Have you ever been let down? Have you ever been devastated? Have you ever had such great hope for something and then found out it is an illusion? Have you ever had a crush on someone in high school, thinking about them when you woke up in the morning and thinking about them minutes before you fell asleep? Then you find out one day he/she is getting married? You drag your feet for days on end, starring at the ground, wherever you are going? You know the type of let-downs I am speaking about.
I am feeling that way at this moment. I’m not feeling this way over someone or some object, I am feeling this way because I feel like humans are trapped within our solar system. I’ve recently watched a documentary called Space: Unraveling the Cosmos. The trailer can be seen here on YouTube. This documentary finally explains the vast distances to other star systems and other galaxies in an interesting and comprehensible way in which most other videos have not. It sunk in over the next few days how impossible the distances are to travel and the technology needed to do so. Also, the sheer number of people and man-hours involved. Then it started to seem impossible. Utterly impossible to travel anywhere outside the solar system. It just takes far too long and you would need a self-sustaining lifeboat. It would take generations even at an astonishing speed of 1/10th the speed of light. Also, this documentary fails to point out, like countless other videos, is that once you get to reach these incredible speeds: How do you slow down? There is no resistance in space. There is no drag. There is nothing to stop the momentum. Imagine all the rocket fuel needed to accelerate an object into space. You would need to carry just as much with you to slow down. As a person grounded in day to day doldrum of life on earth its hard to imagine what this means. Put it this way: Speed and acceleration gets you to other stars. You know a Ferrari or Lamborghini has a lot of horsepower and big tires to make it fast and go 150MPH or faster, right? Now imagine requiring just as much horsepower to slow it down, rather than using the brakes. That’s the problem with space travel. The spacecraft would be traveling at such a velocity it would just go right passed the entire alien solar system it was sent to explore. Scientists have suggested aerobraking. However, that is very dangerous and difficult. It may also require repeated passes of skimming through the atmosphere of planets to slow down.
So now, we are stuck. Even at the speed of light (an impossible speed to actually reach, by the way) – it would be many years to reach another star system. And to go beyond our galaxy? Forget it. Our species will never live that long. It will take 2.5 million years to reach the closest galaxy: Andromeda. There is just no way to make any sort of spacecraft to last that long and travel at that speed. Human’s themselves are only about 1 million years old as a species. What will we be in another million years? If we even survive that long.