General, Research, Technology

Why is acceleration to the speed of light dangerous?

If you love science fiction about space, thenyou probably know the stories where humanity travels through the Universe in spaceships. To quickly move from one point of immense space to another, they are equipped warp drivesthat allow you to reach speedsexceeding the speed of light (300,000 kilometers per second). Unfortunately, such engines do not exist at the moment. But let's imagine that they have already been created and you can go on a space journey right now? Let's say you already have a fantastic ship and all that remains for you is to start the engine and go to any of the galaxies you like. According to representatives of NASA, while traveling through space at the speed of light, pilots can have serious problems. To tell about them, the space agency and artists presented a cartoon in which an alien creature goes on a "space vacation." It turned out very informative!

Frame from the cartoon NASA

Warp Drive - fictional type of engines fromscience fiction books and films. According to science fiction writers, the spaceships equipped with them can reach the speed of light and quickly move between galaxies. Warp drives are often mentioned in the Star Trek films and TV series and in the books of the American writer Isaac Asimov.

Danger of the speed of light

About the video and the history of its creation wasreported in ScienceAlert. I would like to quickly get to the essence of the cartoon, so we will not delve into the history of creation especially. I will only say that the main role in its development was played by experts from Goddard Media Studios, who are mainly engaged in the production of beautiful videos for NASA. According to the plot, a funny alien creature has built a spaceship and is going to go on a space journey at the speed of light. But he is unaware of possible problems, and the voice-over tells them briefly.

"One hour on this planet equals seven years on Earth"

For protection against collision with spaceparticles, it is necessary to properly think over the design of the spacecraft. Even today's rockets and ships use materials that are not damaged by collisions and can withstand high temperatures. Between the outer surface of the structures and the capsule in which the astronauts sit, there are additional layers that cool the air.

Still from the movie "Star Wars"

And to solve the third problem, you need to come up witha way to gradually gain speed. Although, this should not be too difficult, because the creation of technology to instantly achieve the speed of light seems to be an even more difficult task. And if the speed is reached instantly, you can think about methods of strengthening the structure of the ship, so that it can withstand even the heaviest loads.

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Reaching the speed of light

Breakthrough Starshot approximate appearance

Work on the creation of spaceships,capable of accelerating to the speed of light are already underway. For example, the authors of the Breakthrough Starshot project are developing a device that can gain at least 20% of the speed of light. When it is created, it will be sent to the star system of Alpha Centauri, which is 4.37 light years distant from us. Ideally, the flight should take about 20 years and the device will need another 5 years to send us a notification of its arrival. At the moment, it is expected that the device will be a small plate that is accelerated by directional laser beams. You can read more about him and a similar NASA project in this article.