CAN MAN TRAVEL AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT? – 1

According to our laws of physics the answer is no. But the question for space travellers is how near the speed of light [c] we can get?

Light travels at 300,000 [approx] kilometres per second [186,000 miles per second]. When we look at our sun, not directly of course, we are seeing it as it was 8 minutes and 19 seconds ago. That is the time for light to travel 150 million kilometres [93 million miles]. 

Stars and galaxies are so far away that we express their distances in light years – the distance light travels in 1 year – 10 trillion kilometres [approx] – an unimaginable distance. 

Thus our nearest star is 4.2 light years away, our nearest galaxy 25,000 light years away and the Andromeda galaxy is a staggering 2.5 million light years away. 

For man only stars up to 10 light years away are potentially reachable. But to do this we need to travel at a significant fraction of the speed of light, say between 0.1 and 0.5c and this would equate to a journey time of 100 and 20 years respectively. 

In my view a journey time between 20 and 40 years is the optimum that human beings could tolerate – assuming we can crack hibernation [which I’ll talk about in a later Blog]. Therefore we would need to develop technology to propel a starship at between a quarter and half the speed of light. But can we do this? 

I will discuss the technology for achieving these speeds in my next Blog – but you might like to see how I achieve a journey to a star 10 light years away in The Blue People of Cloud Planet.

So the answer to my basic question is no, but a Dicepteron can!                             

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WHEN CAN MANKIND REACH THE NEAREST STARS? – 1

There are a number of milestones and challenges for mankind if we are to contemplate travelling to our nearest stars, 5-20 light years away. 

We must first establish a large moon-base towards mid/end of this century. This is feasible because we have discovered vast amounts of ice at the poles giving us water to drink, oxygen to breathe and hydrogen for power.  Structurally, moon-base would look like a huge Eden Project with specially designed plastic interlocking blocks to resist the vacuum.

Then in the early 22nd century we would have a base on Mars. This would be the nerve centre for a star mission and a suitable starship would be constructed in weightless orbit around the planet. Our mission would launch from here and use the huge gravitational pull of Jupiter to accelerate our craft. 

Now there are 3 key technical challenges for us to solve over the next century to make a mission lasting 20 years feasible. Firstly, we have to be able to travel at a significant fraction of the speed of light and secondly we have to develop technology for extended human hibernation by cryo or other techniques. Thirdly, and absolutely vital, we must develop artificial intelligence – computers so powerful and reliable that we can trust them to look after a starship with its precious cargo of hibernating humans throughout a 20 year voyage. I will talk in more detail about each of these in my next few posts. 

To answer my question – I think in about 150 year’s time but I would be fascinated to hear your views. 

 I have visualised such a journey to the stars in my book – The Blue People of Cloud Planet- available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle [eleven 5* reviews] and now available in paperback from Feedaread.                              

 Read the first few chapters of  The Blue People of  Cloud Planet

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HOW DID IT ALL BEGIN – 1

Pioneer 10 blasted into space from Cape Canaveral on March 2nd 1972 on top of an Atlas-Centaur rocket. Its primary mission was to photograph Jupiter but in early 1973 it became the first spacecraft to traverse the asteroid belt. Imaging of Jupiter began late 1973 and the closest approach was 132,252 km in December 1973.

There were two very unique aspects of this mission. This would be the first manmade object to leave our solar system and travel forever towards the stars and secondly a gold plaque – see picture below – was bolted to the spacecraft.

762px-Pioneer10-plaque_tilt

The plaque depicts a man and woman and  shows the silhouette of the Pioneer craft. Further, there is information on our location in the galaxy and data depicting scientific values of key parameters on Earth .Back then I wondered if this plaque would ever be seen again and the grains of a story formed in my mind. But it would be 40 years before I wrote it!

In 2003 NASA reported as follows…

‘Pioneer 10 spacecraft sends last signal – after more than 30 years, it appears that the venerable Pioneer 10 spacecraft has sent its last signal to Earth. Pioneer’s last, very weak signal was received on 23rd January 2003. NASA engineers report that Pioneer 10’s radioisotope power source has decayed and it may not have enough power to send further transmissions to Earth.’

‘And now,’ continued the NASA spokesman, ‘Pioneer 10 is the most distant manmade object at over 16 billion kilometres from Earth. Pioneer 10 will now continue to coast silently as a ghost ship through deep space into interstellar space heading generally for the red star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull – a mere 68 light years away.’ 

However in 2003 Pioneer 10 changed course by 90 degrees and accelerated to rendezvous with Cloud Planet 132 years later. Perhaps you might propose how this could happen or if you want to find out read – The Blue People of Cloud Planet.                              

 Read the first few chapters of  The Blue People of  Cloud Planet

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