April 12, 2011

Astronomical distances

Happy 50th anniversary of human space flight!. Healing Brush creator Todor Georgiev, noting that April 12 is World Cosmonautics Day, somewhat ruefully observes:

If 50 years ago we had a state-of-the-art spaceship, and if we launched a flight to the nearest star (at the same time as Gagarin’s flight), where would we be now? Already there and back, right? No. Or maybe halfway there? No! The answer is: We would have travelled 0.03% of the way. I just did the math. It would take us 150,000 years to get there. And I am not counting the costs.

Lest that get you down, here’s NASA astronaut Cady Coleman and Jethro Tull founder Ian Anderson in an earth/space flute duet playing homage to Yuri Gagarin. (Also, you might like Chopping Block’s Above Earth t-shirt, commemorating 23 historic flights. The little chimp & dog silhouettes make it for me.)

Posted by John Nack at 4:41 PM on April 12, 2011


  • Denbo — 9:51 AM on April 14, 2011

    Little confused… the current “state of the art” fastest spacecraft is the NASA New Horizons probe traveling at 250,000 kmh. Proxima Centauri is 39,900,000,000,000 km away.

    That would be a 159,600,000 hour trip… or 6,650,000 days… or 18,219 years. But not 150,000 years.

    So we would be 0.27% of the way there if I did the math correct.

  • Denbo — 9:57 AM on April 14, 2011

    Wait… my bad… I meant to say the Helios spacecraft attained a speed of 250,000 km/h. It is technically the fastest man-made object ever. http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/spacecraft/q0260.shtml

  • Robert Barnett — 12:49 PM on April 14, 2011

    I know at the time Mr. Gagarin made his trip in to space it was considered a bad thing to be proud of him and the Russians. However, as a Human being first and an American second. They did the human race proud and they did something important. At the time everyone may have had a narrow view on the situation, but I am proud of us Human’s for doing as well as we have been.

    Of course had Photoshop been available then we could have just cloned him in to space. :)

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