Fast, Faster, Fastest
Unless faster-than-light travel becomes a reality, the true reality of space will be very long voyages.
Those who ply humanity’s trade routes have pulled long transients for time immemorial. Christopher Columbus took two months on his voyage and faced mutiny. The silk road from China to Rome took two long years out of a merchant’s life. The longest regularly schedule plane flight of today takes seventeen hours as of February 2017 (from Doha, Qatar to Auckland, New Zealand). Cargo ships can take nearly 30 days to go across the Pacific, and one traveling from Europe to Australia can push 40 days.
The closest exo-planet humanity has found at this time is 4.25 light years away. Traveling at half the speed of light, without speed up or slow down taking into consideration, would take eight and a half years, one way. Just reflect on how much you have accomplished in the last eight and a half years, how far you traveled, matured, learned, and changed. Now imagine doing all that with other people in the space of a space shuttle’s crew module, 2,325 cubic feet. Allowing for a 8-foot ceiling that is 291 square feet. Putting that in perspective, RVs run about 400 square feet.
Fast – 0.0037% the speed of light
Half the speed of light is generous, when one considers the fastest humans ever traveled occurred during Nasa’s Apollo 10 mission that topped out at 24,790 mph – 0.0037% the speed of light. Plans exist for developing technology capable of reaching up to 10% the speed of light. (See “How Fast Could Humans Travel Safely Through Space?” published by BBC in 2015.) At 10% the speed of light, not counting acceleration and deceleration, Proxima Centauri’s system, including one very special rocky planet in the Goldilocks zone, is just 44 short years away.
Faster – 0.0246% the speed of light
Before humanity arranges for some of its members to take The Big Trip, unmanned space craft will be sent. At this time, Juno holds the speed record for spacecraft when she rushed to see what her husband Jupiter was doing with all his moon affairs. She pushed 165,000 mph – 0.0246% the speed of light (seven times faster than humans ever moved in a sustained manner). Plans are in the making to get an unmanned spacecraft up to nearly 3 times that, within the next two years. (See “What’s the Fastest Spacecraft Ever?” published by LiveScience.) Two years feels like tomorrow when thinking about the fifty-year plan for getting humans up to 10%.
Fastest – 0.0671% the speed of light
And that two-year plans has a countdown. See more about the Parker Solar Probe here: http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/
“Astronomers have found the closest exoplanet to Earth” – (Last viewed 11/17/2017) – https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/24/astronomers-have-found-the-closest-exoplanet-to-earth/
“How fast could humans travel safely through space?” – (Last viewed 11/17/2017) – http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150809-how-fast-could-humans-travel-safely-through-space
“Space Shuttle Basics” – specifically for the crew module on the space shuttle – (Last viewed 11/17/2017) – https://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/reference/basics/orbiter/index.html
“What’s the Fastest Spacecraft Ever?” – (Last viewed 11/17/2017) – https://www.livescience.com/32655-whats-the-fastest-spacecraft-ever.html