Did you really think that we could discover a rocky planet in the habitable orbital band and I wouldn’t comment on it? (For the purposes of this post we will call the planet “Bob”).
It was only a matter of time until we found one, considering how many potential planets we discovered in just the first few months of launching Kepler. But now that we’ve found Bob, people are getting just a little nuts.
Let’s be real, people: We aren’t visiting this planet any time soon!
Bob is roughly 600 light years away. Oh that’s not so far right? Space is really big but we usually use terms like millions or billions to describe distance, so only 600 is too bad.
The speed of light is 299,792,458 meters per second. To put it in perspective it takes light from the sun roughly 8 minutes to reach the Earth. Pluto (which will always be a planet in my book) doesn’t receive light until 340 minutes (that’s an average since its orbit is highly eccentric)
Now suppose we launched a mission from the sun to the Earth at the speed which the Apollo missions traveled to the moon. This means that at a speed of 112,500 meters per second it would take us 213,185 minutes (148 days) to get to Earth from the sun.
So we can already see that we need a major speed boost over the Apollo missions. But even if we were able to somehow accelerate ourselves up to 0.1 of the speed of light, it would take us 6,000 years. Let’s think about that number. Name something man-made that has lasted 6,000 years that wasn’t made of stone. (Because stone is really not an optimal space craft material)
So let’s review: We can’t go fast enough, we can’t build things that last long enough, heck we probably can’t live long enough of a species to even send someone there and get back to report on what we find!
So what’s the answer? Cryogenic freezing! Have a small crew wake up from time to time to check on the ship and do routine maintenance. Then to help the people we send adapt to the new environment (because this would invariably be a one way trip) we give them some kind of drug to help them evolve faster.
After all, what’s the worst that could happen?