The Realities of Space Travel
Speculative fiction provides us the opportunity to explore beyond our world. Writers get to imagine what’s beyond the edge of our solar system while trying to infuse as much reality as possible. Just what are the realities of space flight though?
Travel time isn’t as fast as portrayed in the movies. We haven’t achieved light speed. Not even close! The space shuttle traveled at a rate of 18,000 mph/29,000 km/h. It can circle the Earth , but getting all the way to Mars would take over six months. With current technology, it just isn’t going to go much faster.
That leads us to the next reality - ship requirements if we’re to travel farther than the moon. It would take a much larger ship than the space shuttle. It would need to store more supplies, possess a stronger propulsion system, more shielding against radiation, and larger accommodations for the crew. They would also need room to carry equipment for Mars or whatever planet was their destination. They are working on a ship that can travel to Mars, but that’s a lot of things they need to consider when constructing it.
Perhaps the scariest reality is the effect of space travel on the human body. Without gravity, an astronaut’s bones lose minerals at a rate of 1% a month. On earth, the average is a little over 1% per year. Astronauts also experience pressure in their heads and vision problems, along with mental difficulties resulting in depression or sleep disorders. Radiation is a problem–on the space station, humans receive ten times plus the amount of radiation as they would on Earth. This increases the chance of cancer, radiation sickness, and nervous system damage. After six months on the space station, astronaut Scott Kelly’s skin became super-sensitive and he developed a hive-like rash whenever he touched anything. These issues would compound during a long trip, bordering on life-threatening.
This is where the freedom of being a speculative fiction writer comes into play. Unless we are writing about current or near-future situations, we can circumvent these issues. We can invent things in our minds that will not only solve these problems but propel us beyond existing projections. Set a story in another solar system or galaxy and we can blow past all imagination. The boundaries of space no longer apply.
We need to be aware of the limitations of today’s space travel, but we don’t have to be confined by them!
About our awesome guest: Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.