HOUSTON, April 25, 2022 — Former NASA-scientist and current LSI Director of Advanced R&D Dr. Harold “Sonny” White worked with Mr. Erik Wernquist to co-create this short film. The purpose of this video is to identify the perennial time-distance problem of human space exploration beyond Mars and to identify a few propulsion approaches we might utilize to send humans to all the worlds in our solar system and reach out across the vast distances between stars.

The spacecraft architectures highlighted in the film are nuclear electric propulsion (known physics, known engineering), fusion propulsion (known physics, unknown engineering), and finally space warps (unknown physics, unknown engineering). This film is targeted for a broad audience with the purpose of triggering interest to dig deeper and learn more – there really is much more to know and learn. There are other approaches that might be utilized to great effect as well such as solar sails, beamed energy propulsion, anti-matter propulsion to name but a few—the film is just the tip of the iceberg.

The most hopeful note the film has to offer is the potential for the implementation of the famed Alcubierre Drive, the foundational mathematics behind which is only beginning to be explored.

This illustration shows a plot of the York time for the Alcubierre metric. The York time represents expansion and contraction of space associated. Overlayed over the plot is a simple representation of a spacecraft illustrating the alignment of the exotic matter ring with the York time.

Human exploration of the outer solar system and the stars will require significant advances well beyond the current performance characteristics representative of state of the art for spacecraft power and propulsion systems. The referenced film identifies three distinct approaches spanning what we know to what we don’t know that might be utilized to solve the time-distance problem of deep space exploration.

The first approach is Nuclear Electric Propulsion which is representative of a solution that is firmly based on known physics and known engineering.

The second approach is Fusion Propulsion which based on known physics , but unknown engineering  .

The final approach is Breakthrough Propulsion which lies firmly on the frontiers of physics and explores what might fill in the gap between quantum mechanics and general relativity – so unknown physics, unknown engineering. While there are other approaches that might be utilized to address the time-distance problem, the short film is exactly that – a short film. Further, the approaches highlighted in the film are focused on the challenge of enabling human exploration of deep space rather than robotic probes.

For the film’s companion engineering note, see https://www.goincrediblyfast.com/

For more information on LSI, see https://www.limitlessspace.org/

Email Contact: info@limitlessspace.org 

About LSI 

Limitless Space Institute is a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire and educate the next generation to travel beyond our solar system and to research and develop enabling technologies. LSI advances the pursuit of relevant deep space exploration R&D through the following student-engaging programs:

  • Internal R&D: pursuing in-house basic research at the Eagleworks Laboratories near Johnson Space Center.
  • External R&D: directly funding academia-led R&D projects through Grants.
  • Collaborative R&D: advancing research in collaboration with university partners.
  • Scholarships & Fellowships: awarding scholarships for undergraduate, graduate, and postdoc students.
  • Lab Boosters: awarding lab boosters to k-12 education initiatives focused on bold space exploration.

LSI was founded by Dr. Kam Ghaffarian, previously founder of the award-winning contractor Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, and recognized by Ernst & Young as Entrepreneur of the Year. LSI’s president is Brian “BK” Kelly, who served with NASA for 37 years, most recently as Director of Flight Operations, responsible for selecting astronauts and planning and implementing human spaceflight missions. Dr. Harold “Sonny” White leads LSI’s Advanced R&D, bringing decades of research experience in the advanced power and propulsion domain, most recently serving as the NASA Johnson Space Center Engineering Directorate’s Advanced Propulsion Theme Lead.


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