On Interstellar Travel

Universe

Written by Aaron French

We have a desire for freedom ripping through our veins.

Stagnation is our adversary, chaos our greatest prompt. We long for, we lust for, we die for.

We’ve crept our way around the world and now we have a grip so tight we’re beginning to wring it dry.

But this is no apocalyptic tale, it’s a tale of enterprise and determination; a story of relentless endeavor and forsaken comfort.

We sit atop our alleged summit of accelerated advancement with anxiety throttling against a primitive internal necessity. Our momentum doesn’t have to mellow, it doesn’t have to regress into a bellcurve; it can ride on. We’ve no need for some nostalgic end, even with a bursting sun.

exponential growth
What will this graph look like in another 2,000 years? 

We need a sling-shot. Our fortitude within is equally essential as any physical apparatus, be we led by rocket-thrusters, laser-guided sails, or capsules pushed by candid rays of light. We’re on the brink of a cathartic relief that will perhaps find portal on the contemporary plausibility of colonizing Mars.

Technological advancement is our vehicle, an endless spirit of exploration the fuel. Perhaps we’ll leap forward with a spine-shattering breakthrough, like facilitating a wormhole, or pushing Moore’s Law into a limitless unknown. In each conceivable manner, the difficult path to the stars fills the void caving in on the human condition.

We once thought we’d fall off the ends of Earth; now we ride the jet stream around it. Neigh-sayers have always considered the most ambitious dreamers crazy, but maybe we are due for the next Magellan/Copernicus/Tesla/von Braun/Einstein/Columbus/Darwin/Wright bros/Gagarin/Armstrong.

The bureaucratic shit show of NASA or any other world over dot-gov funded space program unfortunately seems to lack the spirit necessary to transcend the brutal barriers we face, even with the massive triumphs of Curiosity Rover and Voyager 1 (some 10.8 billion miles traversed since 1977). But we went to the Moon and after the high wore off the best way to sum up the collective political impulse for sending humans further into space was, ‘meh’. This pains the last few overlapping generations who grew up revering NASA, but arrogance of the elite appears to have become a factor. Comfort of accomplishment seems to effectively seep out that relentless drive for more.

Our muse rather increasingly arrives from kings-of-capital, i.e. the Branson’s & Bezos’ of the world (respectively Virgin Atlantic/Blue Origin); or, more promisingly, from radical luminary innovators like Elon Musk (SpaceX); and from individuals like Yuri Milner, who recently announced a massive line of funding aimed to help engineers build a tenable model for light-sail-laser-guided-interstellar-travel.

We (humanity) are planning to probe the next star system over thanks to Milner’s ambitious call for salutation to Alpha Centauri, 4.367 light years away (that’s 25 trillion miles); and in spite of light traveling at 186,000 miles/sec. we are coming up with conceivable plans to greet Alpha Centauri on the back of a 20 year journey, meaning Milner’s light-sail research team is pulling a rabbit out of a hat — they’re finding ways to travel a significant fraction of the speed of light.

This means we’re the ones with UFO’s.

This is mind blowing stuff regarding the new theoretical technologies brewing for space travel. We’re in the initial stages of the second coming space race. Check out Ross Andersen’s piece on The Atlantic detailing Milner’s above mentioned Alpha Centauri operation: Inside a Billionaire’s New Interstellar Mission.

All signs point to feasibility. Mix that with our insatiable lust for adventure and distant galaxies seem reachable. The only fault in our stars is not reaching towards them. Arriving at a tabletop utopia will be our anchor into oblivion. Our progress can plateau in mollifying improvement here and there with self-driving cars, renewable energy or even singularity across biology and technology; or perhaps the human narrative will regress into massive infighting over shortage of resources and futile ideological differences. But there’s always been something immensely vital in our yearning to conquer physical space. At each stage of human existence we have achieved the impossible. Our deepest potential has always created a new tomorrow.

little earth.png
That dot is the entire galaxy of Andromeda, 2.537 million light-years away. Our own Milky Way is 100,000 light years across. It takes the Sun’s light 8 minutes to reach Earth.

Consider how vast space truly is. The edge of the observable universe is 46 billion light-years across. How infinitely small does this makes us feel? My own logical estimate is that there are all forms of inexplicable life out there lurking in the sweeping swallows of perpetuity.

In fact, astronomers frequently identify exoplanets in the habitable zones around stars. We keep finding viable evidence w/r/t environments physically & chemically conducive to life formation (without verification, of course, or present ability to verify life’s physical presence if indeed it is lurking there in the shadows); but with what little we know and how vast a sprawl exists, I find it a naive calculation to sum-up that we’re the only life in this great expanse.

I don’t think our purpose should be to seek Extraterrestrial Life (E.T.), although that would be a particularly interesting bonus, but I do think it’s not crazy to test the viability of becoming a multi-planetary species. Look at our progress thus far; it seems self-defeating to not duly think this through, no matter the trepidation.

This brings a whole new excitement to the existential, philosophical & spiritual components of human condition. We are little particles of cosmic dust arranged in a feat where matter is sequenced to reflect upon itself. The universe/multiverse/all-that-is/whatever-the-hell-is-out-there can’t go on forever, but inversely, it can’t come to a full stop at some arbitrary location.

How many dimensions are we presently unable to detect? How do the physics really work, and are they even constant? Is it a function of possibility that time and space are indeed warped into some logical chronicle that assigns our every encounter not as chance-among-chances but as providence? Are we in a beautiful yet inescapable diversion that’s causing us to seek meaning, purpose and value instead of seemingly more practical economic concerns? In this fathomless black gulf we exist among unthinkable eons. Surely we’re not alone in a cold and heartless immensity — all forms seem possible as our own consciousness initiates its great consideration of our place in this everlasting morass.

Gravity transcends time and space. Time slows & weight increases as we stop moving and as we travel closer to a core. Out beyond all cause for threshold, stray comets glide into obscurity where mass is not subjected to the ticks of time, a place where objects don’t feel the weight of some impenetrable connection, and thus here begins the conceptualization of love, the great transcendent force, yielding on the human essence just as homogeneously as gravity does on physical substance, e.g. when we are disarmed by some moment, devoted to some courageous cause, or lit afire by some passionate affection, we feel forces of the universe acting upon us; we feel a visceral, subliminal & even physical pull towards particular people/places/ideas — it’s a gravitational reality cogent on observation and not some sort of subtle metaphor; it’s looking through a convex lens from the concave side, a kaleidoscopic rendering, a telescopic inversion. We see that the energy expired in overcoming physical space must be counterbalanced by seeking something deep within. We don’t ascend so we can slack off, we ascend into vitality. This is the human condition; to love, to live, to create, to soar towards unthinkable endeavors.

We’ve conquered the seas. We’ve conquered land. We’ve conquered the skies of our blue Earth. Let’s not conquer our planet before we figure out how to use it as some sort of origin story. We’re not predestined for some forlorn cataclysm unless we fail to operate to full capacity.

Perhaps we’re still in a nascent stage of evolution. Now reality has integrated with our wildest dreams. It’s time to seek the unimaginable.

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