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Traversing the milky way galaxy! when?

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  1. Jul 11, 2008 #1
    Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    Traversing our own galaxy is a lifelong quest for me and I am actually pondering it and long for it all the time, except when I am sleeping. Maybe it's just a fantasy, though I am not into science-fiction version of it, but many of us want to eventually someday be able to travel to distant worlds and find out more about us, don't we? Modern biology and astrobiology tells us that formation of life is possible wherever in the universe when the right conditions exist...So to traverse the universe in search of life mainly or of a livable planet like Earth, what possible methods are now being considered or discussed? Is there any prospect of travelling to the nearby solar systems and planets in the near future? What do we need to discover/figure out first if haven't already?

    Thanks in advance for your comments on this.
     
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  3. Jul 12, 2008 #2

    mathman

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    Re: Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    No. NASA is in the planning stage for travel to Mars. Some major problems are: what will happen to the human body when in space for a long time? what sort of propulsion system will be need to sustain long flights? where will the food come from during the flight?

    I am sure there a lot of other questions as well.
     
  4. Jul 12, 2008 #3

    LowlyPion

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    Re: Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    Is there any prospect? Not to be a wet blanket, but I'd say no. The speed of light looks like an impenetrable speed limit. Going outside just this solar system by manned flight likely can never happen for our current gene pool. Certainly not in the lifetime of anyone now living.

    Moreover even if we find worlds that can support our forms of life, we more than likely will find that life is already there and it ain't us. Do we have the right then to go there, even if we could, and disrupt their evolution? These are likely not questions we will need to ever address, however.
     
  5. Jul 12, 2008 #4

    Janus

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    Re: Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    Consider this: Voyager 1, the fastest man-made object to leave the solar system to date, would take tens of thousands of years to reach even the nearest star. So the prospect in the near future is pretty dim.
     
  6. Jul 13, 2008 #5

    marcus

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    Re: Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    If humans don't overpopulate and waste the resources of this planet, I expect they will eventually acquire the means to spread life to other Earth-like planets.

    I suppose the easiest method to describe uses long-lived explorer-seeder robots. Exoplanets are already being found and as instruments improve more Earth-like planets will probably be found---I would guess that within a decade or two several Earthlike habitable planets will be found within a radius of 40 lightyears. These may or may not have already accidentally started indigenous life. For simplicity assume none of those within a 40 lightyear radius have their own indigenous life. At a speed of, say, 1/1000 of the speed of light it would take 40,000 years to go 40 lightyears. So you would need a robot that could start up and perform complex functions after traveling for 40,000 years. Which could analyze the ocean and atmosphere chemistry and select a good strain of algae----suitable to local conditions. which could synthesize the required DNA and get the required life forms started, and then radio back.

    It is also possible that humans will find a not-too-expensive means of propelling such robots at 1/100 of the speed of light. Then the sample 40 lightyear trip I mentioned would take 4000 years. One can imagine deluxe versions of the explore-seed robot that can not only bring an ocean to life---with singlecell organisms like algae---and start converting the atmosphere carbon dioxide to oxygen. but which can also get multicell organisms started.

    At present I think our civilization is capable (with a few decades preparation) of sending a probe to a habitable exoplanet at a speed of 1/1000 of c. Nuclear-electric ion drive would probably be used. 1/1000 c is not really very good. If we don't overpopulate and lay waste to the planet we have, we will probably become capable of 1/100 c within the lives of your children or grandchildren. This is a longterm project and requires a longterm perspective, if it is going to be done at all.

    The extension of Earth-type life to habitable exoplanets will probably be done by robot proxy, rather than in person by creatures like you and me. Our job is to make up our minds that it is worth doing. And support or carry out the necessary education and research.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2008
  7. Jul 17, 2008 #6
    Re: Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    Thanks guys. But I am on a quest to eventually find the answer to this question: what is the purpose of our existence? That's why I am trying to figure this interstellar travel thing out...So no prospects of making it a reality in the near future!!! So bad....I gotta give up on engineering and go get a job on a farm in the country...and start putting my thoughts down on a piece of paper and see if I could figure it out somehow...I just need to focus and keep pondering the subject...
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2008
  8. Jul 17, 2008 #7

    DaveC426913

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    Re: Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    Ah, that's a different question.

    What makes you look for the answer out there?
     
  9. Jul 17, 2008 #8
    Re: Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    One purpose of our existence is to explore. Up to this point, humankind has been very efficient at exploring our own planet, and now even our solar system. It will probably take until the year 4008 for humankind to probe our galaxy. We would need to harness energy to such a degree as to have propulsion to near light speed. I can imagine once that technologic hurdle has been crossed, we could send unmanned probes to the vicinity of neighboring stars. From our vantage point on earth, it could take years, decades for the probes to get to their targets, and then many years to get a signal back. 42 out of the nearest 50 stars to us are in the range of 10-16 light years distant.
     
  10. Jul 18, 2008 #9
    Re: Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    Because I think THE answer is already there...I couldn't find it here on Earth, so don't see any reason to stick around any longer...I have actually been contemplating this interstellar travel for quite a while now, read some books from astrophysicists on the subject, and posted the question here...to see what others consider feasible or a possibility...it's a big challenge!
     
  11. Jul 20, 2008 #10
    Re: Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    hmm i think it was cited somewhere that in theory solar sail technology may allow us to propel ourselves to a significant fraction of the speed of light? maybe i misread/misheard i suppose.

    other interstellar travel methods, some very theoretical inclue the hydrogen scoop fusion ship (bussard ramjet), Alcubierre drive, wormholes, antimatter rockets, ion thrusters etc etc.. it remains to be seen what we'll come up with eventually i suppose, although right now i think getting to mars with manned craft and returning safely would be a nice achievement.
     
  12. Jul 20, 2008 #11

    LowlyPion

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    Re: Traversing the milky way galaxy! when???

    Just because you can't find it here?

    Hint: You will likely find it in the last place you look for it.

    In the mean time the realities of science may pose quite an obstacle to going elsewhere.
     
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