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Well. This could be a game changer. New Warp Drive theory
FWIW, "debris" is something I think likely to be common enough to shape the future of interstellar travel whether superluminal or not.  

It's a long way between rocks in the Oort cloud (and yes, out there ice is just a kind of rock). I mean, the distance between two house-size rocks that are nearest neighbors to each other might be the distance from here to Neptune.  But the Oort cloud basically goes out to the edge of the sun's Hill Sphere, and there's no indication that interstellar space is much less densely populated.  In fact, regions of interstellar space inside the spiral arms of the Milky Way are likely populated considerably more densely than our Oort cloud.

And we keep finding big things in our Kuiper belt.  Like Sedna and Eris, etc.  Those would be planets if they were close enough to the sun that they'd gone around it enough times to clear their orbits.  I haven't seen any reason to suspect that our Oort cloud doesn't follow the same size distribution.

So, if you point your nose at another star and start moving, you're likely to pass near dozens of interesting rogue worlds along the way.  There may be more rogue worlds than there are proper planets.  And your course may intersect the trajectories of hundreds, or thousands, of little rogue rocks ranging from dust to beach sand to boulder to building size.  

You can try to detect them and destroy them before you hit them.  But there'll always be a few you miss, or a decision about repair budgets vs. energy budgets.  You can try to detect the really big ones and maneuver to miss them. But that'll always cost you reaction mass, and it may be delta-vee you'd really rather have used for something else.  If you wind up significantly off-course you might not be able to reach your destination without more reaction mass.

So if your velocity is too high, in general, then you will need to take on reaction mass, or fuel, or raw material to make repairs, occasionally.  But if your velocity is too high, in general, relative to these rocks and rogue worlds around you, then they're all hazards rather than resources and you can't do that.

So there may be a practical limit to long-range interstellar travel that's considerably less than one one-hundredth of a percent of  light speed, in that if you go faster you start hitting things that do too much damage, or spending too much delta-vee on avoiding them, and can't resupply for the repairs, fuel, and reaction mass it costs you.  

So it would take four thousand years to get to Proxima Centauri, but we can expect to have settled hundreds, or thousands, of mostly-tiny rogue worlds first - as they drift in and out of our Hill Sphere or as we encounter them along the way.  Spreading through the galaxy would happen mostly as the rogue worlds we settle drift apart rather than as we deliberately travel to other stars.

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RE: Well. This could be a game changer. New Warp Drive theory - by Bear - 03-07-2021, 04:36 AM

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