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Deep Space Propulsion: A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight (Astronomers' Universe) [Paperback]

K. F. Long
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Dec 2011 1461406064 978-1461406068 2012

The technology of the next few decades could possibly allow us to explore with robotic probes the closest stars outside our Solar System, and maybe even observe some of the recently discovered planets circling these stars. This book looks at the reasons for exploring our stellar neighbors and at the technologies we are developing to build space probes that can traverse the enormous distances between the stars.

In order to reach the nearest stars, we must first develop a propulsion technology that would take our robotic probes there in a reasonable time. Such propulsion technology has radically different requirements from conventional chemical rockets, because of the enormous distances that must be crossed. Surprisingly, many propulsion schemes for interstellar travel have been suggested and await only practical engineering solutions and the political will to make them a reality. This is a result of the tremendous advances in astrophysics that have been made in recent decades and the perseverance and imagination of tenacious theoretical physicists. This book explores these different propulsion schemes – all based on current physics – and the challenges they present to physicists, engineers, and space exploration entrepreneurs.

This book will be helpful to anyone who really wants to understand the principles behind and likely future course of interstellar travel and who wants to recognizes the distinctions between pure fantasy (such as Star Trek’s ‘warp drive’) and methods that are grounded in real physics and offer practical technological solutions for exploring the stars in the decades to come.


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Deep Space Propulsion: A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight (Astronomers' Universe) + Starflight Handbook: Pioneer's Guide to Interstellar Travel (Wiley Science Editions)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 2012 edition (2 Dec 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1461406064
  • ISBN-13: 978-1461406068
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 487,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

From the reviews:

“Kelvin has taken the reader from the basic, simple principles of reaction propulsion … and on to the exotic world of deep-space journeys. … The most valuable aspect of this book is that it never bucks difficult issues … . If there is one book from which to gather all essential aspects of deep-space propulsion and stellar transportation systems this is it. It is both required reading and an essential reference … . useful for the layreader and the professional.” (Spaceflight, Vol. 54 (7), July, 2012)

From the Back Cover

As humans take their first tentative steps off our home planet, and debate the costs/benefits of sending people back to the Moon and perhaps on to Mars, we must also start to make plans for the day when we will venture forth as pioneers farther out into the Solar System and beyond - perhaps far, far beyond - to explore and settle new worlds around other stars. It is vital that we develop the deep space propulsion technologies that will take us there, first to explore with robotic probes, then to follow ourselves. This is necessary so that if anything catastrophic happened to Earth, our species would survive. And the possibilities for catastrophe are great. An impacting asteroid ended the reign of the dinosaurs, and today we have many other threats such as global war, climate change, pollution, resource limitations and overpopulation.

In this book, Kelvin F. Long takes us on all the possible journeys - the mission targets, the technologies we might use to power such journeys, and what scientific knowledge we are seeking to obtain upon arriving there.

Despite the problems of today it is important that we take a long-term view for the future of our species. In fact, the only way to assure a future is to start planning for it now and then progress incrementally. Today, society is not in a position to launch the types of missions outlined in this book, mainly due to a lack of political motivations to try and the economic cost for launching it. But if we start to develop these technologies today, then it is likely that one of them will come to technological maturity at some point in the coming centuries and will power our species to the stars. Our commitment today to achieve near-term goals will ensure a tomorrow for the generations ahead.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 2 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This looks like a self-published work - spelling mistakes, strange grammar, poor punctuation. A few of the illustrations are rather wonky amateur pencil sketches. It's amazing that a publishing house like Springer let this one slip out in this condition; they must be economizing on sub-editors.
The "deep space propulsion" section doesn't start until page 139. The "roadmap to interstellar flight" is a sketchy final chapter. The first hundred pages discuss topics as diverse as aircraft design, the planets of the solar system, evolution, and the design of the British Interplanetary Society 1930s lunar lander. The author seems to be a bit vexed that Pluto is no longer a planet, but misunderstands why its status was changed.
The discussion of deep space propulsion is an odd mixture of detail (lots of handy equations, if you are prepared to trust them in the presence of such poor editing), and skimpiness. We have engines here that produce neutrons and gamma rays, but there's essentially no information on the practicalities of shielding a crew from radiation, for instance. Huge lasers are introduced, but with no discussion of how you might build or power such a thing, where you would put it and how you would aim it over large distances.

Needs a good editor and a more systematic approach.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading 18 April 2012
By Daniel
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
K F Long provides a decent overview of a necessarily difficult topic. The propulsion methods covered are beyond our current technology, though the science supporting these approaches is clear. This book provides a useful survey of the current state of knowledge, staying within the borders of known science. The math is not for the faint hearted, however readers who are not comfortable with this can extract the meaning and implications of the equations from the text, and the author is not gratuitously using equations - the subject matter demands it. Personally I am assigning four stars instead of five as the writing style is rather dry.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Calling Mr. Scott 22 April 2012
By Magnifying Glass - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are a Star Trek fan, you know that Mr. Scott is the Starship Enterprise's Chief Engineering Officer; Captain Kirk couldn't do without him. Mr. Scott's passion is starships and their engines. When possible, he'd skip shore leave on some idyllic planet so he could study his starship drive tech manuals. He would have liked Long's book . . . .

Parts of the book are highly technical. How technical? There are 53 pages featuring one or more formulas to calculate exhaust velocities, specific impulses and etc. There are 40 tables of mission types, profiles and etc. There are 53 line drawings and pencil sketches of concept spacecraft, starships, propulsion schemes and etc.

For Mr. Scott, this book would be a look-back at the struggles of early 21st century engineers and scientist in conceiving of a means to traverse the immense distance to the stars. Their current spacecraft could only achieve a tiny fraction of the speed of light; flight times to the stars would be thousands of years. They were faced with a grand challenge . . . .

Walk before running: Sending humans to a nearby star would require huge massive ships; difficult to accelerate, with flight times longer than a lifespan and uncertainty of habitability of any planets at flights end. Human voyages should be preceded with probes; they are smaller, easier to accelerate, but will their instruments survive the long flight?

Crawl before walking: In Long's roadmap (Table 17.1), the way to proceed is with precursor missions to distances much closer to home. Each iteration would be further out, faster, and of longer duration. These missions - in Astronomical Units ( Earth's distance from the Sun) - would be out to 200 AU, and then 1,000 AU, and then 10,000 AU before trying for Alpha Centauri ( 278,261 AU ( 4.4 LY)).

The price tag for a probe to Alpha Centauri would be astronomical. As much as astronomers would be thrilled to get close-ups of this star system, it will be a hard sell to tax payers. The real driver of these future developments would be the discovery of an Earth-like planet: in size, temperature, atmosphere, and stable orbit around a nearby star, and then the clamoring to go will begin . . . .

Overall: This is a good compilation of ideas, many of which you may have seen before, if you follow this subject. The book is like a text book; it has exercises at the end of each chapter. It is not without errors, but then, what book is?
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Ride 26 Feb 2013
By R Frey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a well written and clear survey of the subject, but I would have preferred more technical depth. Nonetheless, it can serve as a useful starting point for someone interested in potential deep space and interstellar propulsion technologies.
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