## Introduction

So you give someone an inch and they want a yard. Given them a rocket ship and suddenly they want a star ship. SF writers want to use exotic settings on alien planets, but the real estate in our solar system mostly looks like a bunch of rocks. "That's OK," the writer thinks, "There are a million-jillion other solar systems in the galaxy, surely they are not all a bunch of rocks (I know they are there, I've got a map). I know that those spoil-sports at NASA have ruined our solar system for SF writers since their nosy space probes failed to find dinosaur-infested jungles of Venus and scantily-clad Martian princesses. But they haven't sent probes to other stars yet! Why not turn my rocket ship into a star ship?"

Unfortunately it isn't that easy. The basic problem is that interstellar distances are freaking huge.

Let's make a mental model. Say the scale is such that one astronomical unit is equal to one millimeter (1/25th inch). There is a glowing dot for the Sun, and one millimeter away is a microscopic speck representing the Earth. The edge of the solar system is about at Pluto's orbit, which varies from 30 mm to 50 mm from the Sun (about 1 and 3/16 inch to almost 2 inches). Imagine this ten-centimeter model floating above your palm.

This would put Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, at about 272 meters away. That's 892 feet, the length of about two and a half football fields or four and a half New York city blocks! Glance at the ten-centimeter solar system in your hand, then contemplate the nearest solar system four and a half city blocks away.

And the center of the galaxy would be about 1600 kilometers away (about 990 miles), which is a bit more than the distance from Chicago, Illinois to Houston, Texas.

"All right, all right!" the SF author grumbles, "So the distance is outrageous. What of it?"

This of it. How long do you think it is going to take to travel such distances? As an example, the Voyager 1 space probe is currently the fastest human made object with a rest mass, zipping along at a blazing 17.46 km/s. This means that in the space of an eyeblink the little speed demon travels a whopping eleven miles! That's smokin'. What if it was aimed at Proxima Centauri (it isn't), how long would it take to reach it?

About 74,000 years! Which means that if Neanderthal men had launched something as fast as Voyager 1 to Proxima, it would just barely be arriving right now. And the joke's on them. Neanderthals are extinct so not even their descendants would reap the benefit of any scientific broadcasts from the Proxima probe. A similar argument could be used against any interstellar probes we could launch.

This leaves us with two alternatives: deal with the fact that average human lifespan is 74 years, not 74,000; or make the starship go faster.

Well, three, if you count "faster than light", but that will be covered later.

Problem: Interstellar Distances Are Freaking Huge
Starship Speed
Way Below c
(conventional speed)
Starship Speed
Close To c
(relativistic speed)
Starship Speed
Above c
(faster than light)
SolutionNo Solution
Deal with short human lifespan
Use relativistic time dialationKick Einstein in the nads
Gordon WoodcockGo SlowGo FastGo Tricky
Ursula K. Le GuinNAFAL
(Not As Fast As Light)
AAFAL
(Almost As Fast As Light)
FTL
(Faster Than Light)
RocketCatApocee
(far from c)
Pericee
(near to c)
Hypercee
(beyond c)

For arbitrary reasons I am defining an Apocee starship as one which cruises at a speed below 14% of the speed of light (0.14c). This is because that is the speed where the relativistic gamma factor reaches 101% (γ = 1.01). I warned you it was arbitrary.

## Go Slow

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### Lifespan

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#### Digital Crew

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#### Seed Ship

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#### Sleeper Ship

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#### Generation Ship

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#### Alter Metabolism

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#### Increase Lifespan

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### Laser Sail

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#### Starwisp

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#### Laser-Pushed Lightsail

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### SWIMMER

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### Mechanical Reliability

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### Jumping The Gun

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## Go Fast

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### Relativity

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#### Starship Bumpers

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#### Mass Ratio

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#### Other Relativistic Effects

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### Bussard Ramjet

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#### Ramjet Problems

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#### Ramjet Show Stopper

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#### Ramjet Show Starter

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##### Bussard Scramjet

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##### Toroidal-Field Ramscoop

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#### Bussard Ramjet Combat

##### Orion Wargame

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##### Protector

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##### Rec.Arts.SF.Science

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### RAIR

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### Black Hole Starships

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### Quark Nuggets

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### Starships

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#### Alabama

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#### Avatar ISV Venture Star

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#### Colonized Interstellar Vessel

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#### Encounter With Tiber

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##### Wahkopem Zomos

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##### Egalitarian Republic

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##### Tenacity

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#### Enzmann Starship

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#### Frisbee Antimatter Starship

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#### Lighthugger

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#### Project Daedalus

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#### Project Icarus

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##### Firefly Starship

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##### Ghost Ship

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##### Resolution

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##### Ultra-Dense Deuterium

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#### Project Star

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#### Rocheworld

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#### Semyonov Antimatter Starship

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#### Shepherd Generation Starship

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#### Tau Zero

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#### Valkyrie Antimatter Starship

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## Go Tricky

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## Atomic Rockets notices

This week's featured addition is SPIN POLARIZATION FOR FUSION PROPULSION

This week's featured addition is INsTAR

This week's featured addition is NTR ALTERNATIVES TO LIQUID HYDROGEN