In the early days of space travel, our mind set was on that of a fictitious ideal from Jules Vern, or TV shows like Buck Rodgers. In that time we viewed space as nothing, yet a frontier of infinity. We could spend all of time exploring the cosmos, and since that first flight to space with the launch of Sputnik I in 1957, we’ve always looked forward, dreaming, hoping, of what we could do next.
The following are methods of propulsion that have been used, being developed, or theorized, and descriptions of how they work. This list is meant to inform on the types that are out there.
*Reaction Engine (chemical rocket)
The original and current method of space travel is by a type of Engine, it uses solid Hydrogen fuel to power its thrusters.
A reaction engine is an engine which provides propulsion by expelling reaction mass, in accordance with Newton's third law of motion. This law of motion is most commonly paraphrased as: "For every action force there is an equal, but opposite, reaction force".
Examples include both duct engines and rocket engines, and more uncommon variations such as Hall Effect thrusters, ion drives and mass drivers.
(from Wikipedia) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaction_engine
Reaction engines are rather slow compared to others plausible types of space travel, making it impossible to travel long distances because of low speed and very limited fuel.
An Ion Drive is essentially a form of propulsion that accelerates ions away from the vessel. This can be achieved by either electrostatic or electromagnetic means.
The thrust that an Ion Drive puts out is insignificant compared to reaction engines, therefore making it illogical to travel at long distances, even though fuel is almost unlimited.
Warp drive is a faster-than-light (FTL) propulsion system in the setting of many science fiction works, most notably Star Trek. A spacecraft equipped with a warp drive may travel at velocities greater than that of light by many orders of magnitude, while circumventing the relativistic problem of time dilation.
The warp drive does not permit instantaneous travel between two points; instead, warp drive technology creates an artificial "bubble" of normal space-time that surrounds the spacecraft. Consequently, spacecraft at warp velocity can continue to interact with objects in normal space.
Fortunately, this type of propulsion is plausible, however with our current technology, you would need near infinite power to achieve warp 1 (light speed).
The Shaw-Fujikawa Drive (slip space/slipstream)
The slip space drive is another work of plausible science fiction that rather than warp drive, tears a hole in space time, which the ship then flies into, and then comes out into a normal space, leaving a space scar where it left.
Slip space drives are theorized to travel much faster than warp drives, but as the outside world would see the ship move in and out very rapidly, the actual crew would have to wait a much longer time, according to the Halo Universe some trips may take up to 3-6 months for a short distance, and may not even arrive at the right special coordinates.
Though this method of travel is highly unlikely and highly dangerous, it again would call upon infinite amounts of energy.
Though these methods are very of the ones out there, these are the main types of engines in science fiction and reality, that’s why they are here. The fictionalized one's are just that, but there is some plausible truth to them, and they require huge amounts of energy, and our technology is far from it as a real thing. That’s why it’s important to continue research to reach farther, and reach out dreams.
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