Posts tagged future
Ok, this one is kind of fun. Aliens. Where are they? I mean they’re here right? Not so fast. Lets get this science lesson out of the way right here and now.
This is the Milky Way:
So there you have it. That’s us tucked away in a tiny corner of that galaxy. What is a galaxy? Ok, more science so strap in. Here goes…
We live on Earth, which orbits a star we call the Sun. Our entire solar system is a few billion miles across. Pretty damn big but paltry compared to the big stuff. So our solar system is what is orbiting the center of the milky way. Now, Earth goes around the Sun once every 365 days. Our Sun orbits the galactic center once every 250,000,000 years (give or take. I mean really, what’s million years here or there). So in comparison, our solar system is a spec of dust. The galaxy we live in is some 100,000 light years across. That’s the distance light travels in ONE Earth calendar year. It’s around 10,000,000,000,000km. So to get the distance across the galaxy, add six more 0s to that number for a whopping 10,000,000,000,000,000,000km across. Ten quadrillion kilometers (or 6 quadrillion miles). Yes. It’s a very very big place. Even so it’s tiny compared to the Universe. We’re done with that stuff for now. We’ll focus on the local area around Earth.
Tinfoil hats at the ready!
Aliens, right? They’re here, right? Ok, like I said before – hold the phone. Think about this. The nearest star to us is 25 TRILLION miles away. Traversing interstellar space would be a mind boggling feat. We can’t even begin to comprehend the technologies that would have to be employed for such a journey. The space craft would be massive, supporting generations of their species perhaps. It’d also move very fast I imagine. So that’s why the stories of bizarre lights and little zippy dots caught on camera really make me roll my eyes. Think about it.
A vastly superior species shows up and they flit around in the sky at break neck speeds then disappear. Uh, no. Hell no. I’ve traveled trillions of miles at the very least – I’m going to land and get shit done. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Ok, people that are abducted right, that’s a good one. They recollect the entire story and what one thing is missing? The evidence is missing. The actual physical evidence isn’t there. NDT (Neil deGrasse Tyson) said it best “take an ash tray!”. His point was that ANYTHING on a ship capable of interstellar travel would be worth looking at. Where is this stuff? Oh it doesn’t exist. Just like the aliens that took them in the first place. Moving along to my final peeve. Aliens were here long ago and vanished.
We’re awesome, screw this place and screw YOU!
So, yeah, they were here a long time ago and left. In the process of leaving they also took every single bit of their technology with them. Oh but they were nice enough to leave us stone carvings the vaguely depict that technology. Gee, thanks, asses. By the way, thanks for scaring the shit out of everyone with your damned outdated calendar. Looking at you, Mayans.
Get on with it…
So that leaves me with this final note: I believe life exists elsewhere. Mathematically speaking it just has to be true. Hydrogen, Helium, Carbon and Oxygen are extremely abundant in the Universe. We just happen to be made of those elements (minus the helium because that’s just for silly voices, duh).
So in a Universe chock full o’ ingredients with hundreds of billions of stars JUST in our galaxy, we’d be fools to assume we’re special enough to be alone. We are special as I think everything is special in its own way. We’re amazing because we actually CAN understand the Universe if we open our minds to it. That’s the real trick though. Some people refuse to let that knowledge in or deny it.
I’m not saying you can’t have faith and all. Sure, have it and let it better your life and those around you. Just don’t suppress information. Don’t feel you’re better or above someone else because your belief is better. Just be a nice person, ok? Also, don’t deny that the study of the natural world is a good thing. Of course it can be a double edged sword as can anything but most scientists have one common goal: to know.
Aliens might one day show up. I can’t know that and no one can but I have a feeling we’ll HEAR them before we see them. Even then, they won’t be talking to US but to themselves. The profound thing is that if we listen in on a civilization that’s even 100 years more advanced than we are, imagine the implications of that. Us + 100 years of advancement. It’s exciting and a little scary to think about. I’m optimistic that we’ll hear or observe something that indicates life elsewhere in the Universe but I think you can feel safe that the men in black won’t show up to zap your brain and make you forget the whole thing.
No truer words can ever be spoken. The depths of the mind are indeed complex but not tangible. Our oceans floors hold many secrets about life and the history of our planet. Space is, for all intensive purposes, infinite. This isn’t technically true, to our knowledge. We estimate the true size of the Universe to be 93 Billion Light Years. So vast, in fact, that light from one side will never reach the other. This is why it is the pinnacle of exploration.
Eventually, one day, our destiny will lie somewhere in space. Perhaps another planetary body in this solar system or even another star system. That is, if we don’t blow ourselves up or suffer a cataclysmic set back.
The recent White House budget leaves me both concerned and yet I see an opportunity to be optimistic. I’ve been reading forums to get people’s takes on this. Mind you this is coming from people who work in the industry to plain people like myself. It is inevitable that politics gets head-firsted into the mix. I made that slang up. Nice eh? I guess there is no way around it but the degree of “This was Bush’s fault!”; “This was Griffin’s fault”; “Obama sux!” is just a little much.
I try my damnedest to take a middle road approach. I want science. I want exploration. I want a manned flight program (also termed HSF for Human Space Flight). At the moment we have it with Shuttle. In a few short months, it will be done and gone. What happens after that? We’re grounded, at least humans are.
Private companies are really getting into the mix of things which does excite me. Thing is, they’re a ways off from manned flight. It will happen, just not quite soon as we’d like.
Constellation is dead. I’m sad and yet I can understand this move. Some claim to have had the insight or ESP enough to know it was doomed from day one. I think having a pessimistic attitude isn’t very healthy. I don’t work in the industry, I follow it from a few rows back. I can say that my interest is important, not as a single entity but gathered with the combined interest of persons just like myself. Lack of public interest will kill a program deader than dead. Apollo anyone?
So, I thought about the cancellation of that program and realized, ok, maybe this isn’t as bad as it seems. I’m still icky feeling about not having the ability to put humans up but lets think this out. The downfall of Constellation was reaching back to the past to sort of re-use older technologies or at least model from them. What we need are newer technologies that are laced with our learnings of the past.
I think the biggest technological advance we need is in propulsion. Chemical rockets are dandy at getting heavy vehicles off the ground and into space but once in space you need something else. Something that’s less cumbersome, less prone to failure and has some oomph! These technologies should be researched to make Moon and Mars missions faster. Transit time to Mars is MONTHS. With new propulsion you could get it down to weeks; or so I’ve heard.
So, new technologies and private companies. I think I actually like the sound of that. Will they deliver? The talk is there, the walk is yet to come.
More notes on the budget are promised robotics and planetary missions. This is very exciting to me. Rovers are great tools for science! Just look at Spirit and Opportunity; they vastly outlived their planned mission time. If we had a mission going up every other month, I’d be stoked.
A final note about canceling the Moon program. Listen, we’ve been there before. Yes, actual people walked on the actual Moon. That program was initially a race; a race we would win. After that, you had a group of giddy scientists drooling over the prospect of getting some precious samples back. That came later and Apollo XVII was the final Moon-shot. We never spent more than a couple of days there. When we go back, we need to plan on STAYING for a length of time. Weeks, not days.
China wants to go there. Let them go, plant their flag and then come back. It’s a great thing for a country. I’d applaud them for it. As the saying goes “been there, done that”. It’s time we went a step ahead. That way when countries are landing and planting their flags, we can wave at them from our cozy Moon habitats. From that point we can build on and then eyeball Mars or even asteroids.
So, finally, it’s bittersweet for me. I wanted to see Constellation work but ultimately I want to see anything work. I’ll hold on the promise of some serious R&D and science missions. I’ll hold on to private companies keeping us in orbit too. It’s a big time shake up of things. Perhaps it was needed.
Obama says we need to get young people into science and math. I couldn’t agree more. If he truly means this then he needs to deliver on this budget. NASA has inspired generations of people. Let’s keep it that way.
If this flops as a dud and our space program is left floundering for years, I’ll be one mad space cadet. >:o