Dan Price (thwack) wrote,
Dan Price

  • Mood:

*pop* *THUDrumblerumblerumblerumble* *crash*

Yeah... went bowling tonight with my friends to celebrate Matt's birthday. We ate at Uno's beforehand and went to Friendly's for ice cream after.

I bowled 163 and 130. Better than average for me. I got the second highest score of the night... John got a 167.

Then I came home and plopped myself in front of the tube. I caught a really cool program on the Science channel about space exploration. They basically produced a show that looks like Star Trek, with actors, a ship, etc... and explained how we might accomplish a mission to Alpha Centauri.... the nearest star, 4 light years away.

I missed the part that described the engine that would drive the ship... it does something with the interstellar gasses, but I missed how fast it could go. But they were talking about timeframes of 10 years so it must be nearly half the speed of light.

Anyway, the ship would have an advanced life support system, which NASA is actually currently working on, using plants as both food and a source of oxygen. During the 10-year trip, the crew would work to sustain the balance of the life support on the ship and otherwise just live their lives. They would have virtual reality to take them back to Earth and stuff if they get homesick. They would even procreate during the trip, and raise a generation of children that will have never known Earth.

In the program they showed the ship finally arriving at Alpha Centauri and approaching a planet that appeared a lot like Earth. But they didn't even address the possibility that there would be no planets capable of sustaining life in the entire system. What then? The ship just keeps going? It becomes their home... Finding new systems would become a way of life on the ship, passing on from generation to generation. If that happened, and they finally did find a new planet similar to Earth, they wouldn't even know where they came from. Could you imagine that? Being born into the tiny world of a ship, never knowing terrestrial life. Knowledge of Earth would be more like religion than reality. Sure, they would have the virtual reality and maybe old photos of this place called Earth that they supposedly came from, but how would they know it's all true? They would simply have to believe it. I'd call that religion. And the idea that they would soon find a "planet" to live on? I'd think they'd call that a prophecy.

This is all assuming nothing goes wrong with, or on, the ship during the entire journey. Going that fast, an impact with a space rock could be disastrous. The crew might become psychologically unstable and kill each other. The crops might go bad and the crew would starve or suffocate. One problem the show outlined was that the nature of the "ramjet" engine would make it vulnerable to interstellar gasses that could cause a surge of power leading to an explosion. They can avoid gasses in nebulae that are near stars that light them up, but gasses out in space between stars would be invisible. At the ship's speed, sensors would detect gasses ahead too late to do anything about it.

We clearly have a lot of work to do before even considering a mission to Mars, let alone another solar system.
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