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Judge won't force NASA to look at area man's interstellar drive

When NASA wouldn't talk to Henry Ivers of Swampscott about his revolutionary method of powering spaceships to the stars, he sued.

In a ruling this week, US District Court Judge William Young dismissed Ivers's self-filed request that he force NASA to at least acknowledge his plans. Young said Ivers had no "standing" to bring the suit, because it's the sort that would have required the government to allow itself to be sued and, as a local assistant US Attorney wrote after conferring with NASA, no such permission has been granted.

Young said he was dismissing the case based strictly on legal grounds, certainly not on any scientific review of Ivers's proposal, in which Ivers claims that the use of electricity generated by solar cells and something about revolving and rotating instead of pushing and pulling (Ed. note: Damn it, Jim, I'm a reporter, not a rocket scientist) could replace the chemical rockets NASA has largely relied on to this point to move things from Earth orbit elsewhere.

Ivers unsuccessfully argued that the 1958 act that created NASA required the agency to, if not boldly go where no one has gone before, at least contribute to "the expansion of human knowledge in the atmosphere and space," and that few things could better lead to that than a trans-stellar drive and that by not even acknowleding his plans, the agency was placing an alleged "not invented here" philosophy above its own stated reason for being.

The US Attorney's office responded:

Simply put, Plaintiff cannot sue NASA merely for declining to take actions that, in his view, might help further its mission. Although the text of NASA’s enabling statute sets forth broad and high-minded objectives, it does not remotely authorize claims against the agency for failing to fulfill those objectives.

Even if the government consented to be sued, which it hadn't, Ivers has no case because the 1958 act does not require it to accept anything that comes over its virtual transom, "let alone a clear nondiscretionary duty to evaluate [Ivers's] propulsion technology," the US Attorney's office added.

Iver's description of his revolutionary propulsion system (2.2M PDF).

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Comments

this genius, I'd be patenting my design and pitching it to Musk, Branson and Bezos. That'd show those shortsighted eggheads at NASA!

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"The mass MPOIFs however are never any more inward to the axis and/or any closer to the axis because the circular path is also neverendingly inward to the same degree."

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Dammit. There goes my chance to pitch "the power of imagination" as a means of interstellar propulsion to NASA.

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The Moody Blues covered that decades ago.

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The Infinite Improbability Drive was a wonderful new method of crossing interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second, without "tedious mucking about in hyperspace."

It was discovered by lucky chance and then developed into a governable form of propulsion by the Galactic Government's research centre on Damogran. As soon as the drive reaches infinite Improbability, it passes through every conceivable point in every conceivable universe simultaneously. An incredible range of highly improbable things can happen due to these effects.

It was installed on the Starship Heart of Gold, and both the ship and the drive were unveiled by then-President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox.

- from the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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I commend Mr. Ivers on the ingenuity of his invention. A bold step into the future! I'm not entirely persuaded that it will work - relying on solar energy to power interstellar travel, which of necessity requires leaving the vicinity of the nearest star, seems to me to present certain difficulties - but it is certainly original, and I think NASA should give him a plaque, or name an asteroid after him, or something. At least he didn't invent email.

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Syd Barrett will have something to say about Mr. Ivers (too lazy/dumb to insert Youtube video but here's the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq5XugyTkCg )

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Solar powered interstellar travel isn't an entirely unseasonable idea, and it's been explored by people with much better credentials than "guy who sues to have idea taken seriously." The Sun gives off a lot of energy, so if you gradually build up momentum while you're in the solar system you can be quite fast once you're in interstellar space, and then since you're in space there's not much to slow you down until you get to your destination. There's many engineering issues to actually doing that, but it's not like there's an obviously better way to travel between the stars.

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then it starts to look a little more reasonable. But once you're out beyond Jupiter or so, the sun is just a tiny little dot -- not a particularly usable energy source.

Anyway, the main issue is that all space travel requires reaction mass, which is really a much bigger constraint at present. The best you can do with pure-energy propulsion is throwing photons out the back, which unfortunately has really terrible efficiency.

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Anyway, the main issue is that all space travel requires reaction mass...

CuteUsername is talking about using the Solar Wind to get up to speed before the sun dwindles to uselessness. This uses no reaction mass. It's a Thing. Been a staple of scifi forever.

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I do remember seeing something about using a magnetic sail to harness solar wind. (Relatedly, the generation of a magnetic bubble to protect a crewed craft against cosmic rays!) However, the force of the solar wind probably drops off as the square of the distance, just like radiation pressure (and harvestable radiation) would.

I have to say, I'm skeptical that the numbers actually work out to something useful.

(There's also the classic sci-fi idea of using a magnetic ramscoop to collect interstellar gas and use it in a fusion engine, accelerating the reaction products out the back, which is sort of an end-run around the reaction mass issue.)

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A Ben Affleck movie, written by Ben, produced by Ben, starring Ben, etc

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He needs to get William Shatner onboard.

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it's the motion.

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It's the Wright Brothers all over again.

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What would William Shatner do?

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