:[14]

Existing and near-term astronomical technology is capable of finding planetary systems around these objects, increasing their potential for exploration

Slow interstellar missions based on current and near-future propulsion technologies are associated with trip times starting from about one hundred years to thousands of years. These missions consist of sending a robotic probe to a nearby star for exploration, similar to interplanetary probes such as used in the Voyager program.[20] By taking along no crew, the cost and complexity of the mission is significantly reduced although technology lifetime is still a significant issue next to obtaining a reasonable speed of travel. Proposed concepts include Project Daedalus, Project Icarus, Project Dragonfly, Project Longshot,[21] and more recently Breakthrough Starshot.[22]

Near-lightspeed nano spacecraft might be possible within the near future built on existing microchip technology with a newly developed nanoscale thruster. Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing thrusters that use nanoparticles as propellant. Their technology is called "nanoparticle field extraction thruster", or nanoFET. These devices act like small particle accelerators shooting conductive nanoparticles out into space.[23]

Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, has suggested that clouds of "smart dust" be sent to the stars, which may become possible with advances in nanotechnology. Kaku also notes that a large number of nanoprobes would need to be sent due to the vulnerability of very small probes to be easily deflected by magnetic fields, micrometeorites and other dangers to ensure the chances that at least one nanoprobe will survive the journey and reach the destination.[24]

Given the light weight of these probes, it would take much less energy to accelerate them. With onboard solar cells, they could continually accelerate using solar power. One can envision a day when a fleet of millions or even billions of these particles swarm to distant stars at nearly the speed of light and relay signals back to Earth through a vast interstellar communication network.

As a near-term solution, small, laser-propelled interstellar probes, based on current CubeSat technology were proposed in the context of Project Dragonfly.[21]

In crewed missions, the duration of a slow interstellar journey presents a major obstacle and existing concepts deal with this problem in different ways.[25] They can be distinguished by the "state" in which humans are transported on-board of the spacecraft.

A generation ship (or world ship) is a type of interstellar ark in which the crew that arrives at the destination is descended from those who started the journey. Generation ships are not currently feasible because of the difficulty of constructing a ship of the enormous required scale and the great biological and sociological problems that life aboard such a ship raises.[26][27][28][29]

Scientists and writers have postulated various techniques for suspended animation. These include human hibernation and cryonic preservation. Although neither is currently practical, they offer the possibility of sleeper ships in which the passengers lie inert for the long duration of the voyage.[30]

A robotic interstellar mission carrying some number of frozen early stage human embryos is another theoretical possibility. This method of space colonization requires, among other things, the development of an artificial uterus, the prior detection of a habitable terrestrial planet, and advances in the field of fully autonomous mobile robots and educational robots that would replace human parents.[31]

Interstellar space is not completely empty; it contains trillions of icy bodies ranging from small asteroids (Oort cloud) to possible rogue planets. There may be ways to take advantage of these resources for a good part of an interstellar trip, slowly hopping from body to body or setting up waystations along the way.[32]

If a spaceship could average 10percent of light speed (and decelerate at the destination, for manned missions), this would be enough to reach Proxima Centauri in forty years. Several propulsion concepts have been proposed [33] that might be eventually developed to accomplish this (see Propulsion below), but none of them are ready for near-term (few decades) developments at acceptable cost.

Physicists generally believe faster-than-light travel is impossible. Relativistic time dilation allows a traveler to experience time more slowly, the closer their speed is to the speed of light.[34] This apparent slowing becomes noticeable when velocities above 80% of the speed of light are attained. Clocks aboard an interstellar ship would run slower than Earth clocks, so if a ship's engines were capable of continuously generating around 1g of acceleration (which is comfortable for humans), the ship could reach almost anywhere in the galaxy and return to Earth within 40 years ship-time (see diagram). Upon return, there would be a difference between the time elapsed on the astronaut's ship and the time elapsed on Earth.

For example, a spaceship could travel to a star 32 light-years away, initially accelerating at a constant 1.03g (i.e. 10.1m/s2) for 1.32 years (ship time), then stopping its engines and coasting for the next 17.3 years (ship time) at a constant speed, then decelerating again for 1.32 ship-years, and coming to a stop at the destination. After a short visit, the astronaut could return to Earth the same way. After the full round-trip, the clocks on board the ship show that 40 years have passed, but according to those on Earth, the ship comes back 76 years after launch.

From the viewpoint of the astronaut, onboard clocks seem to be running normally. The star ahead seems to be approaching at a speed of 0.87 light years per ship-year. The universe would appear contracted along the direction of travel to half the size it had when the ship was at rest; the distance between that star and the Sun would seem to be 16 light years as measured by the astronaut.

At higher speeds, the time on board will run even slower, so the astronaut could travel to the center of the Milky Way (30,000 light years from Earth) and back in 40 years ship-time. But the speed according to Earth clocks will always be less than 1 light year per Earth year, so, when back home, the astronaut will find that more than 60 thousand years will have passed on Earth.

Regardless of how it is achieved, a propulsion system that could produce acceleration continuously from departure to arrival would be the fastest method of travel. A constant acceleration journey is one where the propulsion system accelerates the ship at a constant rate for the first half of the journey, and then decelerates for the second half, so that it arrives at the destination stationary relative to where it began. If this were performed with an acceleration similar to that experienced at the Earth's surface, it would have the added advantage of producing artificial "gravity" for the crew. Supplying the energy required, however, would be prohibitively expensive with current technology.[36]

From the perspective of a planetary observer, the ship will appear to accelerate steadily at first, but then more gradually as it approaches the speed of light (which it cannot exceed). It will undergo hyperbolic motion.[37] The ship will be close to the speed of light after about a year of accelerating and remain at that speed until it brakes for the end of the journey.

From the perspective of an onboard observer, the crew will feel a gravitational field opposite the engine's acceleration, and the universe ahead will appear to fall in that field, undergoing hyperbolic motion. As part of this, distances between objects in the direction of the ship's motion will gradually contract until the ship begins to decelerate, at which time an onboard observer's experience of the gravitational field will be reversed.

When the ship reaches its destination, if it were to exchange a message with its origin planet, it would find that less time had elapsed on board than had elapsed for the planetary observer, due to time dilation and length contraction.

The result is an impressively fast journey for the crew.

All rocket concepts are limited by the rocket equation, which sets the characteristic velocity available as a function of exhaust velocity and mass ratio, the ratio of initial (M0, including fuel) to final (M1, fuel depleted) mass.

Very high specific power, the ratio of thrust to total vehicle mass, is required to reach interstellar targets within sub-century time-frames.[38] Some heat transfer is inevitable and a tremendous heating load must be adequately handled.

Thus, for interstellar rocket concepts of all technologies, a key engineering problem (seldom explicitly discussed) is limiting the heat transfer from the exhaust stream back into the vehicle.[39]

A type of electric propulsion, spacecraft such as Dawn use an ion engine. In an ion engine, electric power is used to create charged particles of the propellant, usually the gas xenon, and accelerate them to extremely high velocities. The exhaust velocity of conventional rockets is limited by the chemical energy stored in the fuel's molecular bonds, which limits the thrust to about 5km/s. They produce a high thrust (about 10 N), but they have a low specific impulse, and that limits their top speed. By contrast, ion engines have low force, but the top speed in principle is limited only by the electrical power available on the spacecraft and on the gas ions being accelerated. The exhaust speed of the charged particles range from 15km/s to 35km/s.[40]

Nuclear-electric or plasma engines, operating for long periods at low thrust and powered by fission reactors, have the potential to reach speeds much greater than chemically powered vehicles or nuclear-thermal rockets. Such vehicles probably have the potential to power solar system exploration with reasonable trip times within the current century. Because of their low-thrust propulsion, they would be limited to off-planet, deep-space operation. Electrically powered spacecraft propulsion powered by a portable power-source, say a nuclear reactor, producing only small accelerations, would take centuries to reach for example 15% of the velocity of light, thus unsuitable for interstellar flight during a single human lifetime.[41]

Fission-fragment rockets use nuclear fission to create high-speed jets of fission fragments, which are ejected at speeds of up to 12,000km/s (7,500mi/s). With fission, the energy output is approximately 0.1% of the total mass-energy of the reactor fuel and limits the effective exhaust velocity to about 5% of the velocity of light. For maximum velocity, the reaction mass should optimally consist of fission products, the "ash" of the primary energy source, so no extra reaction mass need be bookkept in the mass ratio.

Based on work in the late 1950s to the early 1960s, it has been technically possible to build spaceships with nuclear pulse propulsion engines, i.e. driven by a series of nuclear explosions. This propulsion system contains the prospect of very high specific impulse (space travel's equivalent of fuel economy) and high specific power.[42]

Project Orion team member Freeman Dyson proposed in 1968 an interstellar spacecraft using nuclear pulse propulsion that used pure deuterium fusion detonations with a very high fuel-burnup fraction. He computed an exhaust velocity of 15,000km/s and a 100,000-tonne space vehicle able to achieve a 20,000km/s delta-v allowing a flight-time to Alpha Centauri of 130 years.[43] Later studies indicate that the top cruise velocity that can theoretically be achieved by a Teller-Ulam thermonuclear unit powered Orion starship, assuming no fuel is saved for slowing back down, is about 8% to 10% of the speed of light (0.08-0.1c).[44] An atomic (fission) Orion can achieve perhaps 3%-5% of the speed of light. A nuclear pulse drive starship powered by fusion-antimatter catalyzed nuclear pulse propulsion units would be similarly in the 10% range and pure matter-antimatter annihilation rockets would be theoretically capable of obtaining a velocity between 50% to 80% of the speed of light. In each case saving fuel for slowing down halves the maximum speed. The concept of using a magnetic sail to decelerate the spacecraft as it approaches its destination has been discussed as an alternative to using propellant, this would allow the ship to travel near the maximum theoretical velocity.[45] Alternative designs utilizing similar principles include Project Longshot, Project Daedalus, and Mini-Mag Orion. The principle of external nuclear pulse propulsion to maximize survivable power has remained common among serious concepts for interstellar flight without external power beaming and for very high-performance interplanetary flight.

In the 1970s the Nuclear Pulse Propulsion concept further was refined by Project Daedalus by use of externally triggered inertial confinement fusion, in this case producing fusion explosions via compressing fusion fuel pellets with high-powered electron beams. Since then, lasers, ion beams, neutral particle beams and hyper-kinetic projectiles have been suggested to produce nuclear pulses for propulsion purposes.[46]

A current impediment to the development of any nuclear-explosion-powered spacecraft is the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, which includes a prohibition on the detonation of any nuclear devices (even non-weapon based) in outer space. This treaty would, therefore, need to be renegotiated, although a project on the scale of an interstellar mission using currently foreseeable technology would probably require international cooperation on at least the scale of the International Space Station.

Another issue to be considered, would be the g-forces imparted to a rapidly accelerated spacecraft, cargo, and passengers inside (see Inertia negation).

Fusion rocket starships, powered by nuclear fusion reactions, should conceivably be able to reach speeds of the order of 10% of that of light, based on energy considerations alone. In theory, a large number of stages could push a vehicle arbitrarily close to the speed of light.[47] These would "burn" such light element fuels as deuterium, tritium, 3He, 11B, and 7Li. Because fusion yields about 0.30.9% of the mass of the nuclear fuel as released energy, it is energetically more favorable than fission, which releases <0.1% of the fuel's mass-energy. The maximum exhaust velocities potentially energetically available are correspondingly higher than for fission, typically 410% of c. However, the most easily achievable fusion reactions release a large fraction of their energy as high-energy neutrons, which are a significant source of energy loss. Thus, although these concepts seem to offer the best (nearest-term) prospects for travel to the nearest stars within a (long) human lifetime, they still involve massive technological and engineering difficulties, which may turn out to be intractable for decades or centuries.

Early studies include Project Daedalus, performed by the British Interplanetary Society in 19731978, and Project Longshot, a student project sponsored by NASA and the US Naval Academy, completed in 1988. Another fairly detailed vehicle system, "Discovery II",[48] designed and optimized for crewed Solar System exploration, based on the D3He reaction but using hydrogen as reaction mass, has been described by a team from NASA's Glenn Research Center. It achieves characteristic velocities of >300km/s with an acceleration of ~1.7103 g, with a ship initial mass of ~1700 metric tons, and payload fraction above 10%. Although these are still far short of the requirements for interstellar travel on human timescales, the study seems to represent a reasonable benchmark towards what may be approachable within several decades, which is not impossibly beyond the current state-of-the-art. Based on the concept's 2.2% burnup fraction it could achieve a pure fusion product exhaust velocity of ~3,000km/s.

An antimatter rocket would have a far higher energy density and specific impulse than any other proposed class of rocket.[33] If energy resources and efficient production methods are found to make antimatter in the quantities required and store[49][50] it safely, it would be theoretically possible to reach speeds of several tens of percent that of light.[33] Whether antimatter propulsion could lead to the higher speeds (>90% that of light) at which relativistic time dilation would become more noticeable, thus making time pass at a slower rate for the travelers as perceived by an outside observer, is doubtful owing to the large quantity of antimatter that would be required.[33]

Speculating that production and storage of antimatter should become feasible, two further issues need to be considered. First, in the annihilation of antimatter, much of the energy is lost as high-energy gamma radiation, and especially also as neutrinos, so that only about 40% of mc2 would actually be available if the antimatter were simply allowed to annihilate into radiations thermally.[33] Even so, the energy available for propulsion would be substantially higher than the ~1% of mc2 yield of nuclear fusion, the next-best rival candidate.

Second, heat transfer from the exhaust to the vehicle seems likely to transfer enormous wasted energy into the ship (e.g. for 0.1g ship acceleration, approaching 0.3 trillion watts per ton of ship mass), considering the large fraction of the energy that goes into penetrating gamma rays. Even assuming shielding was provided to protect the payload (and passengers on a crewed vehicle), some of the energy would inevitably heat the vehicle, and may thereby prove a limiting factor if useful accelerations are to be achieved.

More recently, Friedwardt Winterberg proposed that a matter-antimatter GeV gamma ray laser photon rocket is possible by a relativistic proton-antiproton pinch discharge, where the recoil from the laser beam is transmitted by the Mssbauer effect to the spacecraft.[51]

Rockets deriving their power from external sources, such as a laser, could replace their internal energy source with an energy collector, potentially reducing the mass of the ship greatly and allowing much higher travel speeds. Geoffrey A. Landis has proposed for an interstellar probe, with energy supplied by an external laser from a base station powering an Ion thruster.[52]

A problem with all traditional rocket propulsion methods is that the spacecraft would need to carry its fuel with it, thus making it very massive, in accordance with the rocket equation. Several concepts attempt to escape from this problem:[33][53]

A radio frequency (RF) resonant cavity thruster is a device that is claimed to be a spacecraft thruster. In 2016, the Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory at NASA reported observing a small apparent thrust from one such test, a result not since replicated.[54] One of the designs is called EMDrive. In December 2002, Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd described a working prototype with an alleged total thrust of about 0.02 newtons powered by an 850 W cavity magnetron. The device could operate for only a few dozen seconds before the magnetron failed, due to overheating.[55] The latest test on the EMDrive concluded that it does not work.[56]

Proposed in 2019 by NASA scientist Dr. David Burns, the helical engine concept would use a particle accelerator to accelerate particles to near the speed of light. Since particles traveling at such speeds acquire more mass, it is believed that this mass change could create acceleration. According to Burns, the spacecraft could theoretically reach 99% the speed of light.[57]

In 1960, Robert W. Bussard proposed the Bussard ramjet, a fusion rocket in which a huge scoop would collect the diffuse hydrogen in interstellar space, "burn" it on the fly using a protonproton chain reaction, and expel it out of the back. Later calculations with more accurate estimates suggest that the thrust generated would be less than the drag caused by any conceivable scoop design.[citation needed] Yet the idea is attractive because the fuel would be collected en route (commensurate with the concept of energy harvesting), so the craft could theoretically accelerate to near the speed of light. The limitation is due to the fact that the reaction can only accelerate the propellant to 0.12c. Thus the drag of catching interstellar dust and the thrust of accelerating that same dust to 0.12c would be the same when the speed is 0.12c, preventing further acceleration.

A light sail or magnetic sail powered by a massive laser or particle accelerator in the home star system could potentially reach even greater speeds than rocket- or pulse propulsion methods, because it would not need to carry its own reaction mass and therefore would only need to accelerate the craft's payload. Robert L. Forward proposed a means for decelerating an interstellar light sail in the destination star system without requiring a laser array to be present in that system. In this scheme, a smaller secondary sail is deployed to the rear of the spacecraft, whereas the large primary sail is detached from the craft to keep moving forward on its own. Light is reflected from the large primary sail to the secondary sail, which is used to decelerate the secondary sail and the spacecraft payload.[58] In 2002, Geoffrey A. Landis of NASA's Glen Research center also proposed a laser-powered, propulsion, sail ship that would host a diamond sail (of a few nanometers thick) powered with the use of solar energy.[59] With this proposal, this interstellar ship would, theoretically, be able to reach 10 percent the speed of light.

A magnetic sail could also decelerate at its destination without depending on carried fuel or a driving beam in the destination system, by interacting with the plasma found in the solar wind of the destination star and the interstellar medium.[60][61]

The following table lists some example concepts using beamed laser propulsion as proposed by the physicist Robert L. Forward:[62]

The following table is based on work by Heller, Hippke and Kervella.[63]

Achieving start-stop interstellar trip times of less than a human lifetime require mass-ratios of between 1,000 and 1,000,000, even for the nearer stars. This could be achieved by multi-staged vehicles on a vast scale.[47] Alternatively large linear accelerators could propel fuel to fission propelled space-vehicles, avoiding the limitations of the Rocket equation.[64]

Scientists and authors have postulated a number of ways by which it might be possible to surpass the speed of light, but even the most serious-minded of these are highly speculative.[65]

It is also debatable whether faster-than-light travel is physically possible, in part because of causality concerns: travel faster than light may, under certain conditions, permit travel backwards in time within the context of special relativity.[66] Proposed mechanisms for faster-than-light travel within the theory of general relativity require the existence of exotic matter[65] and it is not known if this could be produced in sufficient quantity.

In physics, the Alcubierre drive is based on an argument, within the framework of general relativity and without the introduction of wormholes, that it is possible to modify spacetime in a way that allows a spaceship to travel with an arbitrarily large speed by a local expansion of spacetime behind the spaceship and an opposite contraction in front of it.[67] Nevertheless, this concept would require the spaceship to incorporate a region of exotic matter, or hypothetical concept of negative mass.[67]

A theoretical idea for enabling interstellar travel is by propelling a starship by creating an artificial black hole and using a parabolic reflector to reflect its Hawking radiation. Although beyond current technological capabilities, a black hole starship offers some advantages compared to other possible methods. Getting the black hole to act as a power source and engine also requires a way to convert the Hawking radiation into energy and thrust. One potential method involves placing the hole at the focal point of a parabolic reflector attached to the ship, creating forward thrust. A slightly easier, but less efficient method would involve simply absorbing all the gamma radiation heading towards the fore of the ship to push it onwards, and let the rest shoot out the back.[68][69][70]

Wormholes are conjectural distortions in spacetime that theorists postulate could connect two arbitrary points in the universe, across an EinsteinRosen Bridge. It is not known whether wormholes are possible in practice. Although there are solutions to the Einstein equation of general relativity that allow for wormholes, all of the currently known solutions involve some assumption, for example the existence of negative mass, which may be unphysical.[71] However, Cramer et al. argue that such wormholes might have been created in the early universe, stabilized by cosmic strings.[72] The general theory of wormholes is discussed by Visser in the book Lorentzian Wormholes.[73]

The Enzmann starship, as detailed by G. Harry Stine in the October 1973 issue of Analog, was a design for a future starship, based on the ideas of Robert Duncan-Enzmann. The spacecraft itself as proposed used a 12,000,000 ton ball of frozen deuterium to power 1224 thermonuclear pulse propulsion units. Twice as long as the Empire State Building and assembled in-orbit, the spacecraft was part of a larger project preceded by interstellar probes and telescopic observation of target star systems.[74]

Project Hyperion, one of the projects of Icarus Interstellar.[75]

NASA has been researching interstellar travel since its formation, translating important foreign language papers and conducting early studies on applying fusion propulsion, in the 1960s, and laser propulsion, in the 1970s, to interstellar travel.

The NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program (terminated in FY 2003 after a 6-year, $1.2-million study, because "No breakthroughs appear imminent.")[76] identified some breakthroughs that are needed for interstellar travel to be possible.[77]

Geoffrey A. Landis of NASA's Glenn Research Center states that a laser-powered interstellar sail ship could possibly be launched within 50 years, using new methods of space travel. "Ithink that ultimately we're going to do it, it's just a question of when and who," Landis said in an interview. Rockets are too slow to send humans on interstellar missions. Instead, he envisions interstellar craft with extensive sails, propelled by laser light to about one-tenth the speed of light. It would take such a ship about 43 years to reach Alpha Centauri if it passed through the system without stopping. Slowing down to stop at Alpha Centauri could increase the trip to 100 years,[78] whereas a journey without slowing down raises the issue of making sufficiently accurate and useful observations and measurements during a fly-by.

The 100 Year Starship (100YSS) is the name of the overall effort that will, over the next century, work toward achieving interstellar travel. The effort will also go by the moniker 100YSS. The 100 Year Starship study is the name of a one-year project to assess the attributes of and lay the groundwork for an organization that can carry forward the 100 Year Starship vision.

Harold ("Sonny") White[79] from NASA's Johnson Space Center is a member of Icarus Interstellar,[80] the nonprofit foundation whose mission is to realize interstellar flight before the year 2100. At the 2012 meeting of 100YSS, he reported using a laser to try to warp spacetime by 1 part in 10 million with the aim of helping to make interstellar travel possible.[81]

A few organisations dedicated to interstellar propulsion research and advocacy for the case exist worldwide. These are still in their infancy, but are already backed up by a membership of a wide variety of scientists, students and professionals.

The energy requirements make interstellar travel very difficult. It has been reported that at the 2008 Joint Propulsion Conference, multiple experts opined that it was improbable that humans would ever explore beyond the Solar System.[92] Brice N. Cassenti, an associate professor with the Department of Engineering and Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, stated that at least 100 times the total energy output of the entire world [in a given year] would be required to send a probe to the nearest star.[92]

Astrophysicist Sten Odenwald stated that the basic problem is that through intensive studies of thousands of detected exoplanets, most of the closest destinations within 50 light years do not yield Earth-like planets in the star's habitable zones.[93] Given the multitrillion-dollar expense of some of the proposed technologies, travelers will have to spend up to 200 years traveling at 20% the speed of light to reach the best known destinations. Moreover, once the travelers arrive at their destination (by any means), they will not be able to travel down to the surface of the target world and set up a colony unless the atmosphere is non-lethal. The prospect of making such a journey, only to spend the rest of the colony's life inside a sealed habitat and venturing outside in a spacesuit, may eliminate many prospective targets from the list.

Moving at a speed close to the speed of light and encountering even a tiny stationary object like a grain of sand will have fatal consequences. For example, a gram of matter moving at 90% of the speed of light contains a kinetic energy corresponding to a small nuclear bomb (around 30kt TNT).

Explorative high-speed missions to Alpha Centauri, as planned for by the Breakthrough Starshot initiative, are projected to be realizable within the 21st century.[94] It is alternatively possible to plan for unmanned slow-cruising missions taking millennia to arrive. These probes would not be for human benefit in the sense that one can not foresee whether there would be anybody around on earth interested in then back-transmitted science data. An example would be the Genesis mission,[95] which aims to bring unicellular life, in the spirit of directed panspermia, to habitable but otherwise barren planets.[96] Comparatively slow cruising Genesis probes, with a typical speed of c / 300 {displaystyle c/300} , corresponding to about 1000 km/s {displaystyle 1000,{mbox{km/s}}} , can be decelerated using a magnetic sail. Unmanned missions not for human benefit would hence be feasible.[97]

In February 2017, NASA announced that its Spitzer Space Telescope had revealed seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star 40 light-years away from our solar system.[98] Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water. The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water the key to life as we know it under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

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NASA Astronaut Talks Surviving Isolation, Daily Life in Space, and Earth’s Beauty –

Posted: at 10:54 pm

No one knows long-term isolation like astronauts. Confined in space for months on end, they orbit thousands of miles above their homes, their loved ones, and anything remotely familiar about human life. For veteran astronaut Michael Lpez-Alegra, some elements of life during the coronavirus pandemic are not so different from life in space, where he's completed four NASA space flightsone aboard the International Space Station and three aboard the Space Shuttle. He also holds the NASA record for the most spacewalks (10 spacewalks, totaling 67 hours of cumulative time), and his longest spaceflight of 215 days is the third-longest spaceflight of any American astronaut. In 2012, Lpez-Alegra retired from NASA; he now consults with space companies, and sits on several advisory boards and committees for space travel organizations both public and private.

This year, Lpez-Alegra was honored as one of three inductees into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame, though like so much else about public life, the ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex was postponed due to the pandemic. While social distancing down here on the ground, Lpez-Alegra was kind enough to talk to Esquire about being alone in space, working through conflict with your isolation team, and appreciating the uniqueness of Earth.

ESQ: Would you say you've ever felt lonely in space or far from your loved ones?

MLA: We had some ample ways of communicating, which included email. We actually had a telephone where we could call pretty much anybody on Earth. Most any time during the day, we were in constant communication with the mission control team in Houston. You don't really feel like you're by yourself up there. In todays world, you can imagine people in Antarctica or people on nuclear submarines in the Navy that are probably more isolated than we were in space. Plus, in space, the view's a lot better.

ESQ: When youre that isolated, where do you go in your mind when your mind wanders?

MLA: The most tranquil moments are when you're looking out the window at the Earth. Often when you look out the window, you see clouds or ocean, because it turns out there's a lot of them on our planet. You're not necessarily looking for something or at something. You're looking at a landscape going by. Where your mind wanders is not terribly different from where it wanders when you have a moment like that on Earth. Its whatever's on your mind, whether thats your family, your work, or the Red Sox.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Romn, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

ESQ: When you were in space, what did you most look forward to about your return to Earth?

MLA: You miss Earth smells like rain and freshly mowed grass. Things like that that are just impossible in space. I miss a glass of wine with dinner. I miss cooking, actually, because all the food on orbit is pre-prepared and you just heat it up. The routine, mundane stuff of living on Earth is what you miss the most.

ESQ: What kind of mental preparations did you go through to stay positive as time passed in space?

MLA: That's another thing that's very different when you're an astronaut or on a submarine: You have an end date. You know that on such and such a day, you're going to de-orbit and come back to Earth. That's what's hard about this particular situation, because we dont have a hard end date, and even when our current phase ends, life certainly wont go back to normal right away. When youre preparing for something where youre going to endure some hardship, especially isolation and separation, your organism goes through a process where you become prepared for it. It happens subconsciously and emotionally. That contributes a lot to the fact that I never felt anxious about when the heck this is gonna be over?

ESQ: When you were on the Space Station, how did you create boundaries between living space and working space?

MLA: When I launched, that was my expectationthat I would be living and working and eating and playing and exercising in the same space. We did hours of simulation prior to launch, and after a while, it just became the new norm. If youre lucky enough to be able to work from home, youre still working. It should not be that you're working in your PJs or sitting on your bed with your laptop. You should try to sit at a desk, even if it's a much smaller environment. You just have to set up boundaries in your head to partition whatever space you have into different areas for different purposes. A peril of working from home is there's really no stop timethe emails keep coming and the phone calls keep coming, which means you need to set some time apart for yourself and do something that interests you. Have a hobby.


ESQ: Did you have a daily stop time on the Space Station?

MLA: Yes, we did. We had an artificial clock, because you go around the Earth once every 90 minutes, so wed see a sunrise and a sunset every 45 minutes. You can't obviously sleep by that rhythm, so wed use Greenwich Mean Time, and wed wake up at a certain hour. We had a routine that would last through a work day, and then wed have what we call pre-sleep activities, and after wed wake up, wed have post-sleep. Post-sleep includes getting hygiene, getting dressed, having breakfast, connecting a little bit with the world. Then we'd have a conference with the ground, then wed work, wed have lunch, wed work some more. Then wed have another conference with the ground, and then wed have pre-sleep, where wed do basically the same thing. Hygiene, dinner, play around.

ESQ: Another feeling that many people are confronting for the first time is the sensation that danger is all around us. Did you feel that way in space?

MLA: Not really. The launch is dangerous, and there are certainly dangers in spaceyou could get hit by a meteoroid, which would ruin your daybut NASA does a good job understanding and mitigating the risks. The launch is dicey, the landing is dicey, doing a space walk is dicey, but day-to-day inside operations? Not so bad.

ESQ: Many people are also reporting feeling bored. Did you ever feel bored in space?

MLA: No. You never got bored in space. We did our routine Monday through Friday; on Saturday wed work a half day, and Sunday was a day off. Even when we had no activity going on, there was always something to do. People would keep up with their friends and family, or they'd read a book, or they'd look out the window at the Earth and try to test their geography, or theyd do a home improvement task on the Space Station. I can imagine that in the conditions we're in now, it's perhaps not as easy. Looking out the window is not as interestinglet's put it that way.

ESQ: When you're stuck together with a handful of other people in space, how do you deal with conflict?

MLA: For a long time, NASA only flew on the Space Shuttle, so the flights were generally two weeks long and you're sprinting the whole time, which means you dont have much opportunity for conflict. When you're up there for six months or longer on the Space Station, it's certainly a possibility. NASA put together a training syllabus, which I was skeptical of, but it does in fact help. You do a lot of training with your crewmates and you get to know them; everybody can sense each other's strengths and weaknesses, hot buttons and thresholds, and all that. Its the same phenomenon I described before about how your organism subconsciously gears up. What might be irritating for me in day-to-day life on Earth might not irritate me in space, because I've said to myself, This is a much more intimate situation. I'm just not going to let things bother me.


ESQ: What was in the training syllabus from NASA?

MLA: We did a lot of practical exercises that would involve putting you in physiologically uncomfortable situationsyou're hot or you're cold or you're hungry or you're thirstyand those stressors are meant to lower that threshold of tripping before you display some unsportsmanlike behavior, for lack of a better word. Those kinds of behaviors would come out every once in a while; then we would take a time out and talk about what just happened, what are the coping mechanisms I can learn from that, how can I see the signs in my crewmate when this is about to boil over, how can I diffuse that. They're just techniques that most of us, me included, would've said were common sense. But until you really think about it and, more importantly, have it demonstrated to you under the guidance of instructors, it doesnt sink in as well. It really does work.

ESQ: Could any of those techniques be applicable to someone experiencing tension with other people in isolation?

MLA: If there's conflict that seems to be occurring, take a second to think about it. What were the signs of that coming? How could I have avoided that from boiling over? What is it that this person is doing to me that's irritating, and how can I make that not be such a big deal to me? If you think about those things, its not rocket science.

ESQ: What was the lowest you ever felt in space, and how did you get through it?

MLA: The thing that bothers astronauts the most is when they feel like theyve let the team downwhen they made a mistake, or they forgot to do something, or a task took them too long. You have a real sense of working as part of a team, and the things that might affect you about your personal life, you think, That's my problem to deal with and I can manage that. Even managing those things feels like something that you're doing for the team. What helps you is the rest of the team saying, Its no big deal. I got your back. We're still flying and everythings going okay. Thats what team members do for each other.

ESQ: How did space travel change your outlook on life?

MLA: Theres this thing called the Overview Effect. When people fly in space, they come back slightly altered. Its very slight, but having had that perspective of the Earth without borders and seeing the beauty and the uniqueness of our planet compared to everything else that's out there, you gain a greater appreciation for it. You also gain a sense of its fragility. You can actually look through and see how thin the atmosphere is; you realize that this thin layer is all that protects us from what's out there in space, which is radiation and freezing temperatures. You become not only concerned about stewardship of the planet, but also of each other. We're all in the same space ship together down here on Earth, so to speak. It makes you feel like we ought to be able to figure out a way to get along with each other a little bit better, because we're all team members.

It also makes you more tolerant of other cultures and other ways of thinking, as well as more averse to conflict. It doesn't hit you over the head, but it's definitely a change, and if you imagine that in the history of humanity, something like 560 people have ever been to orbit, its remarkable. I remember after my first mission, I thought, If I could take a head of state of every nation on one orbit of the Earth, the Earth would be a better place. It's because of this sense of perspective and connectivity that we have with both the Earth and the people on it. If more people had it, it would make the world a better place to live.

That said, the experience of flying in space is absolutely magnificent, but it's all in the context of coming back to Earth. As great as flying in space is, I don't want to live the rest of my life there. I'm happy to be home, and I think we need to appreciate the place that we live and take better care of it.

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Tom Cruise teaming with Elon Musk, NASA to shoot action movie in space – Yahoo News

Posted: at 10:54 pm

Tom Cruise and Elon Musk's SpaceX are reportedly making a movie in space. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

If you've spent any of your time quarantined contemplating how you can take your career to the next level, you are not alone.

Tom Cruise, the ageless movie star who's attempted increasingly treacherous stunts over the past few Mission: Impossible sequels, is reportedly planning to shoot his next action thriller in outer space, and with the help of futurist billionaire tech titan Elon Musk and NASA.

That's according to a Monday report from Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr.

"Im hearing that Tom Cruise and Elon Musks SpaceX are working on a project with NASA that would be the first narrative feature film an action adventure to be shot in outer space," Fleming Jr. writes, referencing the private space travel program the Tesla founder launched in 2002. "Its not a Mission: Impossible film and no studio is in the mix at this stage but look for more news as I get it. But this is real, albeit in the early stages of liftoff."

Late last month it was announced that Cruise's next two outings as IMF super agent Ethan Hunt, Mission: Impossible 7 and Mission: Impossible 8, were being delayed by Paramount due to coronavirus shut-downs, with new release years of November 19, 2021 and November 4, 2022. The plan was for both installments to be shot back to back, and filming on Part 7 was only a few days underway in Italy when it was shut down on Feb. 24. (Another Cruise sequel, the long-awaited 80s follow-up Top Gun: Maverick, was also recently delayed, from June 24 to Dec. 23.)

That's to say Cruise, 57, still has a lot of missions on Earth to pull off before he can focus his attention toward the stars.

It's unclear how well or how long Cruise and Musk have known one another. But Cruise did make his appreciation for Musk's work known in 2013 when he tweeted an image of Musk's project that mirrored some of the tech used in his futuristic 2002 thriller Minority Report.

Musk, meanwhile, has been in the news recently for proclaiming on Twitter that he's "selling almost all physical possessions" and "will own no house." Musk listed two of his California homes for sale on Sunday.

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Among Cruise's recent wave of death-defying stunts in the M:I movies: He scaled the world's tallest building in Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011), hung from the side of a plane in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (2015) and performed an actual HALO jump in Mission: Impossible Fallout (2018).

"The older Tom Cruise gets, the more fun it is to watch him risk death in elaborate and age-and gravity-defying ways," the New York Times wrote in 2018.

Attempting a new round of stunts in zero gravity, then, seems like the next logical progression.

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