9 years ago, Christopher Nolan made a movie called Interstellar. In the film, we were taken on a journey to other planets in the universe. These planets had waves larger than mountains, strange terrains, and secrets hidden within black holes. Whenever we watch space documentaries, we often read about the missions of ISRO or see mind-blowing images from NASA’s James Webb Telescope. This leads us to ask ourselves a question: When will we be able to travel in space?

Let’s explore the possibilities and consider whether it is possible to travel in space within our lifetime.

Can we travel in space? The question is simple yet complex, so let’s break it down into three smaller, logical questions:

  1. How far can we travel?
  2. How do we want to go?
  3. What do we do when we get there?

Let’s start the journey of future with history.

Let’s start our journey into the future by looking at history. On July 20, 1969, something happened that changed our perception of space. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon. When we see 3D images or videos of Earth and the Moon, it may seem like the moon is close to us. However, the truth is that there is a vast distance between Earth and the Moon. In fact, you could fit all the planets of our solar system within that distance. The Moon is much farther away than it appears. (384,400 km).

Parker Solar Probe.

To comprehend the magnitude of space travel, let’s consider the fastest man-made object, the Parker Solar Probe, which reaches staggering speeds of 690,000 km/h. Imagine this probe at this speed take only 3 minutes to circle our earth.

How did this probe reaches this speed?

What kind of fuel did it use? The answer is gravity.

The space craft passes near Venus. As soon as it approaches Venus, because of the gravity of Venus, it quickly pulls towards Venus. At the moment it changes its direction. This is called gravity assist maneuver. Even with such velocity, it would take approximately 6,596 years for this probe to reach the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, located 4 light years away. (A light year is a unit to measure big distances. Basically, a photon is fastest object in the world. Nothing cam travel faster than light. This distance that can travel in the vacuum of space in 1 year is called 1 light year.) Moreover, manned spaceships pose more significant challenges due to their larger size, complexities, and relatively slower speeds.

Navigating the Empty Expanse:

Space is empty, here despite having trillions of planets, stars, moons, the interstellar space between two stars is largely empty. There is only darkness in between.

To survive for 6000 years, we need a space city, not a spaceship where astronauts will have to make family, get married, have children. They have to raise those kids and train to become astronauts. The chair of events will continue for generations. Then we will finish the journey of 6000 years and reach our closest star. Now the question is,

what will we do after reaching there?

Where will we land?

Let’s move on to the second question. Today, we have discovered more than 5000 exoplanets. Exoplanets means those planets that are outside our solar system. Our Earth’s distance from the sun is ideal for water to form. And where water can be in liquid form, there can be life. By the same logic, Out of 5000 exoplanets. NASA has identified some 59 habitable exoplanets. Habitable means they come in their star’s goldilocks zone like the earth does. It can be that such planets be our future dream destination. Or may be there is already alien life on such Planets.

Exoplanets:

The closest habitable exoplanets to us is 12 light years away. Means to get there even with today’s most advance technology it will take us almost 20,000 years. If we have to leave our solar system and go on a long journey, then when should we leave? This confusion is called walk wait dilemma.

Every year technology advances. If with today’s technology, the ship carries a lot of frozen embryos and leaves for 12 light years journey, and tomorrow if our technology advances more, and we are able to travel at more speed, them we will move ahead leaving this step behind. So, what is the point of setting the first ship to sail?

Let’s address our final question, What is the objective of space travel?

A few years ago we saw billionaires going out of space. That is, in today’s time, even without being an astronaut some VIP’s, some special people can go to space. If we keep the dream of landing on any planet a bit away, then some travel is possible. But it is worth a thought that if space or the Earth is to be seen only through a glass, then what is the need to go to space for that? There are You Tube videos for that. The main attraction is to feel weightless. As if there us no gravity, do we need to go to space even to feel weight less? NO.

There are some reduced gravity aircraft for that. when the aircraft dives down from above, you feel as if there is no gravity. This aircraft does not go to outer space, but staying here, makes you feel like you are in space. After all, it is an experience just like space travel.

There is fact that may blow your mind. The oxygen in our lungs, the carbon in our muscles, the calcium in out bons, the iron in our blood, all of these are formed in a star. Only hydrogen and helium formed in the big bang. All the other heavier elements were born in a star. Then when that star exploded, these elements traveled around and come to Earth. Today they are part of our body. you do not need to become an interstellar traveler, you already the result of an interstellar travel. You are literally stardust. Space is fascinating. Space is scary. Space us overwhelming. Space is beautiful.

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