Whether it's interplanetary, interstellar, or intergalactic, space travel has some hefty challenges to overcome. The one I want to cover today is distance.
Flippers on? Okay, let's dive in.
The speed of light is equal to 186,000 miles per second. (Here I thought my husband was speedy Gonzales at 80 mph!) Using Termination Shock as the "edge", our Solar System is reported to be about 22 light-hours across, which is about 1/400th a light year.
Doesn't seem like that big, does it? I admit, using light years does kind of soften the true size of things. Dampens the perspective, so to speak. So, let's put it in miles. First visualize a mile in your head. Now let's do this arithmetic style:
186,000 x 60 = 11,160,000 million miles per minute
11,160,000 x 60 = 669,600,000 million miles per hour
669,600,000 x 22 = 14,731,200,000 billion miles wide
I'm impressed (both at my math skills if I'm correct and in the true size of the Solar System). That's almost 15 billion miles across! Earth is 24,906 around miles at its equator. You'd have to go around the Earth's equator 591,472 times to equal the Solar System's distance
All right, at this point, let's be honest. The Milky Way galaxy is about 90,000 light years across. Talk about speck of dust! We are a microbe! For the sake of sanity, let's exclude intergalactic travel in this post for now, shall we?
Good, now considering the first commercial flight using an airplane was only in 1913 or 1914 (couldn't clarify in my research) how can we possibly imagine even getting to the closest habitable planet? Mars ranges from 34 million to 250 million miles away from Earth. I mean, even becoming interplanetary residents is daunting.
But let's put on our positivity hats... no, not the aluminum ones, the positivity ones... Yeah, those there to the left. We've made great strides since those first commercial flights and now airflight is a natural transportation method all over the world.
NASA has taken several rovers to Mars and it's only about 6 months. Yeah, I know that's just robots, but baby steps folks, baby steps. Stay with me here.
Virgin Galactic is well on its way with the commercial space flights. And a Russian company is slated to open the first orbital hotel in 2016 .
The private sector is where our advancement into space will come from. We'll slowly move beyond our earthly society and will pace our technological advancements in modes of space travel to meet the changing needs.
Come on, do we really need faster than light (FTL) travel technology when we're just settling into space colonies, moons and planets?
Truthfully, what's a 6 to 12 month trip for someone moving to colonize off Earth? Pioneers ventured that long to start a new life in a time when they knew they'd never go "back home" again. It'll be those with the same mindset gearing up for multi-planet civilization.
Sure, they could speed up the trip a little, but it's not bad as it stands now if they build gravity treatment into the vessel, such a body centrifuges.
Now, when we get ready to go interstellar baby, that's when we need to bump up our travel game. We'd have to first decide how we're getting there. Most likely, it'll be a mix of things. Those first few will want/need to travel in generational ships that are slower than light. They could also travel in suspended animation with a mix of frozen embryos to colonize a new world in another star system.
That's a long wait and I don't think I could do that.
My interstellar style would be through Faster Than Light (FTL) technology either using warp drive technology or something more realistic such as quantaportation. Of course, a quantaportation grid would need to be laid out first before it would work. That could be done through unmanned technology with robots setting up receiver stations throughout.