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So I have a planet that is slightly larger than Earth, orbits an orange star slightly closer than earth orbits the sun, has extreme weather patterns and volatile tectonics. It has bad storms, temperature extremes, radiation storms, intense magnetic fields, high winds, you name it. Obviously the planet is very dangerous to live on, and even more dangerous to travel across. However, I need something a little more than dangerous for my purposes.

I want to ensure that air and space travel are both exceedingly difficult and dangerous, to the point that space travel is all but impossible, and air travel is considered almost as good as suicide. So obviously the dangerous weather and unpredictable radiation is a downside but I would like to know if I'm missing something here. What could make air travel on a planet so dangerous that it would be effectively non-existent?

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    $\begingroup$ Bad storms - imagine turbulence on an air ride. Now imagine it for the entire ride. Now imagine it being 100x worse. Next, heat up the plane a bit, thanks to your temp extremes. Oh, and play around with the radiation storms and intense magnetic fields, and you can fry the plane’s tech, so if your planes are built more high-tech than ours, you’re still forced back to manually steering your plane. I think you’ve already solved the problem yourself. $\endgroup$ – DonielF Jan 7 '18 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ Does it have to be humans that live on the planet? $\endgroup$ – Douglas Jan 7 '18 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ If the lifeforms breathed different gasses then you could make the atmosphere less stormy but also less lifting. $\endgroup$ – Douglas Jan 7 '18 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ Mandatory XKCD : just go to Mars or Venus what-if.xkcd.com/30 $\endgroup$ – Goufalite Jan 8 '18 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ Related, possibly a duplicate: Reasons why air travel isn't feasible, but ground travel is? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jan 9 '18 at 13:38

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Look at which conditions prevent air flights here on Earth:

  • large storm: no plane is going to venture into an hurricane
  • large amount of dust in the air: following volcanic eruptions air flights are often cancelled or diverted to avoid crossing the cloud of ashes, as consequence of abrasive effect of dust and danger of injection by the engine
  • strong winds

I think you already have those in your planet:

[...] extreme weather patters and volatile tectonics. It has bad storms, temperature extremes, radiation storms, intense magnetic fields, high winds, you name it.

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    $\begingroup$ Volcanic eruptions! Excellent idea. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 7 '18 at 12:48
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You have bad weather. What makes bad weather more dangerous? Primitive technology.

http://www.century-of-flight.net/Aviation%20history/coming%20of%20age/air%20mail.htm

The first extension of the service would be to link Washington and New York with Chicago, but that required flying over the Allegheny Mountains, a treacherous flight in the old open-cockpit planes then in service. Between May 1919 and the end of 1920, the “graveyard run” between New York and Chicago was opened, though it claimed the lives of eighteen pilots—some crashing due to bad weather or mechanical failure, some crashing and being blown up while flying the JL- 6, a Junkers aircraft bought by the Post Office that had serious fuel leakage problems.

The people of your world can have WW1 era tech. Planes are wood and leather. There is no plastic. Metal is used sparingly to save weight. Rockets are terrifying, scaled up fireworks.

This will allow you to have a world where the weather is not completely insane; people can actually go outside and have farms. But the combination of routine, severe weather and a low technological level achieves the landbound state you want.

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Pretty much any planet except Earth has conditions that would prevent air travel.

Ridiculous winds

Venus has stead winds in the 300 km/h range; year round, non-stop all the way around the planet. The gas giants have storms that make those winds look mild.

Unbearable heat

Mercury's sunny side hits about 400 C or higher. Venus' whole planet is in that range due to its thick greenhouse effect. Either condition is going to be pretty detrimental to an operating aircraft.

Not enough atmosphere

In anything with a Martian level atmosphere or less, fixed wing aviation is more or less out. Even balloons are going to have a very limited lifting capacity in such a weak atmosphere.

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  • $\begingroup$ Plus he mentioned larger than earth, so high gravity plus low atmosphere would make it hard to just get off the ground $\endgroup$ – bendl Jan 9 '18 at 12:59
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Costs

The technology, maintenance (possible very fine dust particles in the atmosphere which destroy precision instruments very quickly), the production of the fuel are so costly that commercial air travel is not profitable.

No fossil fuels

Maybe this is a terraformed planet, or there just wasn't enough time for the buildup of considerable amounts of fossil fuels before they began to use them (if they do use them). Making jet fuel out of biofuel is probably harder and costlier.

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Aside from ideas previously given :

  • An extremely dangerous atmosphere. The planet's atmosphere could be composed of a thick, impenetrable fog (much like irl Venus), greatly impairing vision and thus making any approach dangerous ; or it could be covered in corrosive clouds, which attack the ship's components upon approach.
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You can basically prevent both air and space travel without even making the planet dangerous to life adapted for it.

Simply make the atmosphere very dense. Think Venus or even more--but it need not be a hostile atmosphere.

Space travel is out of the question because of the drag of the atmosphere--chemical rockets simply don't have what it takes to reach orbit after all the drag and gravity losses. (With heavy drag loss you're going slower which means more time and thus more gravity loss.)

Lighter than air transport is easy (although you could use wind or the like to preclude it) but heavy drag makes rapid flight impractical. (Think of submarines. Lighter-than-water transport is fine but you can't go very fast. Flight is just barely possible and only for a short range--rocket torpedoes exist but even with that kind of power they can only do 200 knots and they're utterly blind while doing so.)

Note that these factors will also limit projectile weapon ranges.

Note that this approach will not keep them out of space forever--launch loops will still work under these conditions. However, while there's no fundamental engineering needed to build a launch loop it's an engineering project that makes Apollo look like a kid's toy.

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As an adjunct to other answers that have chemical, weather and gravitational or temperature deterrents to survivable air travel, add a biological infectious disease and/or a mutagenic agent that exists in copious amounts in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Some mechanism at ground level keeps these agents aloft, but the interface between the viable air and the "it's suicide" air is so tenuous and unpredictably changeable because of all that bad weather that avoiding these agents during flight is impossible. Make it so toxic that any craft or personal contact at all with the bad air from either ground or outer space never ends well.

This is assuming technology is not yet available to negate these hazards.

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Radiation... nothing deters people from flying than dying a slow and painful death soon after.

You mention the mention “intense magnetic fields” but if you went the other direction and give your planet a weak magnetic field, plus being your closer to the sun than earth your solar radiation could be much higher. Without too much hand waving you could easily get a Situation where going to altitudes above a choosen point gives you a pretty lethal dose of radiation as the planets magnetic field ends.

You also get a race of mutants that live on the mountains for free ;)

You could potentially get around this with a lead space ship..but with a few tunings Of other parameters it would easily make air travel a Non starter and still make things liveable for humans.

High gravity - not so much for air travel but makes space way harder. the exact maths is beyond me, but my kerbal trained intuitions tell me that even small increases in gravity significantly increase the energy needs to get to space.

Low density atmosphere - as long as the oxygen is still there our lungs can handle lower pressure atmospheres just fine. Just reduce the amount of nitrogen. I know this is the opposite of what others have suggested but low gravity makes wings less effective and combined with high wind, would make flying extremely difficult as you need big windows that are subject to lots of stress. Combined with higher gravity even working parachutes would be problematic. Add on the requirement to lead line everything nobody is reaching for the sky’s anytime soon.

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  • $\begingroup$ For radiation see Mars. It's atmosphere was probably more like Earth's. Now it is thin because there was no shielding, no magnetic field. Your solution would work, but wouldn't be stable on a geological scale. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 9 '18 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, a planet Like the one I’ve described is unlikely to keep its atmosphere for billions of years but, the world described by the OP sounds like a young one. Maybe it got lucky and evolved life early, or life got started elsewhere. Either way still gives you a few hundred million years to have a civilization. $\endgroup$ – Nath Jan 9 '18 at 12:58
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Extremely high gravity. Based on your description of your planet as being slightly larger but Earth-like this is extremely unlikely based on our current understanding of physics.

However, if you're willing to hand wave this improbability then the crushing gravity would make it extremely hard for any visitors or hardy, locally-evolved lifeforms on the surface to get airborne and reach space.

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What kind of planetary conditions would prevent or severely limit air travel?

Well the obvious one is technology! However lets see some of the rest.

Gravity.

Stronger gravity will inhibit the apparition of the first planes however it does not exclude it entirely!

Storms.

Powerful winds will make low tech planes impracticable! Again, it does not exclude it entirely!

Predator.

Birds are a danger even for planes we have right now! However if you have something like this then you might make flight impossible! A flight might be a suicide mission!

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Space however is a different matter. And the only condition I see that might affect it is space debris that make it dangerous!

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