Bussard"s Ram Jet...
Enter the Great White Hope of interstellar travel: the Bussard fusion ramjet. This was first proposed in a 1960 paper by Robert W. Bussard and popularised by Carl Sagan in the Cosmos television series (1980).
The idea behind the Bussard ramjet is simple enough. As it travels, the spaceship uses a gigantic magnetic scoop to collect hydrogen atoms. These are inserted into a fusion reactor, which converts the hydrogen into energy and propels the ship. Since it gathers fuel as it goes along, the ship doesn"t need any fuel payload and it can keep accelerating indefinitely until it reaches velocities close to the speed of light. At such speeds, time slows down for the crew dramatically and it would be theoretically possible for the ship to reach the center of the Galaxy in 20 years (crew time, though it still takes 30,000 years in real time) and could even circumnavigate the universe within the crew"s lifetime.
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