Space Travel and Propulsion Methods

As a layman, my interest has been mainly focused on gravity and a means to defy it. How one can see in different ways.

The Lagrange Points

In the above contour plot we see that L4 and L5 correspond to hilltops and L1, L2 and L3 correspond to saddles (i.e. points where the potential is curving up in one direction and down in the other). This suggests that satellites placed at the Lagrange points will have a tendency to wander off (try sitting a marble on top of a watermelon or on top of a real saddle and you get the idea). A detailed analysis (PDF link) confirms our expectations for L1, L2 and L3, but not for L4 and L5. When a satellite parked at L4 or L5 starts to roll off the hill it picks up speed. At this point the Coriolis force comes into play – the same force that causes hurricanes to spin up on the earth – and sends the satellite into a stable orbit around the Lagrange point.

Seeing space in a different light helps one to adjust perspective abut the universe and the possibilities of travel. There is indeed a abstractness to such ideas that when one sees the universe in a geometrical way, it helped to push my perspective about tunnels in space. How sound may be used to image WMAP.  The three body problem application toward identification of those L positions.

What position is the Space Station occupying?

Warp Drives”, “Hyperspace Drives”, or any other term for Faster-than-light travel is at the level of speculation, with some facets edging into the realm of science. We are at the point where we know what we do know and know what we don’t, but do not know for sure if faster than light travel is possible.

The bad news is that the bulk of scientific knowledge that we have accumulated to date concludes that faster than light travel is impossible. This is an artifact of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. Yes, there are some other perspectives; tachyons, wormholes, inflationary universe, spacetime warping, quantum paradoxes…ideas that are in credible scientific literature, but it is still too soon to know if such ideas are viable.

One of the issues that is evoked by any faster-than-light transport is time paradoxes: causality violations and implications of time travel. As if the faster than light issue wasn’t tough enough, it is possible to construct elaborate scenarios where faster-than-light travel results in time travel. Time travel is considered far more impossible than light travel.


Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, 11855 Research Blvd., Austin, Texas 78759, USA.

A theme that has come to the fore in advanced planning for long-range space exploration is the concept that empty space itself (the quantum vacuum, or spacetime metric) might be engineered so as to provide energy/thrust for future space vehicles. Although far-reaching, such a proposal is solidly grounded in modern physical theory, and therefore the possibility that matter/vacuum interactions might be engineered for space-flight applications is not a priori ruled out [1]. As examples, the current development of theoretical physics addresses such topics as warp drives, traversable wormholes and time machines that provide for such vacuum engineering possibilities [2-6]. We provide here from a broad perspective the physics and correlates/
consequences of the engineering of the spacetime metric.


Concept of the Alcubierre drive, showing the opposing regions of expanding and contracting spacetime that propel the central region
The Alcubierre drive, also known as the Alcubierre metric, is a speculative mathematical model of a spacetime exhibiting features reminiscent of the fictional “warp drive” from Star Trek, which can travel “faster than light“, although not in a local sense.

See Also: Hypothetical Methods of Space Craft propulsion

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