I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid. Frequently, I would lie in our hayfield at night and look up at the stars. We really didn’t suffer from much light pollution, and on some nights the Milky Way stretched above me like a rhinestone rug. The views were breathtaking, and I always wondered what was out there. Later in life I spent time in places that were really out there, and the stars were even more spectacular.
Even on those squalid firebases in the middle of Godforsakenville I stood in awe of the carpet of stars. I reflected on the grubby, deadly little pursuits we were entangled in and I thought “hey, we need to do better than this.”
That’s why I am excited about some bits of news I have seen lately in regard to planets being within feasible interstellar striking range of our own beloved Sol. Whether these planets are capable of supporting life, who knows. That all remains to be seen.
What is interesting about this is that a large amount of planets are being found, at distances from four to 300 light years away. I think it’s exciting. The more of these planets that are discovered, the higher the likelihood that one of them is capable of supporting life. The closer they are, the better (maybe- they could always harbor some horrible reptile things who think human faces are the height of cuisine).
Of course, with our current (unclassified) sad state of affairs in interstellar travel technology, four light years is still an awful long way away, let alone 300. I’ve looked into various scenarios for FTL travel, and most of them involve technologies which are still pie-in-the-sky. One promising project, the original Project Orion, was terminated in 1963 for arms-control reasons.
Still though, in the late fifties some very bright scientists figured out how to cross interstellar distances at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light by detonating nuclear bombs behind a spaceship. Pretty impressive, and it was figured out over fifty years ago.
Surely we can do better now. The stars await, and we know now that they have planets nearby.
I say we should go look.