So last night I got lost inside a wikipedia loop. If your not familiar with a wikipedia loop allow me to explain. As you may know wikipedia articles often have links to other articles inside of them. Well a wikipedia loop is a phenomenon in which, through the process of repeatedly clicking in-article links, you end up at the page you started on. So anyways, though an odd sequence of events I found myself looking up some secret military prototype planes. I was reading along about all these supposedly-secret projects with their advanced blah blah this and advanced blah blah that. This particular plane used a pulse propulsion system, after reading about pulse systems for a little while, I found a related link to the greatest wikipedia entry of all time: Nuclear Pulse Propulsion.
The article starts off simple enough, you know your typical dry, overly complicated explanation of the subject in question, then a list of notable examples. At first glance it looks like any other dull physics-heavy entry, until you realize how ridiculous the idea is: let’s drop a nuke behind our spaceship and blow it up, that should push us forward right? The idea is ludicrous!
The best part is though, it totally would have worked. Not only that, but it is several times more powerful and more efficient than current technology. Propelling your rocket with nuclear fire so efficient in fact that NASA spent years studying this idea, and they’re still studying it today (albeit in a less metal way).They have schematics drawn up for an “Orion” ship that could carry 200 people to Mars in 4 weeks (as opposed to 3 in 1 year). Nuclear badassery aside, the single greatest aspect of the article itself is how disappointed it sounds when we learn that the technology is impractical.
I love: “the fallout from each takeoff would kill between 1 and 10 people.” I mean it’s just a little radiation, who cares? Damn people, they’re always getting in the way! Once again science presents an unfathomably awesome concept and silly little ethics have to shoot it down just like they did with my army of mutant-cybernetic murder penguins!
Honestly, I think 1-10 people is a worthy price for interplanetary travel.