Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Space dreamer answers childhood call to destiny

A NASA / DARPA plan is underway to launch a "100-year" spaceship for deep space exploration. But while that's interesting of itself, I was struck by this wild anecdote:
"When Jack Sarfatti was 13 years old, he began receiving phone calls from a strange metallic voice that told him he would someday become part of an elite group of scientists exploring uncharted territory. Those calls, which he believes may have come from a computer on a spacecraft, proved a seminal influence on his life and led him to pursue a career that combined mainstream physics with an enduring interest in UFOs and the far-out reaches of science."
The program is just one of many ambitious attempts to kick the human race into its interstellar travel era. So far, Voyager is still the most distant man-made object in the universe, and it's just crossing the threshold out of our solar system. As Cecil Adams points out in this Straight Dope column:
"Then again, the thinking goes, if you can pinpoint where to look, you can accomplish seemingly miraculous feats. Just ask the project team for Voyager 1, which is still communicating with a spacecraft so far away its incoming radio signals have less than a twenty-billionth the power of a watch battery.

But let’s put that in perspective. Voyager 1 is the most distant manmade object in the universe, far beyond the orbit of Pluto. It’ll soon leave the outer reaches of the solar system behind and enter the depths of interstellar space. Even so, another 14,000 years will have to pass before Voyager attains a distance of one light year from earth. The star closest to us, Proxima Centauri, is more than four light years away."
...so at present technology, 100 years will be long enough to get, meh, a stone's throw from Earth, relatively speaking.

However, getting our space legs on might be a necessity at some point in the future, especially if we want to do anything about threats like 29075-1950-DA, the asteroid which has the greatest probability of hitting earth. It's only expected to muss our hair sometime about the year 2880, but it's still much too soon from now to comfortably put it off.

Here's a little presentation on this asteroid and other near-Earth objects, just to scare you a little bit: