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The Starflight Handbook: A Pioneer's Guide to Interstellar Travel Hardcover – June 16, 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0471619123 ISBN-10: 0471619124 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The first popular compilation, in book form, of scientific and engineering knowledge about interstellar travel. A working guide for the would-be star traveler, this book concentrates on current and proposed propulsion systems that might be applied to starflight. Provides a compendium of interstellar concepts, formulas, and reference material, including discussions of interstellar navigation, communication systems for sending data, relativistic effects in starflight, and effects of the interstellar medium. Mathematical and other detailed technical developments are separated from the main text, relegating them to accessible ^boxes that can be glanced over.

From the Inside Flap

From the Tower of Babel to the Starship Enterprise, some part of our collective mind has always been at work scheming of ways to storm the heavens and reach the stars. Now, as we approach a time when the future of our species may depend upon more than what our beautiful but meager portion of galactic real estate offers, we are, fortunately, closer than ever to fulfilling that age-old ambition. But beyond the known planets, our closest extrasolar neighbor is 270,000 times more distant than the Sun, and bridging the vast distances to the fertile worlds that may lay beyond our Solar System will require radically new technologies—technologies as different from current capabilities as was Apollo 11 from The Spirit of St. Louis. The technological revolution that began in 1957, when Sputnik I pierced the atmosphere and made its way into Earth orbit, is really only the prelude to the much grander story of interstellar travel. The Starflight Handbook is the first compendium on planet Earth of the many and varied approaches to starflight now on the drawing boards of some of our most talented scientists and engineers. In an easy, nontechnical style, the authors offer in-depth discussions of everything from nuclear pulse propulsion engines to interstellar navigation systems, while detailed technical and mathematical information is reserved for sidebars and special appendices. Interwoven through the text are historical perspectives as well as related social and cultural considerations about the necessity and feasibility of starflight within the next quarter to half century. Generous coverage is given to interstellar propulsion schemes of all kinds; space-time problems in starflight; long-range, star to Earth communications; effects of the interstellar medium on people and machines; scientific payloads; interstellar arks and colonies; and techniques for spotting extrasolar planets. Throughout, the text is liberally sprinkled with elegant and enlightening illustrations depicting many of the ingenious and fantastic designs for starships and their hardware. The Starflight Handbook belongs on the shelf of anyone who has ever given thought to mankind’s destiny in space. Specialists and laymen, astronomers, and science fiction buffs alike will appreciate its wealth of detailed information and its graphic presentations.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 274 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (June 30, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471619124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471619123
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #341,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Matthew S. Schweitzer on January 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book for anyone intersted in the engineering possibilities of interplanetary and interstellar spaceflight. I read this book years ago as an aerospace engineering undergrad and it helped inspire me in my dream to help make starflight a reality. As can be found here, the technologies for limited interstellar flight have already been investigated, and in some cases, could be implemented today with sufficient funds. The books provides background on all types of rocket based propulsion, covering chemical, nuclear, anti-matter, electric (ion), solar sail, and solar thermal propulsion systems. It also provides an introduction to astrodynamics, space power systems, and the inherent problems encountered by long duration spaceflight over vast distances. As wonderful as this book is, it is badly in need of an update. It barely touches on more recent ideas like long range laser power transmission, as well as more "out-of-the-box" concepts like propellant-less propulsion. Granted there is alot of controversy surrounding notions of artificial wormholes and warp drives, but I'd like to see such ideas at least included as possibilities. As mentioned before, this book is not exceptionally mathematically rigorous, but that could be beneficial to those interested in these concepts without having to possess a background in differential calculus. These ideas stir the imagination and perhaps, someday, we may see these dreams become reality as mankind reaches out to the stars.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By The m on August 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a very, very good book. It covers the basics of space flight, and covers specifics such as different types of propulsion methods and possible interstellar missions.
However, this book is not mathematically rigorous. Although I suggest everyone buy THIS book, anyone who wants a better mathematical treatment of the topic should try to find a copy of the out-of-print _Prospects for Interstellar Travel_, by Mauldin.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I have read this book over and over about 20 times and absolutely love it. There are many other books out there that also delve into the subject in great detail, but were not written to come down to the every day person level. It is not meant for the person that has aspirations of flying around the universe in a "USS Enterprise" vessel within the next 100 years, but looks at all of the possible means by which we may reach our nearest stars within the next 500-1000 years. Besides being great leisure reading it is also a great starting point for those people who wish to get more involved in the study of the theory around star flight. It left me with the impression that many many meathods have been devised and although many of them will probably never be realized, none should be discounted, because it will probably be some dreamer that actually stumbles on the loop hole in all of the "Laws" that enables us to blink out of existence here and re-appear many light years from our home.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J A W on July 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book covers the strengths and weaknesses of various types of spacecraft, and often adds visuals and drawings to help explain the ways these crafts might work. Electromag-ramjets, light-sails, Nuke powered, they're all here. It's 15 years old, however, but it is nonetheless a good starting point to understand the possibilities of interstellar travel. This book also covers the basic physics behind space propulsion. The book is obviously a good resource for science fiction writers, futurists, and people who want to wow their friends w/ insightful comments on space colonization. W/ the new Mars initiative by NASA, designed to be fulfilled w/in 50 years, maybe NASA might fulfill some of the theories outlined in this book. Be ahead of the curve.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The m on August 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a very, very good book. It covers the basics of space flight, and covers specifics such as different types of propulsion methods and possible interstellar missions.
However, this book is not mathematically rigorous. Although I suggest everyone buy THIS book, anyone who wants a better mathematical treatment of the topic should try to find a copy of the out-of-print _Prospects for Interstellar Travel_, by Mauldin.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Shuster on December 16, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This book takes the nuts and fits the bolts together. How could we hope to make it to the stars with real technology? Can we really answer this now? Mallove and Matloff have done just that. How to make a starship, based on what we really know today. What are the options? What needs to be done? Anyone who has looked up as a child to the stars, and who loves technical detail, will enjoy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hugh on April 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book has excellent instruction in the fundamentals of the physics and science behind real space travel, as well as discussing hypothetical possibilities.

This book is over 20 years old however, and there have been a few discoveries since then, but the basic science is still sound. A useful reference for sure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Groen VINE VOICE on October 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book is a fascinating review of the interstellar space travel options that have been developed by specialists in the field up to 1989. When you review the current situation as of today however, the list has not grown much.

There are the starwisp, Daedulus, solar sail ships, fusion ships, ramjets, and traveling through "wormholes". The last concept will be the focus of the new movie "Interstellar".

Ramjets were interesting. In order to get one of these ships moving at a somewhat acceptable speed (e.g. 10% the speed of light which would take 40 years to get to the nearest star system - Alpha Centauri), a scoop of diameter of a approximately 1200 miles is necessary. Needless to say, this is not very feasible.

The starwisp, however, appears to be feasible and a concept that we should be pursuing. This is a solar sail of a approximately a half mile in diameter that would be powered by lasers and solar light. Conceptually, with small microcomputers on board to register what is found, this could be travel 20% the speed of light and get needed information on what is beyond the solar system and take 20 years to get to Alpha Centauri and appropriate times to other solar systems. (The closest sun distances are in an Appendix in light years at the end of the book.)

If you are interested in this fascinating topic, I highly recommend this book. Although it may seem dated, it really isn't. For example, it envisions a "wormhole subway system" that may enable us to travel quickly to other locations in the universe.
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