Interstellar Journey To The Stars - Space Documentary HD
How hard is it to hop to the nearest star system or soar across the galaxy? A typical Star Trek or Star Wars movie makes it look easy. When the heroes get a distant distress call, they use warp drive or hyperdrive and arrive at their destination within minutes or hours. If we got the right propulsion, would it be possible for us to voyage that quickly in real life?
Almost 50 years ago, humans were walking on the moon. But we stopped going in 1972 and never ventured any farther, except by sending robotic probes. Humans have never gone to Jupiter, as the book and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey promised us, or even to Mars. What is it that makes travel far away so difficult? Besides the obvious human health concerns (living in microgravity tends to weaken a body over time) and budgetary issues, there are vast technological problems with traveling to faraway places. Space exploration will be covered in AMC Visionaries: James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction, which runs its second episode tonight (May 7).
While experts are working on interstellar travel concepts, they warn that our expectations of instantaneous travel are probably too high. The problem with most of the science fiction faster-than-light travel is [that] it makes a tremendously difficult thing seem as if it's very easy, warned Geoffrey Landis, a NASA scientist and science fiction author who has worked on the problem of interstellar propulsion.
Accelerating a spacecraft with pure energy would take a lot of propulsion, not to mention that you would eventually run into a speed limit. According to physics laid down by& Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity a century ago, as an object approaches the speed of light, its mass reaches infinity. So, in other words, a spacecraft couldn't physically go as fast as light.
Some science fiction stories (such as the 1962 children's book A Wrinkle in Time, which was recently released as a film in theaters) use wormholes to get around the problems with instant travel. But wormholes also have issues. It's hard to figure out how to get enough mass in one place to create one, although black holes are a leading candidate. Then there are the problems of figuring out how to hold wormholes open and how to safely traverse them.
And whether you travel near the speed of light or use a wormhole, you would likely run into the phenomenon of time dilation. As a spacecraft moves at speeds approaching that of light, occupants would age at a slower rate than their friends and family back home, Einstein's theory of special relativity shows. So, people on a long voyage may return to find their loved ones greatly aged, or dead.
Even astronauts on the International Space Station experience the effects of time dilation (to a much smaller extent) upon returning to Earth. This happened to astronaut Scott Kelly after he spent nearly a year in space between 2015 and 2016. When he came home, his age gap over his twin, Mark Kelly, had increased by 5 milliseconds.
Real-life interstellar travel
Interstellar travel is still possible, but as far as we know, the best option is to think fairly local for now. The nearest star system to us is Alpha Centauri. In 2016, scientists discovered an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of one of Alpha Centauri's stars, a red dwarf called Proxima Centauri. (There's debate about whether Proxima Centauri's stellar activity has too much radiation for life to exist on its planet, but the jury is still out on that.)
Alpha Centauri is close enough to be intriguing: just about four years away if you travel at the speed of light. But at slower speeds, it's still pretty far. If the Voyager 2 spacecraft (which launched in 1977 and breached interstellar space in 2012) had gone in that direction, it wouldn't reach Alpha Centauri for another 75,000 years. We'll need a quicker solution.
Back in 1998, one of Landis' interstellar concepts was funded by NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program; NIAC examines far-out ideas for space exploration that may not be used for decades. In essence, Landis' proposal suggested using lasers to push a spacecraft equipped with sails, building on ideas published by physicist Robert Forward in 1984. The concept was later picked up by the Breakthrough Starshot group, which in 2016 announced that it hopes to eventually send mini-spacecraft to Alpha Centauri.
Landis said his idea would work for people, but unless you made the spacecraft very small (as Breakthrough proposes doing), you would not get to Alpha Centauri quickly. It's only if you send a very small probe, he told Space.com, that you could make it smaller and faster, and perhaps get to the nearest star in something less than a lifetime.
Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe
Eric Whitacre's Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe is a unique film and musical experience inspired by one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time: the Hubble Telescope's Deep Field image.
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Listen and watch on Apple Music: apple.co/deepfield
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Composer & Artistic Director: Eric Whitacre
Film By: 59 Productions & Space Telescope Science Institute
Executive Producer: Music Productions, Claire Long & Meg Davies
Conductor: Eric Whitacre
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Eric Whitacre Singers
Virtual Choir 5 (more than 8,000 voices from 120 countries across the globe)
Produced by: John Powell
Recorded by: Mike Hatch, Floating Earth
Mixed by: John Traunwieser
Mixed at 5 Cat Studios, Los Angeles CA
Virtual Choir Editing by: John Michael Caldwell
Dr. John M. Grunsfeld
Dr. Robert Williams
Scott D. Vangen
Kimberly Kowal Arcand
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
The men & women of the Space Program