Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Today's Depressing Statistic on Space Travel

Voyager 1 has been traveling for about 33 years and is now the most remote human-made object, about 16B km from Earth, or 115 AUs (astronomical units). That's about 2.7 times the average distance to Pluto (from the Sun), which sounds impressive until you calculate that it's only 0.0017 light-years.

The nearest star to our Sun is Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light-years away. In other words, Voyager (traveling about 15 km/sec) has only covered 1/2500 of that distance. In 33 years.

At this rate it would take until the year 84,000 A.D. to get to our nearest star, if it were traveling in the right direction. (It's not.)

1 comment:

cpwinter said...

If ever there were a "glass half empty" post... :-)

I look at it this way: Considering all the places Voyager 1 has been, and all the data it has returned, it has to be rated a mammoth achievement. (That goes for Voyager 2 as well. And Cassini... the Pioneers... A long list.)

The once-conventional wisdom, as editorialized by the New York Times in 1920, was that rockets wouldn't work in space because they had "nothing to push against." We've come a long way from there to Voyager.

Also, if sheer speed was the goal, we could do a lot better by putting a probe on a big engine and then sling-shotting it around the Sun.