Essentially, we could go to the moon within hours, albeit pulling some uncomfortably high G’s for something like 15 minutes each way.
Though you’d almost never be in that much of a hurry… well unless you’re Bruce Willis, retconned back in into the eventual Armageddon/Deep Impact crossover squeal “Impact’o-geddon”.
The point is… Mars becomes a hop skip and a jump… well actually it’s been described more like riding a Pogo-stick and repeatedly bouncing off the explosions of mini-nukes, but none the less even interstellar distances become possible with a Orion Nuclear Impulse Drive.
And the coolest thing about this Sci-Fi is that it’s real.
We can build a Orion Impulse Drive today if we want to!
Actually, what’s really cool was we could have built them in the 1960’s!
Aesthetically, I like to imagine the interior would look a lot like a mix of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey blended with a pre-war vault in from the Fallout franchise with maybe a bit of the Nostromo from Alien thrown in for that “lived in” 80’s ambiance.
Now yes, everybody has concerns about using nukes… I get it. Go ahead and voice your concerns! Get them all out!
- You are afraid of fallout & probably super-mutants!
- You are afraid of high altitude ionosphere / magnetosphere detonations that would knock out satellites, power grids and data infrastructure…
- You are afraid of a space war with nukes riding in H.E.O.
But… since I’ve read recently the nuclear treaties are being canceled or… renegotiated or something… 😛 (sounds mostly like saber rattling to me) perhaps now would be a good time to layout out a commercial and private framework for use of nuclear impulse propulsion in space, fully licensed of course.
So… IF we had to launch from earth due to emergency (IE. sending Bruce Willis to go blow up an asteroid), we’d build a smaller one and use conventional rockets (Musk and Bezos style) to get it into a high earth orbit.
Which addresses the first concern btw!
But as for the super-mutants… I mean, come on guys that’s just a game. Radiation (FEV actually but super-mutants and radiation reads better than ghouls or FEV) doesn’t really work that way! 😛
Anyway, once the Orion is a sufficiently safe distance from earth Steve Buscemi can fire up the Impulse Drive and “burn hard” toward the doomsday asteroid!
What, you thought we’d use the space shuttle? You mean the one we mothballed the better part of a decade ago? Hahahaha!
Anyway… How many km distance from sea level would you say would be safe to use an Orion Impulse Drive do you think?
Just musing here… the highest “high-altitude” test (that I could find) was the Argus III experiment at 794 km (493 mi) that took place on September 6, 1958, though the altitude listed seems to vary by source… anyway the Van Allen belt extends out to 58,000 km (36,040 mi) at places so probably that would be the absolute minimum operational boundary we start looking at when we’re writing the new treaties?
As an aside, 58,000 km is a bit over 1/6th the distance to the moon and the ISS is orbiting at an altitude of 354 km (220 miles) from earth so we’d be saying that any Orion drive would be operating at a minimum altitude of 163.81 times the current height of the ISS.
In any case, feel free to speculate with abandon in the comments!
Also, if you’re paying close attention we addressed (though not resolved) the second complaint (making the score 2 for 2 – not counting the super mutants because well… that’s silly 😛 )
Oh and if you missed it… my subtle-ish argument amounts to “stand far enough away from a hose and you wont get wet”.
So what about life ending war in space?
I mean, the horrific loss of human life aside for the moment along with the completely asinine waste of expensive (and useful) tech to boot… And totally allowing for the possibility of space war…
Would conducting hypothetical manned missions that take a couple dozen highly trained and skilled space miners, scientists, technicians, medical staff and explorers (and I guess at times military personnel) far away (millions of miles/kilometers) from earth… that ended in a “space war”, way out there… actually end all life on earth?
If two (or more) ships exchange fire in the Pacific, does Madison Wisconsin crumble?
You’re probably thinking that wiping out part of another country’s Space Force millions of miles away is libel to escalate things down here… and I’d say you’d probably be right!
So, let’s bring it down to earth, the concern then is that we still have WMD’s here and almost certainly destroying life and hardware off world could lead to… “aggressive diplomacy”.
To be clear, I am not arguing that military personnel are “cannon fodder” or that they should ever be placed in harms way unnecessarily, far from it! I’m pointing out how irrational that scenario really is!
Firstly, you don’t go to Enceladus to start a war… You go there searching for life and also prospecting (and staking) all the best mineral claims!
Besides, any of the members of the “nuclear club” can already end all life on the planet without needing to send nukes to space to do it!
Any nuclear power could park subs off the shores of every continent and hemisphere, take aim and push the big red button labeled do not push (it’s subtitled with a sad face skull-and-crossbones with a little bow in it’s non-existent hair).
Sure, you have to turn two keys simultaneously while reciting a complex alpha-numeric into an iris scanner before breaking a small circular pane of glass to get access to the button… but the “barrier to entry” when it comes to ending life on earth, isn’t insurmountable… Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper found a way!
The thing is… this is real life and NOBODY WANTS THAT!
As utterly horrifying as MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) is, von Neumann was right… at least so far. 😛
I say this knowing full well a lunatic like Ripper (on any side) could break the hypothetical glass at any time.
Still… Its truly in nobodies best interests to actually strike first with nukes because according to the MAD doctrine once they do, you do.
It becomes tit for tat.
EVERYONE KNOWS THIS.
So my solution is we globally proceed with a strategy of Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons…
But an Orion drive isn’t a weapon!
Orion should be permitted as a peaceful use of nuclear energy
And when (not if) we build an Orion Drive we should omit the Casaba Howitzers from the design and instead use the space for additional storage or maybe even tack on some life boats! 😛
In any case, since I love the Orion concept I modeled one in Blender and moved it over into Unity 3D so I could take it out for a shakedown cruse and I thought I would share.
Regardless if you find the Orion fascinating or horrifying, you can find out more from this great documentary on the topic:
And with that, if you enjoy my content I invite you to support me over on Patreon for as little as $1 a month ($12 a year) which is less than most Working Joe’s on Sevastopol Station spend on coffee everyday!