Dangers of Lightspeed

What prevents us from going that fast?

As pretty much everyone knows, we have almost reached the point of no return on the consumption of our planet's resources. This can be proven with a simple google search. What you will find in that search is that every six months we use all the resources the world can naturally reproduce in a year, meaning every year's worth of resources takes two years for the planet to reproduce. So with this in mind, we as a species have turned towards the stars to look for a new home. The problem is other planets are light years away; for those that do not know, a light year is the distance which light can travel uninterrupted in a year. With light travelling at 186,000 miles per second, it's quite a distance. Now scientists say since we are a solid object moving through space, we will never achieve lightspeed, but could come within a few decimal points of it, which is awesome; but then we are left with a few other problems.

The first and most obvious problem we will encounter is that space is full of all sorts of debris, like rocks, dust, metals and ice, so travelling at near the speed of light becomes exceedingly dangerous. If you have ever had your hand out the window of a moving car and had a bug hit it you will kind of get my point. Imagine shooting through space at 185,999.9 miles per second and you hit a piece of rock — not even a rock, a literal piece of dust. Well, that dust will now rip through your ship at the same rate you are travelling. If even a speck of dust breaks through any part of the ship, a certain phenomenon happens called explosive decompression. This means that everything on the ship will almost instantly start being ripped out into space through that tiny hole the dust made. This is a very violent and immediate problem; even if you could patch the one hole, dust is everywhere in space along with all the much bigger debris. So until we figure out a way to combat that very basic problem, near lightspeed will be impossible. 

Now, a solution to this problem might be some kind of shield, like in Star Trek. However, we are still quite a bit away from having that type of technology; at least, that's what the government says (they lie all the time). Som under the impression that we are still far off from that type of shielding makes it very unlikely high-speed space travel would be possible. This, however, is not the only problem, so let us move on to the next issue.

Now, the nearest planet to us that could POSSIBLY support human life is Keppler, which is 600 light years away; that's not too bad if we could travel even remotely close to lightspeed. As it stands, we can't, and it would take us 23.4 million years to reach it at our current technological standing.  So here is the next problem: we wouldn't be able to just send a few people at a time, we would have to build ships big enough to house enough people with enough biodiversity to survive the 23.4 million years of travel. Full lives would be spent in space travelling; plus, what material do we have that can survive that long in space? Even at near lightspeed, 600 years is still the same problem; you still need colony ships, something we have not even come close to being able to develop much less launch from Earth to space. Even if we had developed colony ships we would still need to figure out artificial gravity. This is so that people born on the ship would be born with the same bone density as we are on Earth to not cause complications when they would land on the other planet. I know what some people will say: "we can constantly spin the ship to create a false gravity," which would work, but there is no way to know what we would encounter along the 600-year trip. Currently, we have nothing that could stand travelling forward at near lightspeed while rotating; it would literally rip apart the ship.

Let us move on to the last problem that prevents us from travelling at lightspeed, this being that time is relevant to how fast you are travelling. This was tested using atomic clocks and a fighter jet travelling faster than the speed of sound. An atomic clock is a clock that keeps exact time and is known for never losing that exact time. So in the test they put one clock in the jet and another left on the ground; the jet took off, breached the sound barrier, flew for a bit, then landed, and they compared the clocks. The clocks were showing two different times (about two minutes apart). Taking this into account, we can be sure that time is relative to the speed at which you travel. The speed of sound is 343 miles per second, not even chipping the iceberg that is the speed of light, and it still had a time difference on the atomic clock.

So if you take this into account, with the speed of light being magnitudes faster than the speed of sound, we can hypothesise that if you flew at the speed of light for a year, it is more than likely that a century or more has passed on Earth, making it so all your loved ones or the people that are ground control to your shuttle are all dead. Morbid, I know, but it is the cold hard truth; in fact, after so long at light speed, you can guarantee that there will be no Earth to go back to. How would this prevent us from travelling at lightspeed, you ask? Well, how are you to report a problem of the ship to ground control? How would the people on board feel about being the last humans alive? Knowing these things could cause mental problems as well as grief issues with the crew and passengers can lead to some terrible things happening on the ship. Cabin fever could kick in as well after being trapped so long on a ship and knowing everything outside the ship is a dark, ever-expanding vacuum until you reach Keppler, which you really hope you eventually reach. There would be no guarantee that you would actually make it to your destination; so many things can go wrong in 600 years (as we have proven time and time again on Earth). Then there is the fuel supply; unless we came up with some new form of fuel or propulsion system there would be no way to store 600 years' worth of fuel on a ship filled with the last remaining member of humanity.

Eventually one day we will solve these problems; I am very sure of that, but our time on Earth definitely will not give us those results. Heck, we can't even choose a better fuel source as it is, relying solely on petroleum like the absolute fools we are. If we are to make the jumps we need to for successful space travel, we first need to look at solving the basic problems here on Earth first, which already seem astronomical to some people. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and hope it has sparked some creativity in some people to potentially tackle these problems.

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