Project Orion

Whilst browsing the videos on Dr. Buzzo’s YouTube channel, I came across a nice one – a segment from Carl Sagan’s legendary television series Cosmos talking about interstellar spaceflight, and the technologies we could use to achieve interplanetary manned spaceflight.

Now, maybe I just read too much Carl Sagan works, but I happen to get a little bit passionate about such things.

Now, something important to note: Every technology, with one single exception, that of a large enough solar sail, that has ever been seriously considered or developed by humanity as the means to send a manned spacecraft beyond our solar system, or even to the outer part of our solar system, utilizes some form of nuclear engineering as its energy source.

But nuclear engineering – fission reactors, fusion reactors, or bomb-like nuclear pulse propulsion – does give us the means to do it, where no other energy systems can.

A spacecraft capable of manned interstellar travel would, in my opinion, be the most fantastic triumph of human engineering ever devised. Something fantastic, at the limits of human imagination. And such technology already exists. We simply lack the political fortitude to use it.

It’s quite depressing, almost, to note that we have the means to travel to other stellar systems, and colonize and live there, in all likelihood, well within a human lifetime, but we do not. Not because our science precludes it, our our technology, or our vision, or our intelligence, or our wealth preclude it, but because politicians preclude it.

Now, after watching this video, I happened across another very, very good video on YouTube:

This is a recent-ish TED talk given by George Dyson (son of the notable British-American mathematician and physicist Freeman Dyson) about Project Orion.

The video he mentions – of the very successful experiments with the scaled-down models powered by chemical explosives – is here:


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