Future Spacecraft Could Save Fuel by Surfing ‘Gravitational Tubes’

September 11, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Space travel consumes tremendous amounts of fuel, but a new system of space travel using natural gravitational currents that wrap around planetary bodies could provide a fuel-efficient way to explore space.

The gravitational tubes or corridors are “freefall pathways” that spacecraft could use to surf through space and U.S. scientists are just beginning to create a road map of the tubes for future space travel.

Professor Shane Ross, from Virginia Tech University recently visited Britain to present the space tube concept at the British Science Festival held at the University of Surrey in Guildford. Ross compared the gravitational tubes to Gulf Stream currents that exist because of gravitational forces between planets and moons.

The tubes connect Lagrangian points where gravitational forces meet and balance out. “The idea is there are low energy pathways winding between planets and moons that would slash the amount of fuel needed to explore the solar system,” explained Ross.

“These are freefall pathways in space around and between gravitational bodies. Instead of falling down, like you do on Earth, you fall along these tubes,” added Ross during his presentation to the enraptured British audience.

Ross and other scientists envision future astronauts using the mapped out gravitational corridors to explore a planet’s moons, which would be akin to taking a leisurely Sunday drive.

Traveling inside the tubes uses minimal fuel, but it also is slower, because the spaceship must rely on the available currents, making this celestial traveling method impractical for sustained space flights. Ross noted that exploring the Jovian moon system for example, using gravitational tubes could take months.

The Genesis spacecraft, launched in 2004 was the first spacecraft to surf gravitational tubes during its mission, making it possible for the Genesis to significantly reduce the amount of fuel normally required to be loaded on board.

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One Response to “Future Spacecraft Could Save Fuel by Surfing ‘Gravitational Tubes’”

  1. Future Spacecraft Could Save Fuel by Surfing ‘Gravitational Tubes’ - earth viewer on September 11th, 2009 3:28 pm

    […] View original here: Future Spacecraft Could Save Fuel by Surfing ‘Gravitational Tubes’ […]

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