Spaced out!

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Choosing a home

Getting there

(One day)

(One day)

(One day)

(One day)

Cassiopeia A

(A remnant of a supernova)

Space travel is one of our favourite fantasies, and innumerable books, etc, have been published on the subject. Even Stephen Hawking recently announced that 'we have a thousand years to escape from this earth before we render it uninhabitable'. I suspect his 'thousand years' is probably optimistic, and it only takes a moments consideration to realise that there is not the slightest hope that we will be able to escape from the solar system in any realistic time frame.

The main problem is that our minds cannot comprehend the vastness of the Universe. The closest known star is about 4.3 light years from the sun, in the Southern Cross. Given that the most distant galaxies we can see are thought to be billions of light years away this seems trivial, but we begin to get an idea of what is involved when we think of what we have achieved in space so far.

It is just over 60 years since the Russians launched the first Sputnik, and we have since spent billions of dollars, burnt millions of tons of irreplaceable fuel and seriously polluted the environment, but so far all we have managed to do is put small space stations into earth orbit, send a few men to the moon for a few days, and a few tiny rockets to the limits of the solar system.

We may think that this is still a magnificent achievement, but so far as exploring our neighbours is concerned we have done little more than scratch our own toes.

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

2. List of potentially habitable exoplanets

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 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019