En route on the mach 4.7 supersonic jet, I flipped open my iTV , which connected me to the most advanced space network, spacecast. The usual news was being broadcast; “NASCOM, the space people have started mining a new mineral on the moon which is almost identical to Uranium; the Americans have come out with yet another version of the unmanned X-67 which maneuvers itself at mach 25 (courtesy nuclear fusion engines!); the international space station at Mars has discovered a revolutionary microorganism that can be used to fight multiple cancer, a predominant disease on Earth”. Yes, this is the age I’m living in, and when I look back in time at the history of aviation, it leaves me flabbergasted. The history of AVIATION commenced in the 20th century, and a few lucky people who were witness to the first tentative flight of the Wright Brothers, managed to live through these 150 years (through medical advancement of course!) to witness the hypersonic X-67s as well. As Robert Wall once rightly said (towards the end of the 20th century), “So rapid has been the development of aeronautical science that no one can say with safety that an end has been reached or that there is any limit to the ability of man to develop flight at the same pace in the next century.”
Today, in 2057, man has traveled a long way in the field of civil and space aviation. Advancements that were merely probable 5 decades ago are possible and practical today. All these developments are a consequence of decades of stupendous achievements in space exploration. Half a century ago, landing human astronauts on Mars was within the bounds of possibility. However, today, successful implementation of hypersonic space travel and use of geodesic domes have not only enabled man to experience the surface of Mars, but have also helped him estabilish cyborg colonies there. In addition to the Moon, even Mars is available now, for scientific exploration! The international space station on Mars, in addition to helping scientists in their research work, has facilitated in mitigating the power crisis, which at present is history! After the establishment of The International Lunar Base Station in 2037, man has passed several milestones in setting up a long term colony on the moon. Today, the hotels on the moon go full with increasing number of world, or rather space, citizens going on lunar holidays! A fleet of spaceships taking space tourists high above the atmosphere is now a routine affair. These spaceships are improved versions of Spaceshiptwo, which took Santosh George of India along with other space tourists to as high as 55000 feet, enabling them to experience the excitement of weightlessness and the thunderous deceleration of aerodynamic drag on reentry, in 2007. In addition, disputes between industries, over the acquisition of lunar land for mining have become fairly common.
At the start of the 21st century, the failure of NASA’s Mars lander caused despondency over the failure of its apparently reliable technology and put a question mark over other similar systems. However, perennial human effort and incessant advancement in hypersonic space travel have led to the innovation of extraordinarily efficient probes which are now meeting the challenge of unearthing secrets about the solar system’s remotest planets. For example: a recent probe that has been sent to Pluto weighs only 570 pounds and stands almost 10 feet tall and 27 feet wide. It is composed of 19 solar panels, an extremely light nano-fission engine, and is controlled by an onboard computer. The probe functions by harnessing the light energy of the Sun. At present the fission engines are taking it close to the Sun. Once it is sufficiently close, the fission engines would shut down and light energy from the Sun would push the probe towards Pluto with a tremendous amount of force. The probe would then constantly accelerate and reach hypersonic speeds enabling scientists to have a glimpse of the details of Pluto within their lifetimes!
The innovation of the controlled nuclear fusion engine, after the ion and fission engines, in 2031, was by far the most significant advancement in space travel. It enabled spacecraft to reach astonishing speeds. Many decades ago, scientists deciphered that scarce and expensive raw materials exist in abundance on asteroids in our solar system. Today, aeronautical geeks have succeeded in designing manned aircraft, run by fusion engines that travel at supersonic speeds to these asteroids. They are slowed down, when close to the asteroid’s surface and then are made to land by making use of the asteroid’s relatively low gravity. During this rendezvous, with a suitable asteroid, the spacecraft uses abundant solar energy to extract and refine metals like gold and platinum and then the fusion engines power them back to Earth. (more…)
- Robert Wall, A History of Airliners (Burlington Books: London 1980, rpt 1989) p 238.
- Hindustan Times, New Delhi, March 15, 2007, p 1. “the Richard-Branson owned Virgin Galactic company that hopes to begin a new era in tourism in less than two years.
- Apart from George, two US-based Indian Americans have also signed up for the two-hour flight, Louela Faria-Jones of Virgin Galactic told Hindustan Times from London. SpaceShipOne, a prototype of the space vehicle, flew to space three times in 2004, she said. George will fly on board the SpaceShipTwo, which has large windows, reclining seats, cabins the size of a Falcon 900 executive jet and wings approximately the size of a Boeing 757. It will carry six passengers and two pilots, Faria Jones said.
- David Owen, Into Outer Space (Burlington Books: London 2000) p 135
- Ibid, p138