A journey to a star would mean a minimum of 20 years in the confinement of a spaceship – not impossible but a physical and mental strain for the crew – would they arrive in the right frame of mind to tackle the rigours of a new environment. Also they would be at least 20 years older, so experienced astronauts in their 30’s would already be ‘old’ on arrival. Maybe our crew would comprise of families with babies who would be young adults at the end of the journey. But this scenario is more likely for colonisation far ahead in the future. 

So some form of hibernation, a method of protracted sleep, is almost certainly a must for future travel to our nearest stars. The term that springs to most people’s minds is cryo-hibernation [cryo meaning cold] but let us immediately dismiss the myth that you can freeze the human body and thaw back to life years later. Our bodies are 65% water and when that freezes it expands because ice has a lower density. The damage to sensitive cells and membranes would be traumatic. It’s a great process for preserving meats, fish etc in our freezers but in no way addresses human hibernation. 

A cryo process is almost certainly the way forward as we have to slow down dramatically the bodies’ metabolism whilst maintaining a supply of oxygen to every vital organ. A hibernation temperature in the range +10 degrees Celsius to -5 degrees would be required but for the lower temperatures some form of antifreeze would have to be injected into the bloodstream which could cause complications. I consider that +5 degrees Celsius would be optimum to operate a minimal metabolism whilst maintaining tissue integrity. 

There are many other issues to consider. When you wake in the morning you often feel stiff and can hardly get your eyes open! How would we cope after 20 years sleep?

I will discuss these issues in future posts and propose the technology and equipment for successful hibernation but if you want to pre-empt this then…. 

….board my starship in 2150 and sleep for 20 years when you will arrive at the star Seren, 10 light years away, in search of – The Blue People of Cloud Planet.                         

 Read the first few chapters of  The Blue People of  Cloud Planet

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Let us imagine a journey to a star 10 light years away. We start from Mars orbit and outside the planet’s gravitational pull and use advanced rocket technology to reach Jupiter. This is a journey of 555 million kilometres [km] taking 7-8 months at 100,000 km per hour. [Approx. estimate of future capability]

We use the immense mass of Jupiter to attract and accelerate our craft onto a collision course [initially] and at the critical moment re-fire the advanced rockets to sling our spaceship around the gas giant and onto its new trajectory and new speed of 1 million km/hour.

Now we start the nuclear reactor, the only power plant capable of sustaining thrust over a 20 year journey [unless we discover something remarkable during the next 100 years]. The heat output from this reactor would be used to power a new type of drive capable of pushing our craft towards light speed. I will describe one concept which has been around for decades, surprisingly – the ion drive.

Here a stream of positively charged hydrogen ions [H+] is ejected at high speed from the rear of the object being propelled. The thrust is small but in the vacuum of space even a large object can be manoeuvred and accelerated provided you have enough thrusters. The ion drive of a starship is likely to be 50-80 metres in diameter and each of the thrusters say 5 cm round. You could get over 2 million thrusters in this drive [clustered around the advanced rockets] all contributing their power from the emitting stream of hydrogen ions.

By providing constant sufficient acceleration you would design to accelerate from 0.001c to 0.5c in 1 year [c = speed of light].

Thus our journey to a star 10 light years away would be approximately 23 years – 2 years to accelerate, 20 to get there and 1 year to slow down to a manageable speed to orbit around a target planet of our destination star.

 I’m sure the mathematicians among you can calculate the acceleration required and the typical thrust needed from each tube – can we achieve this in 150 years time?

   I think we can and in 2150 my starship leaves Mars for the star Seren, 10 light years away, in search of – The Blue People of Cloud Planet.                           

 Read the first few chapters of  The Blue People of  Cloud Planet

See the reviews of  The Blue People of Cloud Planet

Find out how to get your copy of The Blue People of Cloud Planet