Tag Archives: space travel

Galactic Density of Alien Life in Science Fiction

In science fiction, especially involving interstellar space travel, we often see aliens. Often, but not always. And this is something we wonder today. How many civilisations are there in space? How far are they from us? Will we ever encounter any alien civilisations on other planets?

In Star Trek, the population density of the galaxy is very high. Pretty much any star system with a planet in the Goldilocks zone has life and possibly a civilisation. Alpha Centauri has life, but not a native civilisation. Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar are all fairly close to Earth. Life is everywhere.

In the book that I’m reading now, Redemption Ark (Revelation Space), the galaxy is fairly empty. There have been civilisations, but they’re few and far between and happen at different times. But there’s a reason for it, and that’s explained in the book.

In my own Ariadne universe, I hint at other civilisations, but I don’t go into it so much, because all the action takes place on one planet. At least for now.

In these three, the mode of transportation is also different. In Star Trek, they have warp engines that take their ships out of normal space in a warp bubble, and propel that bubble through space many times the speed of light. No relativistic effects are experienced. In Revelation Space, the spacecraft are able to travel at nearly the speed of light, and there are major relativistic effects. But in Ariadne, I use a modified warp system that is unable to pass the speed of light. However, they use sleeper ships, so the effects of relativity are not felt, but the people also don’t age. In Star Trek, thanks to the form of propulsion, they are able to meet many different civilisations and visit many planets without any difficulties. In Revelation Space and Ariadne, the speeds are not enough to make regular interstellar travel practical.

I find that both kinds have their place in science fiction. I enjoy reading and watching science fiction that use either one. Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below.

Space Exploration Novels

I’m a big fan of space exploration, whether it’s the solar system or outside the solar system. The idea of discovering new things is very attractive to me.

I always enjoyed watching Star Trek, and have enjoyed reading discovery-related novels like Ringworld and the Hyperion Cantos where we could see many different worlds. It was very interesting.  Even the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson is filled with exploration.

I’d like to know about science fiction novels that focus on space exploration and discovering new worlds. If you know any, please leave a comment. Let’s make a good list of them.

EmDrive – Has NASA Created a Warp Field?

The latest news out of NASA is that the experimental EmDrive has produced some rather interesting results. While the propulsion system, which doesn’t run on any kind of fuel and produces microwaves to provide thrust, is highly experimental and very controversial, it’s created a lot of buzz recently.

NASA did an experiment where they fired lasers through the resonance chamber to where the thrust comes from. It’s still unknown how it does it and where the microwaves come from. But the strange thing is that the lasers appear to travel faster than the speed of light through the resonance chamber. This means it may be producing something similar to a warp field. Crazy, isn’t it?

This is the set up for the Eagleworks Warp-Field Interferometer Test
This is the set up for the Eagleworks Warp-Field Interferometer Test

Well, they need to be able to reproduce this in a vacuum, which is the next step of the experiment.  If it produces the same effect, that is the lasers travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, then this may verify that faster than light travel may be possible. Of course, they’ll keep doing tests to see if they can get consistent results, and also to figure out what the heck is going on.

This is all happening while there’s a strong push to search for extraterrestrial life, on Mars (which has had exciting results recently), on Europa, on Enceladus, and beyond the solar system. Even Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist predicted earlier this month that we’ll discover evidence of alien life by 2025.

Also, in the past few years, we’ve seen the development of technologies such as tablet computers (PADD from Star Trek), teleportation of photons and information (transporter), 3D printers (replicators), the potential for 3D printing of food (food replicators), injections without the use of a needle (hypospray), and even the possibility of developing tractor beams, energy shields, cloaking devices, and more.  Is Star Trek coming true?

You know what I think? Gene Roddenberry was actually from the future. He came back in time to create Star Trek and plant the seeds of all those ideas in the minds of young people so they would invent everything from Star Trek and set in motion the whole Star Trek reality.


What do you think about everything that’s going on?

Naming Fictional Technology

A few hours ago, I was going over in my mind the plot of Part 5 of Journey to Ariadne.  As I was thinking, I ran into a little roadblock.  I couldn’t get past it, as I kept thinking about this.  I was trying to think of a good name for a future technology.

Looking back at science fiction of the past, we often have things named transporters, teleporters, warp engines, hyperspace, subspace, communicators, and so on.  I don’t want to repeat those names.

I already have a name for the propulsion system for the ships in Journey to Ariadne.  It even has a slang term for how it’s used.  The system is based on current hypotheses about faster-than-light space travel, although I’m doing a bit of a twist on it.  In Journey to Ariadne, they haven’t quite made FTL speeds yet.  However, the principles are the same.

The thing I was thinking about earlier was a communications system.  It can’t be a simple communicator.  We’ve gone beyond that in the 21st century already.  We have smart phones, which are compact computers that just happen to have phone capabilities.  They are in fact small personal computers with an incredible number of functions.  I need something similar, but advanced enough that they’re much more than what we have now.  I have a design in mind (I may even draw it), but I don’t have a name.  An acronym sounds reasonable, but I have no idea what it could be yet.  Well, I’ll have to brainstorm a lot.

If you write sci-fi, how do you name your futuristic technologies?

SpaceX reveals the new crewed Dragon V2

This is incredible. Although it looks like a typical capsule design, from the pictures I’ve seen, it’s quite advanced. The interior is very sleek with huge touch screen panels. And the landing. You just have to watch the video to see how it lands. It seems so science fiction-like, but this is becoming reality. Visit SelfAwarePatterns to see the full blog post. And please comment there!


Very cool.  SpaceX has been making a lot of news recently, announcing one breakthrough after another.  Their current unmanned Dragon capsule has made multiple successful supply runs to the ISS.  Now they’ve revealed a version that can transport humans.

The most eye popping aspect of it is the SuperDraco rocket engines on the capsule itself that allows it to decelerate and perform a controlled landing on land.

Spaceflight Now has a detailed write up.  Reusability appears to be incorporated into every component of the design.

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Encyclopedia Entry #3 – Space Shuttle Challenger

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger made history.  It was the first manned spacecraft to be destroyed after launch.  That was a big event, but what do we remember about what Challenger did before it was destroyed?  It seems its last moments are ingrained in our memories, but we’ve forgotten about its achievements.

Space Shuttle Challenger being launched on its first mission April 4, 1983. Image is public domain, source Wikipedia.
Space Shuttle Challenger being launched on its first mission April 4, 1983. Image is public domain, source Wikipedia.

The Space Shuttle Challenger was the second space shuttle to be space-worthy.  The first was Columbia, and the Enterprise was only for testing.  Its first mission was on April 4, 1983, and its 10th and final ill-fated mission was on January 28, 1986.  It was named after the HMS Challenger.

5 Interesting Facts

1. First, some statistics about the shuttle.  It’s 56.1 metres tall and 2,030 tonnes.  Its low earth orbit capacity is 24,400 kg.

2. There were some remarkable firsts by Challenger.  On the topic of people, Challenger was host to the first American woman in space (Sally Ride), the first African-American in space (Guion Bluford), the first Canadian in space (Marc Garneau), and the first Dutchman in space (Wubbo Ockels).

3. Challenger also hosted a few first events.  These include the first spacewalk from a shuttle, first night launch and landing by a shuttle, the first untethered spacewalk using the Manned Maneuvering Unit, and the first spacewalk done by an American woman (Kathryn D. Sullivan).

4. Enterprise was actually planned to be the second shuttle to be fit for space travel.  It was going to be retrofit to be the second shuttle in space, but Challenger was found to be cheaper to retrofit.  Challenger was originally a Structural Test Article.

5. On October 10, 1984, Challenger was hit by a Soviet laser called Terra-3. It was a tracking laser and was used on low power.  The shuttle crew didn’t even know it happened.  However, it caused the United States to file a formal diplomatic complaint. Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau and American astronaut Kathryn Sullivan reported no disruptions.  Source: American Physical Society.

For more Encyclopedia Entries, please see here.

Colonising a World: Location

As I posted last night, Mars is ripe for colonisation.  However, it’s not Earth-like, and it’s not a very hospitable place.  But what if we find an Earth-like planet to colonise?

Let’s say we’ve found the planet.  We know we’re going there.  So, what do we need to do?  We need to decide where to land and set up our first colony.  How do we figure this out?  We need to look at many factors.


The climate is very important, not only for our comfort, but also for maximizing our ability to grow food.  Assuming we have sufficient technology, we can easily heat our homes.  Winter won’t be an issue for our daily lives.  However, a fledgling colony may need to be able to grow as much food as possible to support a growing population.  I would suggest a sub-tropical region with cool to warm winters and hot summers.  A lot of food crops grow best in hot weather, especially fruits and many grains.  We would need these to be healthy.  But a milder winter would also allow us to grow some of the vegetables that are suited for cooler climates.  We get the best of both.  Dry weather is great for fruit and grains.  But not too dry.  We don’t need a drought.  However, abundant sunshine is great for solar power and a decent amount of wind is also great for electricity.

The Land

Mountains are out.  Dense jungle is out.  We need some grassland with access to forest.  Grassland is great for growing crops, but forests are needed for building homes and other buildings.  Flat land is best, though some varied landforms, such as hills, would be nice to avoid monotony.  But ideally, flat grasslands are the best for farming.

Water Access

The colony should be based near a river.  This is important for several reasons.  First, and most important, is drinking water.  Fresh water is needed for us to drink, and it’s much easier to clean river water than it is to desalinate sea water.  Also, the river can be used to generate electricity.  We don’t necessarily need to dam a river to make enough electricity for a colony.  Also, fresh water is needed for irrigation of farms.  It’s absolutely essential for our food supply, as well as drinking water for the farm animals.  It would also be ideal that the sea is nearby, as it may also have abundant food in the form of fish, if this world has anything like that.  If needed, it could be a good source of salts, as well.  Also important is the stabilising effect of the ocean on the climate.  The weather shouldn’t fluctuate as much as it would inland.  Finally, the ocean can be used for transportation to other points along the coast.


Natural resources are incredibly important for a colony.  Wood is needed for construction.  Water is needed for drinking and irrigation.  But there are other resources, such as metals.  Iron is important for making steel, which is great for construction and manufacturing.  Aluminum is also a very useful metal, as are other resources such as gold (for electronics), oil (for plastics), sand (for glass), and so on.  Being near these resources is extremely valuable.  Oil is not necessarily important, as cleaner sources, such as plant oils can be used to make plastics.  It would be important not to burn fossil fuels, so as to preserve the environment of this world.

Link to Ariadne

In my created world, Ariadne, I have developed the entire planet, including climate, environment, natural hazards, countries, and so on.  I have located a point that is ideal for the colony.  It’s at the delta of a major river in the southern sub-tropical grasslands of the main continent.  There are forests to the north, the ocean to the south, and a large bay with calmer waters that is useful for fishing and transportation.  To the south, along the eastern shore of the bay, there are some hills with low cliffs that could be safe during the storm surge of tropical cyclones or tsunami.  The river is also navigable by boat, so transportation upriver is easy.

Now it’s your turn.  Do you have any ideas about what you would like if you could establish a colony on another world?  What kind of environment would you like?

Mars Colony

I’ve just started reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, and it’s had me thinking about humans colonising Mars.  In his book, we do it in 2026.  Several times in the past, NASA has set targets for going to Mars, and they’ve all died out.  The latest target set by the Obama administration is to reach Mars by the 2030s.  Of course, that’s if the government would stop trying to cut planetary programs.  In the following documentary, it says that with the changes of government every 4 to 8 years, it’s unlikely long term goals for colonising Mars would be realised, and we must focus on short term goals.  I haven’t watched the entire documentary yet, but this is a reminder to myself to watch it.  Here it is:

There’s one group that’s planning on sending people to Mars by 2023.  That’s only 10 years away!  I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  It’s Mars One. It’s a non-profit organisation that has already received thousands of applications from people who want to go to Mars and never return to Earth.  Over the next few years, they’ll select the lucky colonists partly through reality TV and pay for it from all the publicity it’ll receive.  The first mission, if it goes as planned, will launch in 2016 with supplies for the colony.  I would love for this to actually happen, but I won’t hold my breath.

There are a lot of novels that feature Mars colonisation, and even my Journey to Ariadne starts out on Mars (no longer a colony, but a civilisation).  One common idea is to terraform Mars.  This would be a very long process.  The Mars Trilogy by Robinson is all about the terraforming of Mars.  I’m very interested in seeing how the story progresses.  In my story, Mars isn’t terraformed, but still quite hostile.  To terraform Mars, a lot of gas would have to be injected into the atmosphere, enough to provide a high enough air pressure for people to survive.  But first, plants would have to be able to grow, meaning a greenhouse effect would be needed to warm the planet.  Water vapour and carbon dioxide are important for this.  Lots of water is needed.  But it’s a difficult process, considering Mars’ lower gravity and lack of magnetic field would make it very hard for it to retain this atmosphere.  Can it be done, though?  Who knows.

Where would we put the first colony?  Lowlands seem like the best bet.  The air pressure would be higher, the atmosphere thicker, and less radiation (although it’s quite high).  In the tropics would be best, most likely.  Stay away from the Tharsis region, as this is a huge bulge on the surface of the planet with a much thinner atmosphere.  In Journey to Ariadne, the story starts out in the Hellas Basin, which is a huge, ancient impact feature that has a very low altitude.

Of course, Mars is only a stepping stone for Journey to Ariadne.  Ariadne is the ultimate goal.

What do you think of the attempt to colonise Mars?  Do you think we should do it?  Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Interstellar Travel

In science fiction dealing with travel between the stars, the author needs to decide how to traverse such vast distances.  I have the same issue, as my books deal with a colony about 30 light years away.  So, how can we travel that far?  There are several choices.

Faster Than Light Travel (FTL)

This is a pretty standard way of traveling in science fiction.  You go from one point to another in a relatively short amount of time, but it requires breaking that speed limit of 299,792,458 metres per second.  Well, the two most popular ways are warping the space-time continuum and wormholes/hyperspace.  The first was used in Star Trek originally, though it turns out it may actually be possible.  There’s a hypothesis that uses sound physics and involves forming a bubble of normal space around a starship and warping the space in front of and behind the ship to allow the space to travel at speeds greater than the speed of light.   Unfortunately, as far as we know, it would require incredible amounts of energy.  Fortunately, the source is likely to be matter-antimatter interactions.  Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to store antimatter for a significant length of time.   Unfortunately, no one knows exactly how to do it yet. It’s just hypothetical.  The second is wormholes or hyperspace.  Two points in space are linked together by a kind of shortcut or tunnel.  How this can be done is anyone’s guess, as there are several ideas.  This method can be faster than warp, and is used in many science fiction movies, TV series, and novels.

Generation Ships

These ships travel slower than the speed of light, but if they have significant speed, they may be able to reach a nearby star within a hundred years or so.  It would take several generations to reach its destination.  There’s a possibility of relativistic effects, such as time dilation, but maybe not that significant.  However, if the speeds approach the speed of light, time dilation is great.  This is what happened with the ship in Planet of the Apes, though it wasn’t a generation ship.  These ships would be huge.  They’d have to support a large number of people and include ways of producing food and giving all of the people a way of life.  The ship is their home.  NASA is actually sponsoring the 100 Year Starship project.  Propulsion systems could involve fusion, matter-antimatter, ion propulsion, or even solar sail.

Sleeper Ships

These may have several names, but I like this name.  In these ships, people are put into cryogenic stasis or some other method involving slowing down their life processes so that when they wake up, they’re at their destination.  We don’t have the technology to revive these people yet, but it’s being worked on.  This has the advantage of allowing the people who start the journey to arrive at the same physical age.  During their time in stasis, time shouldn’t be a problem, as they’ll probably wake up as if they’d had an incredibly deep dreamless sleep.  That is, I hope they don’t experience the passage of time.  They may go crazy. Propulsion systems can be similar to the generation ships.

In my writing, I’m doing a combination of a couple of these systems.  I’ve got a rough design for my interstellar ships, which I’ll reveal as I write Journey to Ariadne.

What’s your favourite kind of space travel? Leave a comment with your choice.