As planets of our solar system tug at each other with their gravitation tethers, they create a protean sea of forces and counter forces. But within that maelstrom lay gravitational channels that could serve as highways for future spacecraft, just as soon as Professor Shane Ross of from Virginia Tech University finishes mapping them out.
Located at the exact points between planets where the bodies exert an equal gravitation pull, these channels act like invisible ocean currents in a black, featureless sea. A space craft that maneuvers into these lanes could be pulled along to its intended destination by gravity, not pushed there by a rocket. This means the craft could reach a distant planet using considerably less fuel, or could get there much faster with the same amount of fuel.
NASA has already rode these currents once--the Genesis probe followed a gravitational channel en-route to collecting solar dust in 2004. By following the gravitational current, Genesis reached its mission point with ten times less fuel than it would have needed otherwise.
Speaking at the British Science Festival at the University of Surrey in Guildford, Ross highlighted the convenience of these gravity tubes, but also noted that they must be utilized in conjunction with regular rockets. For instance, riding a gravity channel from Earth to Mars without any other boosts would take a couple thousand years.
However, by complimenting conventional propulsion, a completed map of these gravity highways could speed up and expand space travel much like a more accurate understanding of ocean and wind currents aided 15th and 16th century European exploration.
[via The Daily Telegraph]
Awesome! Now then, is there any of these "highways" that lead to Mars?
So, what if we then combine three possible efforts in conventional rocket thrust, the added benefits of this new gravitational highway, and solar sails?
Last I heard solar sails would work but would have to be enormous. Our material manfacturing what it is today could maybe make something suited for that task?
Also in physics we learned gravity is the weakest of the universal forces. Is there no magnetism highway system or are bodies too far apart for their magnetic field to interact all which would be my guess.
Still awesome discovery and practical use.
Yes, there is, I think that they have made use of it as well during one of the previous missions. However, the current is weak - like all gravitational currents - and it would take thousands of years to reach Mars using the current alone. I think the aim is to map the currents so NASA could plot a course entangling several objects in our system :-)
Alright, I need somebody to explain this to me a little bit. Obviously, I'm not the best with this sort of stuff, but I really do want to learn.
The planets don't stay perfectly still relative to each other, right? So these "roads" are constantly changing because they're dependent on the "exact points between planets where the bodies exert an equal gravitation pull," right? So that means that these "maps" are only good for a little while and then they can completely change if certain planetary bodies move in just the right way, correct? This doesn't seem like a one-time deal. It seems like it would need to be updated on a moment-by-moment basis.
Hello strictbusiness14 (Wish I knew your name)
Your assessment is correct, the article is very vague in that respect. Something simple like calculating an orbital path for a satellite is actually amazingly complicated and depend on multi-variable differential equations that have multiple simultaneous solutions.
Now, using the orbital paths one can determine the gravitational interaction, and hence at any one point find the point of zero, or positive gravity in a particular direction. A ship or probe moving towards a target like Jupiter can take many paths, the trick with all this math is to find a path of lowest energy, hence many solutions can be found, but some work well within the time range of a launch, and some have much lower energy requirements than other, hence the "launch window" saying.
So the "highway" metaphor is actually a misnomer, it is a new way of calculating flight trajectories to minimize fuel need that they are actually trying to summarize. Think of it as "finding the gravity swell" in an ocean to get you quickly to the beach.
Dr. Brian Glassman
Ph.D in Innovation Management
Master in Mechanical Engineering
Unfortunately for some,The grid scientist with different news,and definitely different views,and a completely different degree than you.Okay Dude,you got a little bit of it,but it only takes 4 to 8 days to get to Mars on the flow lines. And actually we really wont let those idiots go much farther with. their garbage science,it costs too much and its much simpler to use the Starships,and so,we will.
Oh geez,Doctor Person Glassman has created a disturbance in the hall. He corrects the the tasker and says these lines take huge computation,and I say they just take a star chart and an experienced captain.
When the stars move when the 1050 periodicity event concludes here ,it will take a very experienced star ship captain to re-chart the map,and my,my Doctor Glassman person, they did not alert you in Doctor school? They alerted me, maybe you should ask for a rebate,your school obviously was not certified properly.
Might try out for a tasking position in my class.
And Oh GEEZ, I forgot,geometry is the clue and oxygen is the super clue Dr.Glassman to the travel lines. And I suspect that you have been engrained to the oxygenation of the planet by way of photo-synthesis,well,another clue is that it is not true,and I rhyme to your time,and remove your grime. Ta Ta.
Oh,and yes I did escape,us tier one guys usually have a minder,but Im jinxey.
In response to what EarthScientist said:
An engineering degree is quite necessary to have an understanding of the mechanics and mathematics involved in plotting the trajectory of a spacecraft, and so Dr. Glassman is apparently more equipped to respond to this article than EarthScientist. If EarthScientist feels that it does not take "huge computation" to navigate gravitational currents, I suggest that he go home, build a catapult, and then try to use a remote mechanism to fire it once from a single position to hit a target moving through his yard. If he finds that simple and easy, perhaps he should move on to rockets. If he finds that simple and easy, perhaps he should go study astrophysics and engineering, and then apply for a job at his local version of NASA. Until he has at least a basic understanding of the fact that it is CALCULUS, and not simple geometry (And Oxygen? What is he even talking about?) that is the basis of that "huge computation" used to calculate the trajectory of spacecraft, I don't really think he has any place making objections to the degree of difficulty involved therein.
In response to the article:
Congratulations to Professor Ross and his team at VA Tech! This is an important advancement in space travel. They must be very excited to be working on a project of such value.