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Library: history of space travel


Author: Ran
Date:Aug 20 1997

Thought it is a relatively recent development that happened slightly over 100
years ago, it took about 50 years after that for ships to become commonplace,
and for society to adapt to a spacefaring one.

The first majour discovery that made rudimentary travel possible was the
"reactive chemical engine".  This combined two more gaseous elements, stored
in liquid form, and used the energy released to force the hot and
high-pressure compound gasses out of the engine, which propelled the craft
forwards.  This is called "reactive thrust" since it propelled the craft
forward solely by expelling matter.

Original craft designed for travel resembled large, boxy, and ugly
fuel-tankers.  They were assembled at a outgoing space station orbiting high
above the planet, where there was not atmosphere and little gravity.  This was
because these ships were not designed for atmospheric travel, and could not
withstand gravity greater than around 1/3 to 1/2 standard planetary gravity,
nor could they accelerate any faster than that.  

So the main problem with these craft was the limited acceleration (for
perspective, around a 1/4 to 2/5 earth-standard gravity) and the limited burn
time (a few days maximum).  But that didn't stop these huge ships from going
on prolonged journies to explore moons or other planets within the system.  

With the implementation of remote mining (using huge transports and smaller
ground vehicles to do the actual mining) and the recovery of better and
lighter meteriels, it became possible to make ships that could sustain a
standard-gravity acceleration for a prolonged period of time.  This allowed
for the building of large luxury passanger ships, used mainly for sightseeing
and such around the system.  This was a passing fad and lasted a few years
before "space" was no longer new and the general public lost interest.

There was only easily-habitable planet within the system, so there was some
want to explore other star systems.  This was not possible due to the
estimated travel times to nearby systems, however.  Using the best engine and
lightweight meteriel, a ship could at best burn for around (20-25 earth days)
at (~7/5 earth-standard gravity) so the estimated time was years or decades,
and therefore unrealistic.