Space Date: Part 3

Deciding not to think about the Xiniti’s stranglehold on space, I concentrated on getting us to the gate. And anyway, according to Grandpa, it wasn’t their fault.

Arguably, we owed them.

The blackness of space stretched out ahead of us. Amid the stars, one of the spots of light had to be the gate and the Xiniti warship guarding it. Even at the speeds the League jet could reach outside the atmosphere, L4 wasn’t close. It was the same distance as the distance from the Earth to the sun.

I set the engines to burn until we were halfway there, and set the alarm. I’d have to flip the jet, and start decelerating at the halfway point.

With that done, I unstrapped myself, and stood up. “It’s all set. We may as well get up. We’re stuck here for a while.”

Haley got out of her seat.

We both wore League space suits over our clothes. Form fitting, they looked more like the space suits on the covers of 50’s science fiction magazines than the white, bulky suits I could see in the moon landing pictures.

“How long?” She walked over to the right side of the ship, and looked out the window. The windows on the left side had darkened, protecting our eyes from the sun.

I joined her.  “A couple hours.”

I’d had the seats in the area behind the cockpit fold themselves into the floor before takeoff. With them out of the way, we stood next to each other, watching Earth become smaller.

She took my hand.

“It’s really quiet up here. Do you have any music?”

I thought about it. “No. I didn’t think to bring any. I should work out a way to plug my iPod in. Anyway, not having music going might make it easier to hear any calls we get.”

“Are you expecting any calls?”

“No. You never know though.”

Eventually we got sick of standing, and sat down on the floor. It had carpet–not fluffy carpet, but better than bare metal.

“What did your grandpa say about the Xiniti?” Haley asked.

“Nothing special. After the whole Abominator fight in the 70’s, the Xiniti stood up for us, and told all the other aliens that we weren’t on the Abominators’ side, and that we’d stopped them. That’s it.”

“My grandpa said they seemed like animals. He didn’t know whether they’d help or attack.”

“I think I remember something about them having different castes. Maybe their fighters are particularly animal like? I don’t really know. Grandpa didn’t say much about their culture. He said they were good at fighting though.”

Neither of us said anything immediately after that. We sat next to each other, our backs against the wall, hearing the hum of the engines, and feeling the warmth coming up from the floor.

Taking her head off my shoulder, Haley said, “Did Isaac ever say whether it was real aliens? Or were the invaders from the humans the Abominators modified?”

“He didn’t tell me. Why?”

“Just curious.”

We sat for  a while longer, and talked. Then, (and I don’t know who started it, but I think it might have been Haley) we started kissing.

And, naturally, the alarm rang.

I got up, used the directional jets to flip the ship around, restarted the main engines, and felt deceleration begin.

After that, we picked up where we’d left off. We didn’t take all our clothes off or anything like that, but we did unzip our space suits.

So that, of course, couldn’t continue either.

The jet’s communicator started beeping. Loudly. Insistently.

Haley started laughing. I sighed. We both started rearranging our clothes, and zipping our suits.

I got into the cockpit, and clicked the button that opened up a connection.

“You over there! Heroes League jet! What do you think you’re doing up here?”

Well, I knew that it wasn’t a Xiniti at least, and so I’d have to explain myself to somebody on the UNS Jay.

Grrr.

30 thoughts on “Space Date: Part 3”

  1. I saw on an episode of NOVA that form-fitting spacesuits are actually currently being researched, but even they will be bulky garments — though much less so than the current versions, with a much smaller energy cost to movement.

    Also, why did the League just happen to have spacesuits in their size?

  2. I forgot to mention — the NOVA episode also said that the new suits they were working on would have to be custom-tailored. But still, this is fiction and things need to be somewhat simplified for plot’s sake.

  3. Oddly enough, I did give a little thought to that. My assumption was that the League had to regularly move a lot of people (not just members) in and out of space at one point (specifically, the 70’s). Thus they had to have a variety of sizes and shapes.

    I’m also assuming that Nick’s grandfather could design a form fitting suit that could be adjusted.

    To be honest, I haven’t seen the special you’re referencing, and I hadn’t thought about the custom tailoring issue until now. I can see where that would be important with form fitting suits.

  4. of course they just happened to have form fitting suits more “romantic”. Nick shame on you for not bringing music. Also, ooh they’re in trouble. I wonder what the punishment for making out in space is.

  5. I wasn’t thinking so much of “romance” with the form fitting suits. One thing I try to be consistent about is that all the 50’s era stuff from the Heroes League needs to look like something out of a comic or (in the case of SF elements like spaceships) like something out of a pulp magazine of the era. Thus form fitting suits (which they’d use in the 70’s too because they had the design right).

    Incidentally, did you know that Playtex (the bra company) made NASA’s space suits?

  6. Does the ship have artificial gravity? And what does it use for fuel? Does the League have a limited supply of it back at base, or can they make more?

    Actually, the original Apollo suits*were* individually tailored. Modern suits are quasi-modular, they make minor changes to the suit for each pilot (about nine months before the mission), but they can be transferred between pilots so they don’t have to make a new suit each time.

  7. I was just rereading it — spacesuits over their *clothes*? No way. Spacesuits have to be in contact with every surface of the body in order to provide pressure, which is just as important as providing heat and oxygen. We evolved for one atmosphere of pressure, and can take as far down as one-third atmosphere of pressure before major, and fatal, health issues appear. In fact, spacesuits only provide one-third of an atmosphere — I saw that on the same NOVA episode.

  8. The ship uses fusion for power, and does have artificial gravity. Thus, theoretically speaking, they have oceans of fuel available.

    As for the space suits, I’ll have to do a little reading on that and rethink a few things.

  9. Fusion or no fusion, conservation of momentum should still apply, especially since they’re too far from Earth’s gravity well for gravitic sails to be of much use.

    Now, we’re talking a couple of hours for the halfway point in a 150-million-kilometer trip. That means an average speed of 38 million kilometers per hour, or ~10.000 kilometers per second. Assuming constant acceleration, this means a final speed of 20.000 kilometers per second, or 6.5% lightspeed.
    Now, let’s make another assumption that, since they got fusion power, their main engines are actually fusion torches, and not chemical rockets or ion engines. This means that the plasma exhaust escapes at about 50% lightspeed. Conservation of momentum says that to accelerate mass A at 6.5% lightspeed, you need roughly 1/8 of mass A thrown into reaction thrusters at 50% lightspeed.

    So, with a fairly general but largely accurate calculation (assuming the jet doesn’t somehow bypass the Laws of Motion), we see you need 1/8 of the jet’s mass in fuel to accelerate. And another 1/8 of the jet’s mass in fuel to decelerate. Assuming 2/3 of the total mass of the jet are fuel and counting in the lightening load, this little trip would take about a THIRD of the jet’s fuel if we’re looking at fusion torch propulsion.

    [post break – dunno max post size and don’t want to find out.]

  10. Don’t go too far in your assumptions; they have anti gravity and inertial compensators. If you have that I think that a simple plasma torch is kinda very lwo tech.

  11. My understanding is that the Spacesuits have to cover every inch of their body, not be in contact. This is evident if you look at the mask. The gaseous mixture inside the suit is pressurized, hence the suit becomes hard to move in and pressure contacts all portions of the human body.

    Oh and I’m just waiting for the reaction to:
    “Well, I was just looking for a quiet spot to make out with my girlfriend.”

  12. Now that we’ve seen the numbers for fusion torch technology – which are way better than ion engines or chemical propulsion – let’s look at the dreaded total conversion drive. This kind of drive uses matter-antimatter annihilation to completely convert mass to energy or, if you don’t care much about natural laws and got the supertech, right out converts mass to energy. It makes no difference; the energy produced is the same.

    Now, total conversion drives are strange things. They aren’t true reaction drives as they use relativity to cheat on conservation of momentum by powering strong enough mass drivers to spit back small pellets at near-lightspeed and thus near-infinite momentum. Fuel mass is almost no problem for them. Conservation of energy still works though; even in perfect energy conversion rates (ha!) the kinetic energy they can impart on a speceship is fuel mass times lightspeed squared (seem familiar?).

    So, spaceship going at 6.5% lightspeed. For a spaceship weighing 100 tons (about 4 big fighter jets) going at that speed, its kinetic energy is equal to 1/400 of its mass totally converted to energy. To accelerate and decellerate, we are talking about 1/200 of its mass. So, for total conversion engines, for loss-free energy conversion into kinetic energy, you need a half-ton of mass for that trip, or 0.8% of its total fuel. A great deal better than fusion torches but the spaceship can still only do the trip so many times.
    And we are talking total, perfect conversion; there is no way to get more efficient propulsion system without violating natural laws. Unless you cheat. But more on that later.

  13. Now, let’s go into cheating territory. How do you get into cheating natural laws to get more mileage out of your fuel?

    Antigravity is probably out. Extending an artificial gravity field big enough to reach the nearest planetary body to push against while in deep space would require a stronger mass shadow generator than the natural gravity of the Earth… by a couple orders of magnitude.

    Now, what if you cheated by ignoring the need for fuel? Sure, you need fuel for energy and propulsion. Who says you can’t refuel mid-trip? Space is full of subatomic particles and hydrogen and helium and a bit of dust. Their density is so riduculously low as to be considered a vacuum most of the time. But the ship is going at 20.000 kilometers per second. If you somehow projected a magnetic funnel out of its nose just strong enough to gather passing particles, you’d scoop up 20.000 cubil kilometers of space per second. If that only amounted to a couple of grams, it would still be enough fuel to cover you. And the faster you went, the more fuel you’d have.

    This device is called a “ramscoop”. It neatly sidesteps any kind of fuel problems once you hit a significant portion of lightspeed that its fuel intake outweights its energy consumption; if you go fast enough, your fuel will never end.

  14. PS:

    Not plasma torch propulsion. Fusion torch propulsion. Basically, you make a cup out of magnetic fields strong enough to hold a fusion reaction, throw deuterium into them, ignite with lasers or antimatter, and point the “cup” opening away from you. The continious fusion blast propels you and at the same time you got radioelectric cells converting the gamma ray backwash from it that would normally burn you into power for your ship.

    It’s like riding the recoil of a high-pressure hose, except it’s thermonuclear fire instead of water. 🙂

  15. @Belial666

    Given that the ship/jet is equipped with some form of artificially generated gravity, It can be assumed as there is no mention of OMS/Thruster activity that it is a generated gravitational effect as opposed to simulated gravity (ie,produced via some form of mechanism, rather than via rolling the ship to induce centrepetal force upon the occupants).

    If this is the case, then it isn’t that great a stretch to see the technology being used in another format such as some form of grav-drive, producing a similar effect as that seen when two magnets of similar poles are placed near to each other. (Such a mechanism, was explored by I.Asimov in his “foundation” series)

    Or the ship could have an alcubierre drive.
    Either way, the problem in these cases is generating enough power to service the drive, rather than storing reaction mass to provide direct thrust

    Or it could utilise any/all of the theories here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakthrough_Propulsion_Physics_Program

  16. My rule of thumb is that any SciFi that includes artificial gravity and inertial dampeners can in essence ‘make the ship lighter’, negating the question of required reaction mass in fuel calculations. If you can violate Newton’s Laws for the passengers, you should be able to do it for the ship, too. It’s just a question of available power at that point.

  17. @NottoMention I did some checking, and you are right. I was thinking of the new suits they showed on NOVA, not the old ones.

  18. There’s one big problem in nitpicking about scifi with current science – If that worked, we’d already have all the stuff presented. In order to build things we currently have no idea how to make, like for example artificial gravity, discovery of things we don’t know yet is required.
    Now then considering that, it’s also reasonable to assume the things we have sort of an idea how they’d theoretically work are working better and somewhat differently than we might assume, since they are made with science and engineering more advanced than ours.

    Just my two euro cents, but referring to people as “you over there” kind of makes me think whoever it is isn’t an actual authority here. Officials don’t tend to use such an informal tone.

  19. @Mazzonsays Well, the laws of physics do require certain things, so some assumptions can be made.

  20. Good golly, that was a lot of write ups concerning the space jaunt.

    How about Grandpa just found a way to tap an infinite dimension of say pure energy, and he just funnels a tiny portion of it to produce the reaction needed for the drive.

    ( He never patented it or told anyone about it because if used untapped would be the ultimate weapon ( infinite energy = infinite bomb if used wrong ).

  21. Huh. I was assuming they were talking about the Earth-Moon L4 until they mentioned “same distance as the distance from the Earth to the sun”.

  22. Hmm… I’m no expert on DC continuity, but as far as I know even though they have an actual “speed force” in existence nobody has ever made an engine that runs on it. Well, except a silly one with a hamster wheel.
    Seems like a waste, really. Someone should take that speed force and give it to a more enterprising comic universe.

  23. Well, there was that whole gorilla storyline, where all the speedsters were put on treadmills with bananas dangling in front of them, always just out of reach, and their running on the treadmills provided power for all of the gorilla’s systems and weapons and stuff.

    Hg

  24. Well, the speedsters do utilize the Cosmic Treadmill to travel through time. Zoom once used it to bring back Professor Zoom and force the Wally West Flash to relive the fight they had earlier in their lives that resulted in Wally’s wife’s twins dying in the womb.

    They only need that to travel through time with a lot of exactness. They’re fast enough to run through time on their own, or even, as happened during Infinite Crisis, access a kind of pocket dimension where young Bart Allen can spend 4 years until Superboy-Prime escapes.

    The speed force has its dangers though. Not to be taken lightly. For instance, a superspeedy grim reaper called Black Flash. And you need some protection still. Professor Zoom’s costume was the only thing made to handle the speed force on him. When it got messed up enough, superspeed was harmful to him.

  25. “Speed Force”. I know it’s descriptive, but I can’t help but wish they’d given it a better name.

  26. For a tech genius, he doesn’t always think things all the way through sometimes. Up until very recently, there had been ongoing space battles with enemies (currently) unknown. Probably not the best time to go joyriding with your girlfriend if you want privacy. Can’t exactly blame anybody for being suspicious of them. He can only hope they don’t find out what he’s up there for.

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