Category Archives: International Space Station

How long would it take to travel to the nearest star?

Spock and Kirk

First officer Spock (left) and Captain Kirk on the Starship Enterprise don’t float inside because of “artificial gravity.”

Proxima Centauri, is our nearest star, about 4 light years away.

A light year is the distance light travels in one year, or 9,460,730,472,581 kilometers. That’s 9.46 trillion kilometers, or about 5.88 trillion miles.

The fastest space ship we ever built was the Juno spacecraft, which in 2016 broke all speed records in space with a gravity assisted acceleration up to 164,700 mph.

The problem with going much faster than that is General Relativity and propulsion. Even with all the fuel in the solar system, it would still take an infinite amount of fuel to approach the speed of light. There’s no warp speed or aliens that have somehow “broken” the laws of physics. You can’t approach the speed of light.

If, however, you could go, say 40 times faster than Juno (there’s no existing technology that would come anywhere near this speed), you’d be going about 6.58 million miles an hour. That’s a hypothetical but impossible speed by either humans or space faring aliens, but none the less, for the sake of argument, let’s say you could go that fast.

Light travels at 670,616,629 miles per hour (as a layman and lazy American I think in miles more easily). So your space craft is amazingly, impossibly, traveling slightly less than 1% the speed of light. We’ll round it up for arguments sake. You’re going now 6.7 million miles an hour. Don’t crash into an asteroid at that speed!

How long would it take to make the trip to Proxima Centauri 4 light years away? Well, if you were going 1% the speed of light (6.7 million miles an hour) it would take you 400 years to reach the nearest star.

Unfortunately, you can’t just get up and go 6.7 million miles an hour. You’ve got to build up speed, which conceivably would take years burning some kind of fuel source that would weigh as much as the Moon because you’d need so much of it (which would slow your acceleration). The problem is the faster and longer you want to burn fuel, the more fuel you need, which increases your weight and decreases your acceleration. Remember, also, as you approach any percentage of the speed of light at all, the amount of fuel required to accelerate your spacecraft any faster begins to increase exponentially because of the law of General Relativity.

At the other end of the trip you’d need the same time and fuel to slow down so you don’t overshoot your target.

People have thought about using light propulsion. From somewhere in Earth orbit, shooting a powerful laser at a reflector at the back of the outgoing spaceship. It would be slow, but eventually it would increase in speed. They’d still need fuel at the other end to slow down.

It’s difficult to know how to figure in that acceleration and deceleration process, so I usually, for the sake of argument, just double the time, which probably isn’t far off.

That would mean it would take you about 880 years to start out, accelerate to 6.8 million miles per hour, and then slow down at the other end. That’s how long it would take to reach our nearest star.

As far as we know, there’s not even any interesting planets over there. If you want to go somewhere more interesting you’d probably have to go farther out in a different direction to the Trappist-1 system, which is 40 light years away.

That would only take you 8,000 years each way. We’re talking eight thousand years. You’d need a generational spacecraft, where hundreds of people lived and died for thousands of years before they reach where they’re going. Would these descendants of the original pioneers have any idea what to do when they got there? Would they resent being in space because their ancestors decided they should be? Would the spacecraft hold up and not fall apart after 8,000 years of usage? How would they have enough food and water?

Depressingly, these are only the closest stars, right around our neighborhood. There are many more stars in our local group, and billions more in the galaxy, and millions of galaxies.

All we can do is watch them, study them, wonder about them and so on. We will, however, never be able to visit them, and those aliens out there unable to visit us.

Why is there only an up and down on Earth and not out in space? 

There’s no gravity in space. On a planet like ours, down is always toward the center of gravity.  Up is always the opposite of the center of gravity. Drop a ball, it goes down. Up is the opposite.

In space if you let go of a ball it stays where you let go of it (as long as you weren’t moving your hand, that is.)

Your personal sense of up and down is caused by your inner ear. In space, however, sometimes people feel sick because it feels like they’re falling all the time (and in fact, when in orbit you are falling all the time).

Space Shuttle and the Horses Ass

Did you know…. The gauge for the U.S. railways is 4 feet eight and a half inches. That’s a weird number. It also, as we shall see, has relevance to the now retired U.S. Space Shuttle program and the horses ass. This post was copied from a Facebook page.

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Why was that railway gauge used for train tracks in America? Well, because that‘s the way they built them in England, and English engineers designed the first US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the wagon tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

So, why did ‘they’ use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that same wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break more often on some of the old, long distance roads in England . You see, that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads?
Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England ) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.

And what about the ruts in the roads?
Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match or run the risk of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome , they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process and wonder ‘What horse’s ass came up with this?’, you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses’ asses.)

Now, the twist to the story:

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah . The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature, of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system, was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass. And you thought being a horse’s ass wasn’t important? Ancient horse’s asses control almost everything and….

CURRENT Horses Asses are controlling everything else.

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number.

If NASA says that we simply cannot go any further than low Earth orbit, which is 0-1,243 miles high above Earth, then how could we have led mankind to the Moon since it is about 228,841 miles away from the Earth?

Oh you flat earth people never give up. NASA doesn’t say nothing can go above low Earth orbit. We just launched a satellite that is now way above low Earth orbit.

To orbit Earth there has to be very little atmospheric drag. Even at 250 miles, way higher than Mount Everest where the air is already very thin, there is still, although slight, some drag by the sparsely populated air molecules at that altitude. That’s where the ISS is orbiting. Every once in awhile the ISS needs a boost to stay up there because it tends, over a long period of time, to slow down due to the atmospheric drag. That’s why it’s called low Earth orbit.

We do, however, have many, many objects that are much higher than low Earth orbit. This includes the new GOES satellite that was just launched the other day and placed in geostationary orbit 22,236 miles above Earth. That’s where your Dish Network, DirectTV and Sirius/XM Radio satellites are as well. Here is a photo taken of Earth from that altitude, where you can clearly see the earth is spherical.

What kind of emergencies do they experience at international space station?

A paint chip traveling a relative speed of 34,000 mph chipped the glass on the ISS. Sometimes known debris causes them to move the station and for the astronauts to take shelter, but small stuff like paint chips are unpredictable. These are the main problems.