Is There a ‘Highway’ in Space? Interplanetary Superhighway Explained
I was watching a comedy movie, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In that movie, they explained that the Earth has to be destroyed to build a Hyperspace Express Route. Then it made me think, is there a highway or an expressway in space for space travelers?
Turns out, there is! But nothing like our land transportations’ highway.
It is called the Interplanetary Superhighway or Interplanetary Transport Network. This network of paths was made to cut down the usage of fuel in navigating in space.
In navigating through space, the pathway of space probes is designed to fully utilize the gravity of the planetary bodies close to its pathway.
Why are they not traveling in a straight line?
To travel in a straight line in space, a space probe needs to steer away from the gravitational pull of close planetary bodies to its pathway. This will result in a bigger usage of fuel.
To use simple words, a spaceship navigates close to a planetary body and uses its gravity to ‘slingshot’ the spaceship in the right direction.
These carefully calculated pathways created a network of streams and trajectories for probes and even space travelers to navigate through space with little usage of fuel.
Who created this network?
This Interplanetary Transport Network was created by a spacecraft trajectory expert in NASA, Martin Wen-Yu Lo. Of course, the calculation involves Lagrange points of planetary bodies with complex math, but you get the gist of it.
To understand more about this, you may watch this scene from the movie The Martian here. It explains how gravity can assist the movement of their spaceship while cutting down their fuel usage.