The universe is really very big indeed. So it seems a shame that we’re confined to just one tiny little bit of it.
Warp Drive. At the moment, no one knows whether travel to other star systems is ever going to be possible. If you want to invent something really cool, here are just two of the problems you’ll have to overcome.
Speed: A light year is the distance travelled by light in one year. Apart from the Sun, a mere 150 million km away, our nearest star is Proxima Centauri, which is 4.2 light years away. Current space rockets can’t reach anywhere near the speed of light.
It would take the Voyager spacecraft, which can travel at 60,000 km/h, 80,000 years to get to Proxima Centauri! You’ll have to work out a way of achieving speeds close to or exceeding the speed of light (about I ,000,000,000 km/h). Do some research on worm holes, warp drives and space drives.
Fuel: If Voyager were to try and set off on its 80,000-year journey, it would need more fuel than we could ever find. Even nuclear rockets would need to take thousands of supertankers of fuel with them. So you’ll have to find a new way of converting energy into motion without using fuel. Tricky.
Even though the cleverest scientists in the world are applying their mighty brains to these problems, it doesn’t look as though we’ll be travelling to distant stars any time soon. But don’t let that put you off, get inventing.
Big numbers: Galaxies up to 16 billion light years away can be seen from Earth with the most powerful telescopes. There are more than 100 billion galaxies in the Universe. It makes you think there must be life out there somewhere, doesn’t it?
Only four robotic spacecraft have earned the title of ‘inter-stellar probes’: Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Of the four, Voyager 1 (launched on 5 September 1977) has travelled the furthest distance. Its original mission was to take a close-up look at Jupiter and Saturn and transmit its data back to Earth.
After completing this mission successfully, Voyager 1 was given a new mission: to boldly go where no probe has gone before: out of our solar system. Even after 30 years of operations. Voyager 1 is still sending back its data and it is hoped that it will keep on communicating for many years to come.
Voyager 1 is now over 10 billion miles from the Sun and travels at around a million miles a day! By 2017 it is believed that Voyager 1 will leave the heliosphere (the edge of space that is influenced by our Sun).
Voyager 1 doesn’t have a specific destination, but it is heading towards the Camelopardis constellation. It estimated that Voyager 1 will reach the constellation in the 40th millennia! (This translates as AD 40,000!)
You don’t have to wait that long for the next interstellar fly-past, Voyager 2 will fly close to the Barnard star (5.96 light years from the Sun) in AD 8600!