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Teen's Solar System Travel Software Wins Intel Prize

Erika DeBenedictis, 18, of Albuquerque, N.M., won the top award of $100,000 from the Intel Foundation for her project developing a software navigation system to help improve spacecraft travel through the solar system. Erika's research found that the gravity and movement of planets create "easy transit routes," which will ultimately help spacecraft move faster and with less fuel.


(Erika DeBenedictis won $100K Intel Science Talent Search Award)

The software that DeBenedictis developed is consistent with NASA's concept of developing "Interplanetary Superhighways" for future space probes.

This is a great achievement for Erika; I mention it because I've always been fascinated by the concept of "space lanes" as described in early science fiction. As far as I know, the first mention of this phrase was in Edmond Hamilton's 1928 classic Crashing Suns:

He had travelled the space-lanes of the solar system for the greater part of his life, and now all of his time-honored rules of interplanetary navigation had been upset by this new cruiser.

Just a generation later, Philip K. Dick borrowed this expansive, nautical-sounding term and used it to describe a tortuous daily commute back to Earth from Jupiter's moon, Ganymede:

Commute ships roared on all sides, as Ed Morris made his way wearliy home to Earth at the end of a long hard day at the office. The Ganymede-Terra lanes were choked with exhausted, grim-faced businessmen; Jupiter was in opposition to Earth and the trip was a good two hours.

From MSNBC and Market Watch. Read more about gravitational corridors like space lanes.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/18/2010)

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