Wormholes, Warp Drives, and Other Possible Means of Interstellar Migration

Author: Gonzalo Munévar

Background: Interstellar migration may allow humanity, as well as a good number of other terrestrial lifeforms, to survive for billions of years after the Sun’s increasing energy output destroys all life on Earth. Interstellar distances, however, make trips to other star systems tens of thousands of years long, given our present technology for space travel. It is not surprising, then, that the topic of faster-than-light travel, or at least the achieving of high relativistic speeds, should acquire great importance.

Objective: A full survey of the alternative proposals is beyond the scope of this talk, but I will briefly discuss Wheeler wormholes and Alcubierre’s Warp Drive, before making a case for why a Gerard O’Neill type of Space Colony propelled at high relativistic speeds would be the most promising means to carry out successful interstellar migration.

Methods: Analysis of the scant evidence for Wheeler’s spacetime foam or wormholes. The appeal to the Casimir Effect is based on a misunderstanding. The time-travel paradoxes are a final blow. Alcubierre’s Warp Drive is consistent with General Relativity, but its engine needs exotic matter. Analysis of Space Colony propelled by a Whitmire ramjet to high relativistic speeds: A Space Colony would be home to at least tens of thousands of scientific experts who can use the resources of another star system to transform it. The ramjet finds its fuel in the hydrogen from space. The heat from its reactor is a solvable problem. The ramjet is also preferable to laser propulsion and its small payloads.

Results: Successful migration requires a large human contingent to prepare the new star system, particularly terraforming one or more planets, which may take decades if not centuries. Placing a large space colony offers the best chances of success. After settling those planets, it can move to another star, or a new traveling colony can be built for that purpose.

Conclusions: A Whitmire-ramjet-propelled Space Colony offers the most plausible means to initiate interstellar migration within two centuries or so.