First, though, you talk about seeking out new life and new civilizations? You mean you actually harbor some dream that somewhere, near enough to have contact with us, the incredible random chance of LIFE formed similar enough to our own that it is actually capable of having CIVILIZATIONS and contact with other species and everything? (But won't attack and enslave us or experiment on us, nor we on them?)
The closest star to our own sun is in the Alpha Centauri
triple star system. It is "only" 4.22 light-years away. Let's
see just how far that is:
4.22 years X
365 days X
24 hours X
60 minutes X
60 seconds X
186,272 miles per second =
About 24 million million miles away.
Of course, we could always go still faster, right?
Yes, I suppose we could. Sure -- name the figure. At ten times that speed -- nearly half a million miles an hour -- it would still take us 6000 years. What's that -- three hundred generations? Had we left before the pyramids were built, we wouldn't be there yet.
To get to the nearest star within only a few generations we really have to talk about speeds well in excess of 100 or even 1000 times the speed that Cassini (if it flies at all) will travel at. For an object with any substantial mass at all, the necessary speeds can only be achieved through some kind of constant long-term acceleration. Then when you get there, you would still have to slow down somehow! But...
On the way there, at the incredible speeds we would have to travel, it is reasonable to assume that interstellar space debris will be a very frustrating problem. At current space travel speeds of 20,000 MPH to Cassini's planned 43,000+ MPH, even an object the size of a BB can easily destroy a spacecraft.
The damage potential is approximately related to the square of the speed of collision, as it is with car crashes and everything else. At 10 times the speed Cassini would travel at, an object the size of a small pinhead could tear through any known material in a flash. Therefore, even an asteroid belt made up of microscopic dust particles could pulverize any spaceship. And don't forget this fact:
Probably the reason we want so desperately to get off this planet is simply that we know what a mess we are making of it. We think that we can build a better world if we could just start over with a clean slate. But the sad truth is that this is the only world we've got and it's the one we have to clean.
Getting to even the next closest star is just not practical. It's just not going to happen. Not in our lifetime. Not in the next millennium. And it isn't happening to anyone else, either. No intergalactic space explorer is going to come from the sky. It would make more sense, in fact, to expect to find living colonies underneath the surface of the earth! Except for one thing: They would surely have come up to earth's surface long ago. This planet -- the surface of it -- is a garden of riches!! They would have either taken it from us for their own use, or worse yet, enslaved us. After all: What's the most useful tool on the most useful planet in the known Universe? Why, a human SLAVE, of course! (Actually, a willing human is probably even more useful, and a slave who doesn't know he's a slave, is probably the most useful of all.)
At the very least, just in case the subterraneans became unfriendly, just knowing they were there would probably make us all support a military-industrial buildup that would make Lend-Lease look like selling kitchen knives at a Sunday swap meet.
I mention all this, only to point out how little we think about subterranean creatures, yet they are really a whole lot more likely to exist than aliens from another planet. Aliens are just a fixation we have because we have always been fascinated by the heavens and what may exist out there. Digging up dirt isn't nearly as much fun!
There's nothing really wrong with having a fascination with aliens, unless we start doing crazy things about it like pouring billions of dollars into Warp Drives or S.E.T.I. or thinking we are in some kind of a rush and need to use dangerous propulsion and energy systems to "push the envelope" and get up and about in outer space. We can do this slowly, logically, ecologically, and methodically. If it works, it works. But if it doesn't, let's not have to look back at it and say "Wow! What a mess we've made! We let NASA pollute Earth and Near Earth Orbit terribly, waste billions of dollars, risk killing millions of people, and for what? We didn't even find an old alien shoe or an inhabitable planet!" There is only one inhabitable planet in the known Universe and we are there. We are there, making it less and less inhabitable every day.
Alpha Centauri is only the nearest star system. We have no idea if it even has any planetary systems that are just the right distance from one of the suns, not too hot, not too cold, just the right mix of elements, and no stupid civilizations that have had a chance to spoil the place. Tall order. Especially that last part.
We are stuck in an otherwise deserted part of the universe.
Another clear indication that there is not life elsewhere is the simple fact that they haven't come and tried to steal our planet from us! It's the best jewel in the Universe! If anything anywhere is out there that has some sort of advanced space travel, don't you think they would have investigated this place? And don't say "maybe they have". You'd be saying that they came, saw all our natural wonders and resources, and simply left. Not a chance. Would we?
Wouldn't you rather believe the far more obvious explanation, namely, that alien abductions have NOT occurred and alien crash landings have NOT occurred? Or instead, believe that a couple of kooks and a lot of hoaxers AND A FEW VERY HONEST PEOPLE have had some "experience" not at all unlike something that happened to me a little while after my brother Randy died. About a month after he died, I woke up one morning and he was there, right next to me, in the bed, talking to me!
He was THERE -- in the flesh as real as my wife, whom I could not see because Randy was between us. Then he was gone. When I really 'woke up' I was already sitting up upon my elbow looking towards where Randy was, but he wasn't there anymore.
It only happened that one morning, and it has not happened again.
There is no proof of aliens. There is no proof of Randy, either, but with all my sences, (except the sense of spell), I tell you he was there! I saw him, I spoke to him, and he spoke to me.
Since that day, I think I have become much more capable of understanding what might occur within someone's own mind when one thinks one has been abducted by aliens. I can discount those events just as I can discount that The Ghost of Randy does not exist either, yet I saw him, twice. The mind is a powerful force.
Maybe Randy does still exist. Wouldn't that be nice! I can't say no. I know that what I saw, in my mind, was my dead brother Randy. I can only report what I think I saw with my own eyes, and what I think I heard with my own ears. I saw a ghost, and for those moments he appeared as real to me as you or I.
But regardless, you ask -- is there life SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE else in the galaxy, or "on a distant galaxy"?
The question is virtually moot. If there is life on some distant galaxy, it is traveling away from us at great speed because everything in the universe is traveling away from everything else, on the grand scale of things, at an incredible rate. They would have to overcome that to get to us. Maybe it could be done, but the further from us you get, the harder it gets.
So maybe there is, and maybe there isn't life somewhere else, but it's not going to effect us, nor will we affect it.
The meek shall only inherit the Earth when the powerful don't want it anymore. What this country needs is a Department of Renewable Energy Resources, Not a Department of Plain Old Energy or a NASA.
It needs a Subterranean Living Administration. It needs model communities with fiber optic cables. It needs fiber optic cables into everyone's home. It needs electronic voting, information distribution, and authenticated and encrypted messaging for everyone. Electronic distribution of all music, movies, even the dreaded junk mail. Postal employees should be like the Maytag repairman, sitting around all day with nothing to do.
When I email the President, or my little sister who lives across the country, or anyone else, it should go in encrypted and authenticated form.
This country is so far behind what it could be that it's laughable, except, of course, that it is so wasteful and inefficient. And cruel.
This country needs subterranean vacuum bullet trains instead of fuel-inefficient and ozone depleting air travel or the even more inefficient and wasteful (not to mention dangerous) Near Earth Orbit space travel.
It needs, at the very least, to replace NASA launch vehicles with ballistic launch techniques based on electromagnetic accelerators built near large hydroelectric generating stations. It needs to ban land mines. It needs to accept global responsibilities, including helping to ensure that ALL nations ban land mines.
America needs to lead the planet to a better way of life, and no longer be the most polluting, the most wasteful, and the most dangerous nation on Earth. Dangerous to ourselves, our descendents, our fellow humans, and all the other flora and fauna. We can still be potentially dangerous to aliens if we want. It won't matter.
There's a lot of things we need to replace around here, NASA's just one of them.
By Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) 1997
The Animated Software Company
First placed online March 1st, 1997.
Last modified March 27th, 1997.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman