The First Baby Steps to Interstellar Travel

Posted by Michael Pinto on Apr 17, 2008 in Science |

the European Space Agency's GOCE spacecraft

I love all the breakthroughs that we’re seeing in astronomy these days, but the idea of taking the first steps to making interstellar travel excite the fanboy in me:

Ion engine enters space race

“Engineer Neil Wallace peers into a huge vacuum chamber designed to replicate – as far as possible – the conditions of space. Cryogenic pumps can be heard in the background, whistling away like tiny steam engines. Using helium gas as a coolant, they can bring down the temperature in the vacuum chamber to an incredibly chilly 20 Kelvin (-253C). The pressure, meanwhile, can drop to a millionth of an atmosphere. This laboratory in a leafy part of Hampshire is where defence and security firm Qinetiq develops and tests its ion engines – a technology that will take spacecraft to the planets, powered by the Sun.”

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