So, How Long Would It Take to Travel to That Exciting New Exoplanet?

By Eliza Strickland | October 4, 2010 1:55 pm

gliese581cForget Avatar‘s exotic Pandora moon and the forest moon of Endor from Star Wars. Today’s top fantasy travel destination is the exoplanet Gliese 581g.

Last week, the astronomy world lit up with the report of a newly identified exoplanet that may be orbiting in the “habitable zone” around its star. As DISCOVER’s Bad Astronomer explained, the planet orbits a dim red dwarf star called Gliese 581, and seems to be at the right distance from the star to maintain liquid water on its surface. That, of course, makes alien-philes wonder if Gliese 581g also hosts life. And that makes people want to go check.

But the media enthusiasm may have gotten ever so slightly ahead of the science.

Announcing the find on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams said: “They say it’s about 20 light years away, but that’s practically nothing in astronomy terms.” And he declared at the end of the segment: “It’s just nice to know that if we screw this place up badly enough there is some place we can all go.”

That really pissed off David McConville, a space and science educator with the company Elumenati. McConville worries that such flippancy discourages conservation programs here on Earth, and he did the math to show that Gliese 581g is a little more than a hop, skip, and jump away. Here’s his explanation, in cute avatar form:

So, McConville puts the trip at about 180,000 years. Bummer. But that’s assuming that humans only have access to current technology.

Dave Goldberg, coauthor of A User’s Guide to the Universe, took a more optimistic approach. In a blog post, he assumed an average travel speed of 92 percent of the speed of light, and figured that the trip could be accomplished in 22.4 years of Earth-time. Better yet, the time dilation effect described in Einstein’s theory of relativity would shorten the trip from the perspective of the bold travelers on their way to Gliese 581g. To them, the trip would only seem to take 6.1 years.

Goldberg is assuming that humans will figure out how to build a matter-antimatter drive like the one described in a DISCOVER article some years back: Hydrogen and anti-hydrogen would mix in a combustion chamber, converting matter into energy at 100 percent efficiency. But Goldberg notes that there’s still a catch.

To do the trip above requires (at least) 530 times as much mass in fuel as in the ship and cargo itself.

That is very bad news.  Let’s put things in perspective and imagine sending the international space station (m= 370 metric tons) to Gliese 581g.  The whole trip would require something like:

  • E = 1.8 x 10^25 Joules

Or approximately 5% of the sun’s energy output in a second.  That sounds reasonable, until you realize that that tiny amount would take approximately:

  • 3 million years to collect on earth if the entire surface were covered with solar panels

That, as the physicists say, is non-trivial.

Related Content:
Bad Astronomy: Possible Earthlike Planet Found in the Goldilocks Zone of a Nearby Star!
Discoblog: Don’t Give Up Hope: Earth Has Not Yet Selected an Alien Ambassador
80beats: Kepler’s Early Results Suggest Earth-Like Planets Are Dime-a-Dozen
DISCOVER: Star Trek discusses how we might build a spacecraft that could cross the cosmos
DISCOVER: How Long Until We Find a Second Earth?

Image: ESA

  • WakeUpJack

    Well what pi$$es me off is that people have this idea in their heads that they even have the RIGHT to go and colonize this new planet. Why do we just automatically assume that it’s ours for the taking if we so desire? Why? Just because we found it sitting there that makes it ours to exploit? How would it be if some alien race just showed up on Earth one day and offhandedly assumed it belonged to them? Isn’t that what all the recent hububb was about involving Hawkins’ statement about hositile aliens? Hey I got news for you people, WE are the hostiles. No wonder nobody out there wants to talk to us. We’re a bunch of arrogant jerks. I hope that if we ever do get there and still have that selfish arrogant mindset that those alien people ( if any) soundly kick our sorry a$$es back & forth across the system and send us home crying to mommy. Maybe then we’ll think twice. I doubt it though. Likely we’ll get offended and yell War and fight to own what isn’t even ours to begin with.

    • Att0x3

       It is EXTREMELY unlikely that there is any intelligent life on the planet.

    • Att0x3

       Plus if you go about that way of thinking then humans can never expand past our solar system and eventually we will go extinct from our sun exploding if something else didn’t cause it first.

    • Two Lazy Turtles

      Finders Keepers?

    • Guest

      Assuming that the life even has life, let alone intelligent life.

    • John Collins

      You crack me up. I love your sense of humor

  • Scott Beibin

    Perhaps the baby boomers should consider colonizing the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre before eyeing other places…

  • starryisandskys


    Touche! I agree completely.

  • Lionel Tilmont

    Why so serious ???
    Some people should take anger management class !
    We must explore space because life on earth can be wiped again by stuff like super-volcanoes or giant meteorites.
    Of course I can think of a number of categories of people that should stay on earth for obvious in-flight security reasons…
    This said that doesn’t prevent us from protecting the Earth we are trying to do our part in Europe but it is clearly not the case in the USA.
    There is two options there or David McConville doesn’t have sense of humour, or he thinks that the viewers will take it as an invitation to pollute and destroy our environment, in other words he thinks that viewers are just dumb.
    Either way it is sad, why so serious ?

    • nelson

      Are you stupid? I think if we were ever to find any type of proof that there is a possible life form living on that planet we should NOT decide to just go and give them a “visit”. There’s a reason that it’s like 03983290 light years away, and if we can hardly take care of our own planet, bombing everything and starting wars over something as silly as land, then what gives you the idea that we should inhabit other planets, for us to bomb them and pollute them and corrupt them? No I think the human race is completely retarded, the last thing we should be doing is producing more human beings on other planets, our planet is already crowded as if, if you haven’t bothered to listen that there is already 7 BILLION PEOPLE LIVING ON EARTH, why would you possibly want any more humans being alive. Every species is meant to be extinct and I think the next one should be us.

      • ksharp

        Well you just called yourself retarded so im assuming you take no offense that i now call you retarded. And if you want to help the crowding situation, well since your retarded i will explain this to you. Ready? Get rid of yourself and thats a start. And the planet is 8 times the size of earth.

        • Sluttymcslut

          get rid of  yourself?? thats weak, just like ur moms blow jobs biiittch

      • Att0x3

         and you are 1 of the many reasons humanity is given a bad name. I can guarantee you that the universe did not place a planet 180,000 years away from us just because life may be on the planet (cause I’m sure it had control of planet placement anyways…), which i doubt any intelligent life lives on the planet anyways. Also expanding beyond Earth would help fix population and no species don’t evolve just to go extinct that’s completely stupid…

    • F%&% your opinion

      why so gay? taking a line from a movie makes u cool rite? fag lol

  • Rhacodactylus

    In Brian William’s defense, it is clearly a joke, but I really do appreciate it when scientists speak out about inaccuracies in their field as well, so Good On Ya David McConville!


  • Brian113

    “Hey I got news for you people, WE are the hostiles. No wonder nobody out there wants to talk to us. We’re a bunch of arrogant jerks. I hope that if we ever do get there and still have that selfish arrogant mindset that those alien people ( if any) soundly kick our sorry a$$es back & forth across the system and send us home crying to mommy. Maybe then we’ll think twice. I doubt it though. Likely we’ll get offended and yell War and fight to own what isn’t even ours to begin with.”

    Life — except for those at the bottom of the food chain — is hostile, WUJ. In your scenario, what we’d be fighting for is survival, and no one species has more of a claim to that than any other.

    Plus, you’re assuming that any sentient life encountered there would be native. What if it weren’t and that species effed up its homeworld worse than we had? Who has dibs then? First-come, first-served or survival of the fittest?

    Why do so many presume alien life would be morally superior to our species?

    • Guest

      Yes, exactly. How do you know that intelligent aliens think anything like us? (I say it like that because as big as the universe is, very high chance we aren’t alone) People assume that life would share such similarities throughout the universe as we do here on earth. The planet’s life here shares more genes than people think. On another planet we share no genes, only possible evolutionary similarities on accident. That’s assuming that there is even evolution on that planet.

  • Eddy

    To go and colonize this new planet, firstly, mankind will need to develop more efficient spacedrive to achieve 92% the speed of light.

  • Sam

    Something to consider about Gliese 581 g.

    Its year is only 37 days long. It has no tilt to its axis so there are no seasons. It is tidally locked to its sun so there are no days and nights. What daylight there is, is red. The only possibly habitable zones are in perpetual twilight and cold.

    Doesn’t sound like a fun place to live or even visit, and certainly not worth traveling for 180,000 years to get there. If we are going to invade and colonize another world we might want to wait for something a little more comfortable?

  • david mcconville

    for a point of clarification: “pissed off” isn’t an accurate description of my reaction – i was more immensely perplexed by the degree to which scientists and reporters were so naively irresponsible in reporting such an important discovery. astrophysicists and astronomers that fail to relate these pragmatic realities in hopes of gaining news cycles aren’t being rigorously scientific – they’re acting as propagandists. space science and (non-human) exploration is essential for learning about our place in the cosmos, but trying to justify it under the auspices of finding another home is the equivalent of running a new age cult that promises a better life on a passing comet.

    if anything, the discovery of gleise 581g is a reminder that science is continuing to reveal that we can by no means take the extraordinary life sustaining conditions on this planet for granted. if brian williams wants some relief, maybe he could run a followup story on what some humans are actively doing to address planetary boundaries, plastic gyres, and other problems slightly more pressing problems than developing matter-antimatter drives.

  • Ken

    Another thing to add to the fray…human bodies atrophy in extended space flight…so, unless the trip to anywhere habitable can be made in a few months or less. We die en route. So, it’s not going to happen unless we can find a replacement for gravity and find a better way to shield us from interstellar radiations, and break the laws of physics to get us there. But, as the other person stated as well…what hubris on our parts to think we an just pop over and take over. What if there is a more advanced species living feet on the ground? We put forth all this effort to have our hats handed to us before we leave? Oh wait, this is the same species that demolished the majority of the indigenous cultures of the Americas before they were called the Americas. We’ll probably claim Gliese 581g in the name of divine right or for some flag from somewhere. Pure arrogance on our parts. Go David go!

  • Sam

    Yet more to consider…

    Humans were evolved on a world with specific day/night cycles, gravity, magnetic fields and god knows what other conditions necessary for our survival. Even on a planet that is very close to the Earth in environmental conditions, it would probably take some time to adapt to the point where we could thrive. Not as easy as Star Trek makes it look.

  • Lionel Tilmont

    @ david mcconville fair enough, but I don’t agree with your priority issue there .
    You are just assuming that the biggest threat to life on earth is humanity itself which is simply not true (though it is the current one ).
    I was really marked by David Hume though on induction :
    “That the sun will not rise to-morrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction, than the affirmation, that it will rise. ”
    Nothing can tell us when one of these kind of cataclysm could occur :
    Super-volcano eruptions
    Cretaceous–Tertiary-like extinction event
    Worldwide pandemic
    Deadly sun wave rays
    I mean the lists could go on and on . In Reunion Island we are waiting since 4 weeks for an eruption, we know that the lava is just 1 kilometre below the surface but we can’t predict when it will break in.
    As we can not determine when these events could occur, and it could really happen tomorrow, there is no reason why this or that should have a greater priority. I am not saying that we should not preserve Earth environment, of course we should. But at the moment all space budgets have been cut down all over the world (for the few countries that actually have space programs ) . And if it is life preservation that is our goal, then having all humans and animal species here on Earth and on Earth alone is a risk that we can not afford. Of course we should have realistic expectations, this is why the colonisation of Mars should be our first goal and of course the withdraw of the outer space treaty . In my opinion space exploration and life preservation are intimately linked, all the data collected from the observation of Mars or Venus atmosphere can prove vital for the climate change understanding. We shouldn’t oppose disciplines as there enough scientists on earth to work on different fields and projects.
    This said I understand your passion and it is always raging to know that every day species are wiped out of the face of the earth before we even discover it, sometimes we rediscover species we thought were extinct. But in case of major cataclysm all of this the gulf spills, the plastic bag islands would be nothing and it would be too late to develop an anti-matter drive …
    Asteroid impact simulation HD

  • Scott Beibin

    Galactic Gauche: The notion of abandoning a planet one’s species has trashed and neglected to clean up, only to colonize another.

  • JMW

    @13 Scott Beibin: Galactic Gauche: The notion of abandoning a planet one’s species has trashed and neglected to clean up, only to colonize another.

    Isn’t that what the evil aliens in the otherwise-deplorable “Independence Day” were doing?

  • ChH

    Lionel: ” … David McConville … thinks that viewers are just dumb.”
    Quite a safe bet.

    Sam: “no days or nights”
    Actually, due to Libation (the wobble of a tidally locked body) there probably would be dark/light cycles on the habitable ring around the planet’s terminator – assuming there is a habitable spot.

    Ken: “… human bodies atrophy in extended space flight…”
    That’s the least of our problem, with a simple solution. For a generational slowboat, you spin the ship and live on the circumference. For a fusion or antimatter drive ship that accelerates half-way, then decelerates the second half, that thrust provides the artificial gravity. If the drive can’t produce a continuous 1 – 1.4 g’s of thrust, spin that as well to make up the difference. This also provides an opportunity to very gradually acclimate the passengers to the somewhat higher anticipated surface gravity of the new world – slowly increase the spin rate along the journey.

    Finally, to the inhabitants of Gliese 581g: lock up your daughters.

  • Ricochet

    And, there is some controversy on the “fastest man-made object”. In fact, it is NOT the New Horizons spacecraft, but the Helios 2 space probe, which was sent to gather information on the solar processes, that holds the title, with going 150,000 mph approx. on a perhelion approach.

  • tgentry

    Uh… I’m pretty sure Brian Williams meant this as a humorous aside and I don’t think the Earth will be doomed because of it. The self-righteous call for a retraction is a bit ridiculous. A lot of scientists seem to really relish going ballistic when non-scientist types walk across their patch of lawn.

  • Brian

    Why would any self respecting scientist waste their time watching NBC News anyway? I’d rather watch grass grow.

  • Dante The Canadian

    How about we fix what is ailing our planet instead of planning on taking over other planets? I also think there are lessons to be learned from Sci-Fi here too, particularly HG Wells War of the Worlds. In that novel, the alien race that tries to take over earth ultimately fails because they hadn’t built up immunity towards the myriad viruses and bacterium that we have grown to live with. If, one day, humans have the capability to go to other habitable worlds, we set foot on these worlds, and there is life on these worlds they may not be the paradise we may think they are. Forget the concern about other intelligent life, it’s the type of life that we cannot communicate with or see with the naked eye that would surely be the biggest hinderence to any possible colonization outside of our home planet.

  • Scott

    Why would anyone expect that we *wouldn’t* just waltz in and take over another planet, forcibly if necessary? We haven’t come very far since completing the colonization of our own planet…

  • Dan

    Well I guess that settles it; it’s back to burning down forests for me.

  • j.b.

    How about we not put up artificial barriers to exploration just to satisfy some people’s self-righteous loathing of Other People? Where does it end? It’s like the stupid Ground Zero don’t-call-it-an-Islamic-community-center narrative. How close is too close? How ‘healthy’ is healthy enough to be let outside to play? Who gets to decide? Who gets to enforce? The crime of implementation is worse than the pre-crime being assumed.

    This is the same righteous indignation people threw around after Apollo – ‘why should we care about space at all, when there are so many problems down here?’ There will ALWAYS be problems down here. It’s irrational to assume we won’t. Therefore, the conditional objection is irrational or insincere.

    We won’t collectively as a species learn maturity and objective perspective by meditating in a hermitage. We will either learn or not learn, but we will still DO. The idea of exploring an entire new world…I’m awestruck and humbled by even the remotest of probabilities.

  • Benjamin

    What makes you think there is sentient life there to begin with?

    Accelerate the ship at 1.0 G and you get gravity. The problem is maintaining it which is what the article is about. If you could maintain constant acceleration of 1.0 G you would get there in 22 years. To the people on the ship the trip would feel like six years due to relativity. Good luck with all the fuel you need.

    You could possible move everyone from Earth to this planet. It is important to establish a presence there to have a backup when our sun becomes a red giant in a few billion years.

    I wonder why they didn’t suggest a Bussard Ramjet to solve the fuel problem.

  • Robert Heinich

    Gliese 581 is 7 – 11 Gyr while our Sun is 4.5 billion years old. This suggest the possibility that if life exists on Gliese 581 g, and depending on alot on other variables, Gliese 581 g’s civilization could be *much* more advanced than ours.

    The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) : “As a rule the less advanced civilization is either exterminated or enslaved. … Unfortunately in this case, the less advanced civilization is us.”

  • Joe

    I am immensely perplexed by people who can’t or won’t use capitalization.

  • Gliese’s Lawn Mower

    OMG what a bunch of ignorant, naive, foolish and limited minds we are. It’s not even how long it would take a handful of humans to get there. That’s not the question at all. Do you just go there, take a few pics with the flag and head back home to brag about it? It’s what kind of technology, knowledge, time and effort and what kind of armada of robots would take to make that planet livable enough for terrestrial species, i.e. terraforming it according to our needs, and to our plants, animals and microorganisms needs. Our existence is intimately connected with our other terrestrial species – and by that I mean everything on our food chain, including microbes, so they would have to thrive there first, adapting to the new conditions, fighting local species, mutating for many many generations and hopefully still be what we need them to be for us. Unless we become friends with the most advanced alien civilisations out there that would be dumb enough to lend us their millions of years of research and knowledge (not even joking) forget about it for a couple more hundred thousand of years. Even if we had such technology, you can’t try it out for the first time on a planet 20 ly away. You’d have to test it and improve it to gain knowledge here “at home” in our solar system first for who knows how many thousand years. I’ll take the pessimistic approach. That’s an all optimistic scenario of course. Not even bothering to think how likely we as a species are to be wiped out by our own ignorance or by some cosmic event by then.
    So anyways, why talk about Gliese when we have work to do on Mars? And why talk about Mars when we have work to do on the Moon? Take the baby steps and shut up.

  • Michael

    I understand that McConville is not an Anthropologist… but I am bothered by his assertion that Homo sapiens evolved from Homo neandertalensis. This is wildly inaccurate, as neandertalensis was a parallel evolution from Homo ergaster that occurred alongside and only slightly before the evolution of sapiens, if at all prior. The amount of time he cites is correct, but his knowledge of human evolution is severely lacking.

    That being said, his refutation to NBC’s report is excellent in most other ways.

  • Steven

    Anything can be done, it is just a matter of time before figuring out how.

    Right now, everything is difficult because of our models of the world as we see it. I suspect in the next decade or so we will find that our models will change signicantly … maybe we will find that we don’t need to excelerate matter to the speed of light, but simply find a way of prohibiting gravity to act upon the matter and it will assume the speeds accordingly. Or maybe we will find that time is just a figment of observation, and by taking away observation, matter wil assume the speeds accordingly.

    Don’t know but I don’t beleive it a question of “if” but a question of “when”.

    As for alien races … I hope it is the case that they look at us as a parent looks at children. The parent could tell the child everything about the world, the good and the bad, but they just love to watch the innocence that the child possesses. Maybe this is somewhat of the case with an alien lifeform … they may be watching us thinking … oh how sweet … they are still using sound waves to communicate.


  • neurosine

    Pasty white men have been discovering, infiltrating, exploiting, enslaving, and decimating alien civilizations for many centuries now. Just take a quick look at the Native Americans, or the Australian Aboriginal people and you’ll quickly realize it’s just a matter of course for them. It’s what they do. When they have secured every corner, they will feed on themselves. Much like cancer destroys its host.
    Go whitey!

  • amphiox

    Just to note a minor error in the video – we did not evolve from H. neanderthalensis, we and the neaderthals shared a common ancestor (the exact species name of which I think remains in some dispute).

    re#26 – Well someone drank the killjoy kool-aid this morn. Is it such a crime for a baby or young child to dream about running a marathon? Should we be telling them to shut up? What’s wrong with thinking about all the steps at once?

    re#1, #6, and others – Why should we assume that any and all encounters would have to result in hostility? Is it completely inconceivable that we could live in peace as neighbors? Space is big and there’s a lot of room to share.

    re#16 – Given that the Helios probe reaches top speed only when close to the sun, because of the gravitational assist from the sun, it’s speed really may not be a fair one to use when speculating about an interstellar mission (perhaps a gravitational slingshot around the sun for ejection from the solar system?)

    re#8 – Without much, much more data on the climactic characteristics of Gliese 581g we can’t say anything at all about how easily or not easily it would be for humans to survive or adapt to live there. That said, I would bet fair money that with the level of technology and industry needed to even contemplate such a mission, there’s a fair chance that once we got there we’d find that our actual spaceship (or a habitat we could build there) would turn out to be more comfortable than the planet itself. We might choose never to colonize the planet, and instead build habitats in orbit around the star. We could conceivably extract resources like water and building materials from the planet, but keep in mind that those things are probably dirt common in many places in the star system. In this scenario potential conflict with any indigenous life would also be much less likely.

  • amphiox

    Further re #26;

    It would be essentially near impossible to extract the required energy for an interstellar mission to Gliese 581 with only the earth available as a resource base. Such a mission would pretty much require the pre-existence of multiple outposts throughout the solar system just to get together all the materials and energy required. Perhaps one could even consider a refueling stop somewhere in the Oort Cloud.

  • Will Berg

    I agree, we should also forgo any exploration of Mars so that people don’t start to think that we can go there.

    People must feel that they are stuck here with no other world out there to explore. This is the best for humanity and the best for the environment (which is more important than humanity).

  • Steven

    @Amphiox: LOL

  • j.b.

    @ #29 – and before pasty white men were doing it, swarthy men or darker were doing it too. Your point is without much merit.

  • Matthew C. Tedder

    What about the new ion propulsion currently in testing on Earth with an estimated top speed of nearly half the speed of light? It’s just an incremental improvement on current designs–instead of two wire meshes to shoot xeon gas through, it uses open electromagnetic fields.

    That should get us there in a little over a decade. Isn’t that similar to the missions NASA sent to survey the Saturn moons?

    I hope they find a Goldilocks planet in Alpha Centari.. We could practically vacation there.

  • Joe

    Guy’s you write too much, go play some Farmville on Facebook to calm down :)

    I’ll go build some tunnel to exoplanet.

  • j.b.

    I read somewhere that binary systems (and Alpha Centauri is really a trinary system) are for now assumed to be poor prospects for Golidlocks worlds appropriate for our living conditions.

  • Jeff

    I’m tired of people being concerned about how we may treat alien life that may or may not exist. As if our moral obligations have anything at all to do with this. If we discover life elsewhere… the only reason to “let-it-be” is so we can learn how to more efficiently exploit this new life form for medicine, energy, chemicals, engineering processes, etc. To imagine that we would harbor any altruistic behavior towards life outside our planet is to imagine that we are doing so now to other life forms on this planet (generally, we are not). A pragmatic and realistic mindset is the realization that we will only protect life unlike ourselves when it is in our benefit to do so. This is how it is… and we should embrace this reality and stop trying to pretend that humans are somehow out to save and protect the universe (ridiculous) OR that we have some duty to do so (you nutty zealots).

    Summary: our goal is to survive in this universe. If we must permanently change some portion of it to live and are capable of doing so… so be it.

  • Matt Morgan

    Tell NBC News how dumb and upsetting that comment is at

  • Matthew C. Tedder

    Well.. According to this (, there are other stars that are single-star systems pretty close to us. The next (after Alpha Centari) is just under 6 light years, and the next under 8.

    I’ve personally been suspicious of perhaps the more likely place to find space-faring aliens would be smaller moons of gas giants. There’s less gravity to escape from. Maybe non-technological species hop from moon to moon, pushed out into space by water gushing out of the cracks in ice moons? Who knows.

    About our interests, I don’t know if that comment is dumb, but it is upsetting. It’s cruel and brutal but certainly a point. A technological species must eventually compete with its own kind for resources (as Chimpanzees do over territory–and as we do). A technological species is, by necessity, a memetic one–a social animal that imitates past and present others. It’s how technology and culture evolves. The more fit culture wipes out its neighbors to make room for his own culture’s growth. Any other technological species must have the same tendencies for the same reasons. I don’t like it. But I understand it. I’d prefer we devise of a better way but that’s our nature and I doubt we have the collective intelligence to change it. It’s unfortunate that we have the individual intelligence to recognize the horrors of our reality, but cannot bring ourselves to collectively fix it.

  • Winchell Chung

    If you check Dave Goldberg’s figures, it implies that if the rocket has a dry mass equal to the International Space Station, it will require approximately 200,000 metric tons of propellant. Half of which needs to be antimatter.

    Let me repeat: one hundred thousand tons of antimatter.

    And then you arrive at Gliese 581 with dry propellant tanks, so you have to spend the rest of your life there.

  • Clement S.

    What do we know about Gliese 581’s transit through the milky way? If it is habitable now, does that mean it is hospitable though the galactic summer? The human species hasn’t even come close to completing a full trip and may face a nasty summer. Some scientists used to believe that mass extinctions are correlated with the suns orbit around the galactic center. Other scientists believe that we are in a fortunate position in the galaxy… It will be interesting to see what more will be uncovered about this exoplanet.

  • Gliese’s Lawn Mower

    #30. Nothing wrong with dreaming about that marathon as long as the baby’s not just stuck in the dream itself and forgets how to live and feed himself in order to get there. Moon is closer, why not go for it first. That may get you ready for Mars. Still quite a few more planets near home to discover, make use of their resources, improve our tech and gain valuable knowledge. NASA jumped the ship and went straight to Mars. Now they’re without a budget to even go to the Moon and firing a whole bunch of engineers. The’ve set foot on the Moon once and then forgot about it. Why? Because seemingly we have more interesting business and therefore budget for military missions set to wipe out ourselves. That’s the tough grip of reality and unfortunately the baby has to deal with it and slowly give up the marathon dream as he grows up.

    #32. You can’t teach a kid physics while he’s still wearing diapers. He won’t care much more than for entertaining value (e.g. seeing a toy making noise or a glass shatter). Don’t you think before we plan on colonizing planets 20 ly away we need to learn how to wipe our arse and get rid of our diapers as cleanly as possible first?
    I’m sure by the time we’ve evolved our brains to be responsible enough to manage what the Universe can offer a lot of opportunities will be open before our eyes. And I’m pretty sure until then we are severely stuck.

  • amphiox

    “Nothing wrong with dreaming about that marathon as long as the baby’s not just stuck in the dream itself and forgets how to live and feed himself in order to get there.”

    But the baby isn’t. That’s the point.

    ” Moon is closer, why not go for it first.”

    And how does just talking about something more ambitious in nothing more than a speculative manner in any way, shape or form detract from (or indeed have anything at all to do with) this?

    “That’s the tough grip of reality and unfortunately the baby has to deal with it and slowly give up the marathon dream as he grows up.”

    And you can so easily tell that this particular baby can’t ever run a marathon that you want this baby to give up the dream RIGHT NOW? A dream he has only in his spare time and does in no way interfere with ANYTHING else that he does?

    (Not “as he grows up”, as that would be like abandoning interstellar travel AFTER colonizing the entire solar system and finding out it is STILL too difficult, but RIGHT NOW, before we’ve even begun to even think seriously about trying?)

    “Don’t you think before we plan on colonizing planets 20 ly away….”

    Get real. Or start reading some of these comments more carefully. No one is planning anything. We all know, as a matter of course, that it isn’t possible right now. We are speculating about what would be needed and what sorts of barriers would be necessary to overcome to make it possible. When I see my government sink 10% of the taxpayer funded 2011 or 2012 budget into a colonization project for Gliese 581g, then I might consider your objections as reasonable.

  • amphiox

    re: #33

    Um, what’s so funny?

  • Steven

    re: #45 “Perhaps one could even consider a refueling stop somewhere in the Oort Cloud.”

  • kinclong2


    ” Moon is closer, why not go for it first.”

    Yeah, that’s good. I doubt Americans have ever been there. That was a political propaganda only to race against USSR.

  • Roxie

    While trying to to push the blame of white imperialism on people is in vogue these days, I refrain as I generally see humans as a good thing. And I also see the colonization of space as one of the keys to keeping humans around.

    I’m thinking we might make some strides technology-wise in the next 100 years, perhaps in miniaturization. Perhaps we’ll actually develop some decent nanotechnologies in the next 100 years, and perhaps we’ll develop a way to upload people into something much smaller than a human body.

    Shove a few thousand people and some decent nano-factories into something the size of a garbage can, plug it in front of a really big rocket augmented by a solar sail (for acceleration and breaking on the other side), and send them on their way.

    May take a few thousand years, but hey.

  • Danf

    Amazing how much self loathing there is in many of these responses. Fact is, if we dont get off the planet, humans will go extinct…no maybes about it…100% certain. For many on this thread that seems to be just fine…but I think that is an artifact of a self indulgent, feminized, western society that is crippled by it’s loss of will. I’m sure less effete cultures in the east will not be so eager for self destruction.

    The other fact is that we have NO REASON to think that there is anyone else out there, so we are not the “hostiles” in any reasonable meaning of the word, other than in the crazed minds of self loathers that animate much of modern western “culture”.

  • ChH

    Winchell Chung Says: “And then you arrive at Gliese 581 with dry propellant tanks, so you have to spend the rest of your life there.”

    Guys – a trip to another star system, regardless of whatever far-fetched technology you think of – will always be a one-way ticket.
    In my opinion, even human trips to other planets should be one-way tickets.

    amphiox: “perhaps a gravitational slingshot around the sun for ejection from the solar system?)”
    You can’t slingshot around an object to help get away from that object – you have to use something else (like planets) orbiting it to gain energy from the encounter.

    Matthew C. Tedder Says: “What about the new ion propulsion …”
    Ion propulsion is nice. The big problem is where the energy comes from. To get to 0.5c you’d need at least fusion with a Bussard collector – and there would be monumental challenges even then (shielding, drag, etc).

  • mgb

    Am I wrong, or is the math regarding the time to collect that much solar energy completely off base? According to Wikipedia, the incident solar energy per year is about 5.5 * 10^24 Joules, so that’s 3 years with magical 100% efficient solar cells, 15 with realistic ones. Obviously that’s a hell of a lot of silicon, and good luck storing the energy, but it’s a far cry from 3 million years…

  • OS

    Are these comments meant to be taken seriously?

    1) The lunatic WakeUpJack crying about how we have no “rights” to that hunk of rock. What rights do you have to expend the energy produced by the Sun that sustains your dimwitted life? What right do you have to occupy space on this hunk of rock orbiting said Sun? Where’s your legal paperwork to document these rights? lol @ u

    2) #10 Ken claiming human bodies would atrophy to the point of death on such a journey and then claiming we need to find some kind of magical unheard of alternative to Earth’s gravity. Hey numbnuts, look up some of the intrinsic properties of acceleration before you start spouting off about impossibilities. Ever wonder what the “G” refers to when measuring forces sustained by pilots maneuvering aircraft? The forces produced by these comparatively slow maneuvers are measured in units of Earth’s gravity.

    This place is a cesspool of ignorance.

  • Matt Denham

    Re: #51’s response to amphiox:
    Technically it’s not a slingshot, but doing a burn at perihelion on a hyperbolic orbit will give you the maximum possible delta-V boost from that burn. I suspect this is what amphiox is actually thinking of, and if not, it’s what he should have been thinking of. :-)

  • Meme32

    1) Those that hate being human don’t have to bear the burden.
    2) The idea of “rights” is a human concept. If we don’t exist to acknowledge rights exist then they don’t exist. We have rights because we are human. Animals have rights because we give them rights. Without humanity animals wouldn’t have rights.
    3) Just because you hear a couple of “humanity haters” on a thread doesn’t mean the whole of western culture is weak. Thanks for showing yourself to be as neurotic as the “humanity haters” by bringing out your weak modern western culture straw man to beat on.

  • Dr Ged

    just a couple of small points:

    there aren’t 1,050 hours in a year, there are 8,760;

    the fastest spaceship ever was the US/German Helios B, which slingshotted around the Sun in 1976 reaching 157,000 mph. IIRC it fried most of its electronics doing it but it did it. This is co-incidentally almost exactly 1/4000th of the speed of light, so, a mere 80,000 years to reach Gliese…;

    We didn’t evolve from Homo (Sapiens) Neanderthalis; we co-existed for thousands of years, us in the south, them in the north. To this day no-one’s sure what pushed us north but HSN didn’t survive it.

  • Robert Dean

    First things first. Although it sounds intriguing, this new planet. The fact remains that we don’t have the capability to travel there. Let’s instead worry about something our generation of people can do. We should descover the wonders of our own solar system first. lets concentrate more on what we have been talking about for many years. Manned mission to Mars. Only when we can run regular manned missions to any planet in our solar system cheaply and commercially, will we have laid the foundation for interstellar travel. Including all the sophisticated tools required for such an ontaking. Yes lets keep looking for those planets. The work our planet’s scientific community is doing will create the template for the interstellar space ship’s astrometrics lab.

  • Ashkan Zargar

    We’ll all be doomed way before that, traveling to exoplanets is a long shot.

  • Peter Wone

    The first thing an extraterrestrial colony will do is establish self-sufficiency. The second thing it will do is declare independence. With many years before any challenge could arrive, and starting with an orbital base of operations, the colony need not hoist a fleet out of a gravity well, it can simply build it there. With no snivelling liberals to complain, simple, robust Project Orion style technologies could yield an effective navy in short order. There would be tremendous advantages to becoming a primarily spacefaring people, and the Orion style of steam and steel heavy engineering can easily accommodate 1g spinners.

    Bussard ramjets are almost certainly the way to get there. In addition to addressing the fuel and reaction mass problems, the scoop field will tend to protect the gondola from particle radiation. There has been some very interesting work done on how one might start a Bussard Ramjet, most hopefully centring on what you might call a sun-dive: an orbit with a perihelion very close to a star, where fuel is both dense and preheated.

    I’d love to see this tried with a robot. If it worked you could do it again with another robot kitted up with a dirty fission reactor and use it to bring an iceteroid into terrestrial orbit, effectively bootstrapping our intrasolar capability from pitiful to practical.

    From there one might build a colony ship.

  • Greg

    Brian Williams’ statement was an obvious tongue-in-cheek remark, and was surely not taken seriously by but a small set of viewers.

    Apparently McConville was in this small set.

    Most news-watching Americans know in 2010 only a few people traveled as far as the moon 40 years ago, and that while we have the capability to travel to Mars, a mass-exodus would be something of science fiction for a very long time.

    Still, as a renewable-energy and electric vehicle advocate who is concerned for our ecology, I agree with McConville’s push, though I don’t really get the point of a cute animated character and computer generated voice to deliver such a sharp message. To be fair, though, perhaps I’m in the small set that doesn’t “get it. ” 😉

  • Tom Danvers

    We dont even know if this planet has an atmosphere let alone being suitable for human habitation. It could be a one way trip to hell. I wonder how long it would take to amass the fuel with an orbiting solar array around the sun providing power to a collider, an idea that has been done in a number of science fiction novella

  • Space Trave Sam

    Who said anything about colonizing? It is exploring and finding a place to live if we need it (not that it is even feasible, considering the current state of technology.)

    A lifeform from another galaxy will have an entirely different ethical system (if they can have such a thing) anyway.

  • scott

    For now, until the super volcano goes, or the asteroid comes…we should focus more on keeping this planet proper and healthy…..from what I see (not trying to be negative) its not going in that direction. Too much talk about what might happens hundreds of thousands of years from now, while neglecting the toxic byproducts of humans – due to laziness and corporate greed. I am not that afraid of natural disaster…all of our worst case scenarios have happened before..and we are here…so I think we would last through another (volcano, asteroid, etc).

  • iklinkenberg

    Travel time would be a moot point if the spaceship couldn’t safely traverse the Oort Cloud/Kuiper Belt at a reasonable velocity.

  • ChH

    iklinkenberg – the Oort cloud and Kuiper Belts are pretty sparse – nothing at all like asteroid fields & belts as depicted in the Star Wars series…

  • scribbler

    Those figgering the time to get to this planet are overlooking one thing: Inertia.

    Humans can only take Gs in excess of one for very short times. So, if any propulsion system exceeds 1G give/take a bit, it will almost certainly kill any astronauts. So, a reasonable thing to do is accelerate at 1G to the half way point and then decelerate at 1G for the second half.

    I imagine that would add some time to the trip…

    However, realigning a goal for technology to accelerate by 1G lowers the bar quite a bit, does it not?

  • Nullius in Verba


    1g would do fine. Acceleration isn’t the issue.

    Ignoring relativity, we can use the Newtonian s = (1/2) at^2 to do some back-of-envelope estimates. Suppose you accelerate halfway and then decelerate as you suggest, but we do it slower at 0.01 g. The distance to travel is 2×10^17 metres. Time taken is 2 Sqrt(s/a) which for 0.01g = 0.1 m/s^2 would take 2 Sqrt(2×10^18) = 2.8×10^9 s = 89 years. Continuous acceleration makes it easy. (The reason current systems involve high Gs is that chemical rockets can only sustain a few short bursts of acceleration.)

    The real issues are energy, reaction mass, and shielding.

    For the first two, the ideal would be not to have to carry them with you. So you start off with a solar sail, gravitational slingshots, fuel dumps launched in advance of the manned mission, then beam energy to the ship using lasers. These can only get you so far, though, and after that you’ll have to fall back on what you can carry. Currently, our best energy density can be obtained from thermonuclear bombs, so we would probably need some sort of ‘Orion’ style propulsion.

    Shielding and reaction mass are tied together. At the high speeds reached, even the vacuum of space would prove to be full of stuff to run into head on. You need shielding that can take a considerable battering, and absorb or deflect it. If you’re able to absorb it, or accelerate it backwards as you deflect it, then you have a renewable source of reaction mass too. As others have noted, this is the basis of the Bussard ramjet.

    We don’t have the technology yet, but given that any realistic trip would take hundreds of years, we ought to be thinking on that timescale in technology terms too.

    However, I would also say that it could only work if you consider the journey as the destination. Start by building space colonies, and then when you have a colony that is in itself a nice place to live, then stick engines on it and point it at another star. If it turns out to be a dump of a place, it doesn’t matter. You’ve still got a nice colony.

  • scribbler

    1G is comfortable…

    But you touch upon another point I’d like to raise. With time restraints on travel being what they are, we would be living on the ship for lifetimes anyway. Why go to a planet when you can live on the ship?

    There are enormous sources of energy in the Universe. It is logical to presume that we will learn to tap into some beyond current imagination…

  • Rogerborg

    People who make throway jokes to stimulate the imagination regarding colonising other planets are LITERALLY WORSE THAN HITLER.

    My God, I see it now, all those Astounding and Analog magazines I read were written solely in order to destroy Earth’s biosphere. Probably written by the damn Reticulans – they’ll let us finish ourselves off, then move in and terraform the burned out husk of Earth. The horror – THE HORROR!

  • TechyDad

    I wondered how long it would take to send a probe there (since we’d likely want to do that before sending any people). The fastest man-made object is the Helios 2 solar probe which reached 70,220 m/s. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that we could send out a probe today that would travel 10 times that speed. I’d think that would be pretty impressive, right?

    20 light years is about 189,216,000,000,000,000 m which our hypothetical probe would travel in just under 8,539 years. Obviously, having a probe return signals to us in the year 10,569 (including time for the signal to return to Earth) isn’t ideal.

    Even if we only sent the probe to Proxima Centauri, the closest star to us, it would take 1,793 years to reach the star. We would get the signals back in the year 3807. This would be the equivalent of a battalion from the Roman Empire appearing in Rome today to give a report the the emperor.

    People just don’t realize how *BIG* space is and how *SLOW* our methods of travel are.

  • Brendon J. Brewer

    If there is no sentient life there, then there’s no problem colonising except that it would upset some people.

  • Mark McGovern

    As a physical science, specifically astronomy, educator I am dismayed by the video’s disregard for significant figures for the numbers stated in the calculations. A problem I encounter frequently in my line of work. Stating more digits than are necessary is pointless and will just confuse.

  • Ed H.

    So some off-the-cuff math shows that, if you accelerate at 1G, it would take a little short of a year to reach 0.99c. Of course, reaching 0.99c is fairly unreasonable, so let’s assume you only reach 0.5c. That’s about 45 years of travel to get there. (We’ll keep the one-year acceleration time, plus one year of deceleration.) So if you pick young/brash astronauts, say average age 30, they’ll be pretty gray by the time they get there. And by the time their report gets back to Earth, more than half will be dead. (30+45+22=97 years. Yeah, there will be some time dilation, but at 0.5c, it won’t be that much.) None of the astronauts would be alive to receive a reply to their original report.

    But, if we launch a one-way ultralight probe, nuclear-powered, it *MAY* be possible to get it there within one lifetime using current technology. (Ion drive, for example.)

  • scribbler

    Thanks Ed!

    I prolly could have run through the math but I’m WAY rusty! As I understand it, the ion drives can basically accelerate almost indefinitely. I know there has to be a limit well short of light speed that I’m unaware of. To me, the drives that push gas through a nuclear reactor are the ones closest to doable with current technology. I know there is someone out there who knows what the top end would be for those as well.

    Still, getting an ion/whatever drive powerful enough to accelerate at 1G is something within a reasonably foreseeable future, I think. A 1G drive would solve a lot of problems and put it within reach of near future technology. Having a reactor as a power drive would be handy in generating magnetic fields and heat and light.

    One thing is pretty certain, the ship would be ENORMOUS.

    We can dream, can’t we?

  • Sean Ellis

    The rocket equation makes carrying reaction mass impractical. So, I am amazed that no-one has yet mentioned leaving your engine at home.

    Robert Forward spec’d out a (manned!) mission to Barnard’s Star using laser-pushed light sails, and then turned it into a novel – The Flight of the Dragonfly. You may quibble with the quality of the writing, but the mission profile itself is at least superficially plausible. It used very large (1000km diameter) lightsails and an impressive ringsail deceleration system, but speed topped out at about 10% of c. To get to Gliese 581, that’s a 200 year transit time.

    He also popularised an ultralight form of unmanned microwave-pushed lightsail that he referred to as a “starwisp”, which is much more manageable in terms of energy and material demands. Even a very fast starwisp, at 25% of c, would still take decades, and that would be a flyby mission as there is no way to slow down at the target system.

    Imagine the suspense! 80 years travel time, 20 more years for the signal to get back to us, for 1 hour in the target system and a sub-10-second close planetary encounter phase.

  • Davey

    Space is Humankind’s destiny I can see what David Mconville and “wakeupjack” and Lionel and a lot of the others mean, weirdly I somehow tend to agree with the extremes of both sides and understand them, and believe also YES we need to sort out how we treat this planet and its occupants FIRST, before we leave to migrate to other stars we first must make this system good, we have plenty of resources untapped in our system we could seriously use them to create Biospheres in our own Solar system, then we migrate to the stars, as to people saying OH its destroying other planets environments I think that is BS a planet that will one day be eaten by its own sun can not be made any worse lol, Humankind is here now, we need to get out there does anyone seriously consider that we should be stuck on one planet? if so I don’t think they look at the big picture imagination is a terrible thing but it can also be beautiful, as Carl Sagan said “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere”

  • Robert

    We are a curious race, we desire challenges. The idea of going to this planet, no matter what you think or say, is the right thing to do. All the technical challenges that are needed are already available today.

    We can grow food, both plant and animals, we have quantum entanglement for instantaneous communication, we have solar wind to provide power for high energy ion engines. Water for radiation shielding-drinking-air. And NASA just built a new composite structure that can survive in the extreme cold of space.

    We just need a leadership with determination to go there. I hope a private organization/company takes the lead to get there before a country with a poor humanitarian rights does. After all, first one there gets to set the rules. I hope the United States of America takes the lead, and takes the planet.

    Go USA!

  • ChH

    1. Quantum Entanglement still has to obey the speed limit (c) for information.
    2. If you rely on the power of solar wind to get to another star system, plan on the trip taking at least 100,000 years.
    3. We have the technology but not the leadership to go to Mars. We are nowhere near having the tech to leave our solar system. We should strive toward it – including going to Mars & moons & such ASAP – but it will be centuries before we’re ready for an interstellar voyage.

  • DaveFromUk

    No offence guys.
    But from what little I have seen, most American commentators are up their own arses, ask the stupidest questions, waffle, and babble, and are only interested in how they look.

  • Matthew C. Tedder

    I don’t get it. If the new (wireless magnetic fields) ion propulsion engines really go to almost half the speed of light, we could be there in under a decade. I’d make that flight. Why are we calculating enormous time spans or worrying about antimatter production? These near stars are well within reach.

  • Chiwuzie Sunday

    I really hope we can find out if there are indeed living creatures on this planet; but something tells me THEY will find us first.

  • amphiox

    re #79 – There is a very big difference between a theoretical maximum (in principle) for a proposed technology and what is actually achievable in terms of engineering in the real world, and an even bigger difference between that theoretical maximum and what is actually achievable in terms of the engineering and materials available right now (or in the reasonable foreseeable near future)

    As another example, accelerating at 1g for 1 year is completely and utterly impossible with any currently available technology or even any reasonably foreseeable extension/improvement of currently available technology. You have to carry all the fuel for that long an acceleration for that long a time (and you have to accelerate the portion of fuel that is not yet burned), and there is simply no conceivable way in which we could even assemble that much fuel in one spot, let alone design and build an engine and fuel tank that could carry it and use it for an interstellar mission. And for hypothetical designs where you don’t carry your fuel but collect your energy as you go (ie ramjets, solar/laser sails, etc), we don’t yet know, or really even understand what we would need to know, how to build a construct that could collect the energy, whatever form it is, with sufficient efficiency to maintain 1g acceleration for that long a time period.

    (Note that 1g acceleration half way and 1g deceleration for the final half would get us to Mars in 2-3 weeks, and would really be the ideal way of getting there too, but we’re no where near the level of technology required to do even that).

    re #53 – You give me too much credit for clarity of thought. I had not been considering the issue of solar slingshot to that level of detail. I was merely using it as an example of the kind of technology or strategy we would have to employ if we were contemplating an interstellar mission today or in the near foreseeable future. The hypothetical propulsion systems others have mentioned like ramjets or laser sails or anti-matter rockets and the kinds of performance characteristics (such as 1g acceleration for arbitrarily long lengths of time) are theoretical things we cannot even begin to build today and do not even know if they are feasible from the engineering side of things. But planning orbits and trajectories that take advantage of gravitational slingshots is something we already know how to do. But I doubt that any amount of gravitational slingshotting will get a chemical rocket or even an ion rocket up to the kinds of velocities needed for an interstellar mission.

    Unless it’s an inert “message in a bottle” type mission where the payload is just something like a plaque with a carved message in it and we intend from the outset for the journey to take several thousand years and there is no question of trying to get a signal sent back after arrival.

  • amphiox

    re #46;

    I still don’t get what you find funny about that statement, as I did not make in jest (rather instead in the spirit of speculation).

    The idea is to plan your mission such that you dock your spacecraft to a relatively large Oort Cloud object (preferably one that is known, well characterized, and perhaps even previously visited) that is rich in water-ice and organics. You can replenish your biological necessities with the H2O and organics, and then split more H2O into O2 for breathing and H2 for fuel (probably via fusion), and you design your spacecraft from the beginning to be able to mine these resources. (Or you send an earlier mission to the Oort Cloud object in question first to mine the resources for you).

    That way you don’t have to boost all the fuel, water, and oxygen you’ll need for the whole trip from earth – you just need enough to get you to the Oort Cloud. And you could have other early stops as well to even further reduce the amount of necessary mass you have assemble on earth and boost out of earth’s gravity well. For example you could first stop in the asteroid belt, then in the Kuiper Belt, and then in the Oort Cloud.

    Not that we could do such a thing today (for starters we have the find the candidate Oort Cloud objects first!) but in the spirit of speculation it is one alternate kind of strategy that one could employ (a strategy that becomes more favorable and feasible if we have already extensively colonized the solar system before attempting an interstellar mission, of course), as opposed to build the whole gargantuan thing on or around earth and straight shot from earth to target.

  • ChH

    You beat me to the punch on answering #79.
    Another correction – if you’re going .5c, it takes 40 years to go the 20 LY to the planet.
    Also, if you had a continuous 1g drive, you can get to Mars in 2 days at opposition.

  • gERGS

    I am more concerned with David McConville, Brian’s comment was obviously not supposed to be taken seriously. I don’t think anyone is going to go out and buy a Hummer now because they believe they can destroy Earth and retreat to another planet. Also, why is everyone so pessimistic about space travel? Sure at this point in time space seems like an impossible frontier, but whatever happened to the human drive for the impossible? We are capable of great feats and naysyaers like David I feel are holding us back. Mark my words, on the path Humanity is on right now, we will ruin the planet before century’s end. We can change that though, just how we can change our current space capabilities. Soon the question will not be, Can we colonize other planets but should we?

  • Brian Too

    I’m intrigued by the idea that we could do it. 0.92 C, I have to admit I think that’s dreaming. Maybe thousands or tens of thousands of years in the future we might be able to achieve that. But anytime in the next century? Sounds like a fantasy.

    As for our status as destroyers, we all have that potential. I’m a little less than impressed with the idea that this is the exclusive domain of white men; I’d say the seeds are in all of humanity.

    Our real question is, is there any life at the destination to oppress? And if so, will we do so?

    My guess is that the answer to the first question is No. Even if we discovered primitive life, my understanding of the arc of history here is, single celled life was the only life for the vast majority of the time life has existed here. Not sure it would be the same elsewhere but it makes sense that it would be so.

    That makes the answer to the second question irrelevant except as an abstraction.

    The punch line of course is that there might be no life at all at Gliese 581g. In fact the odds as I understand them, favour that outcome greatly. We’d want to be very sure and careful that this was a place we even wanted to attempt travelling to.

  • Evan

    Wow, very divided answers, quite the controversial topic.

    I think the “We need to fix this planet before we wreck another one!” fanatics need to chill the fuck out. As though we are all going to pack up our bags tomorrow, get a grip. Besides, it would take a million times greater effort to get a man to gliese581g than it would take to fix all the environmental problems on earth.

    We aren’t going there any time soon, and before we even travel there we will no doubt already know much more about it and if life exists, as we will see it in greater detail through advanced telescopes and send unmanned probes to investigate long before we decide to send a manned craft.

    Having said that, it is fun to speculate ways in which we might achieve such a feat, and there is nothing wrong with dreaming, it is what makes us human.

    To the people complaining about European colonization and that white people of today should feel guilty about the state of the world, again, grow up. Human beings have always con quested and taken by might what they desire. The Romans, Egyptians, Aztecs, Japanese. Before Europeans arrived in the Americas and Australia, the local tribes still fought amongst themselves for land and resources, no race is any more “noble” than another.

    As others have stated, interstellar travel is essential to the continuation of the human species. People seem to think that if humans didn’t exist then that would be the best thing that could happen to the Earth. But without humans life on Earth would have no meaning, as without anyone here to observe it what’s the point? The Earth would simply tick away until finally our sun died and the planet became cold and desolate.

    In regards to the “rights” to a planet, as i am aware there is no galactic bill of rights or deeds of ownership. if you are there you are there. If another species has the ability and desire to take it from you well, i guess that is the nature of evolution, survival of the fittest.

    • Christopher Riley

      i notice you put in about probes the few years it takes them to reach it means we be lucky to not only be still living in this life ending of earth but to have the release of a probe or rover in its entering a atmosphere flight to a landing be 100% precisely accurate and that probe or rover gets its (I HAVE LANDED ON MY TARGET SAFELY DATA MESSAGE) back to scientists on earth then we sent it the proceed with objective type message an it starts working by scrolling around finding collecting things testing picture taking then sending back data,findings,pictures,results of tested things to earth which takes hours – days an months so they are second thing before humans can be sent to its surface

  • steveo realist

    Now i’m no astrophysicist or intergalactic scientist but all this talk is all just theoretical hoo haa with no substantial equations or powers of motion to even contemplate any sort of mission to colonize or even visit this new “Garden of Eden” . Hypothetical visions are just pure science fiction that cannot possibly be substantiated with any real possibilities to achieve! Talking about travelling to new distant worlds and humanity continuing into the far reaches of the cosmos can never be realized due to the inate human condition of self preservation and greed preventing us collectively from moving anywhere because our id will not allow us to share for the greater good of our species. The only chance of realising these,frankly,outlandish observations of our universe is a total awareness of the collective power of all of us and a complete change in our thought processes that would allow us to even imagine an interstellar community is something that will possibly take as long as an evolutionary leap of another 180,000 years on this planet before even trying to acheive the near on impossibility of the time it would take to reach that “Garden of Eden”? By which time we will all be dead anyway!!!

  • david mcconville

    For those of you concerned over my lack of ability to discern the humor in all of this, I respectfully submit this summary from the most trusted authority on the mythologies of space travel:

    6 Reasons Space Travel Will Always Suck

    #6. There is no sex in space
    #5. It’ll Be More Like a Submarine Than Star Trek
    #4. Life in Zero-Gravity is Horrible
    #3. There’s Nothing to See
    #2. Getting Anywhere Interesting Means Never Going Home
    #1. In Space, On-Star Won’t Do Shit For You

  • http://yahoo Nakem Al Jada

    The possability to travel to Gliese581 is closer than most people think. The ability to fold space is doable. The basic formula is to generate enough energy to generate a spacial fold. This can’t be bone in a single burst. It has to be done in a compound meathod. 1to1.5 to 1.75 & so on.

  • alisha

    isnt this in the bible?

  • Svencore24

    We’ll do what we must to survive

  • Saroyparker

    Another planet sounds nice and most likely its not going to have “alien” life…When we do find this hidden palace hopefully its formed with a non-corupte person where we can all live in peace and love!

  • Austin Louis

    Use of dark matter could solve energy issue.  Time is another issue, but with the development of quantum computing and quantum mechanics there might soon be a way to send individual electrons at the speed of light that can then send back information.  Electrons have no space and time boundaries so once they are properly manipulated which recently has been occurring as of March 2012 (with diamond based quantum computing) they can retrieve information all around the universe instantly without any limitations.

  • cy layman

    the fastest unmaned probe humans have ever made is viking 1 or 2 which was sent out in 1977 and is now just out side of our solar system.It is moving 11 miles a second.

  • cy layman

    the fastest

  • cy layman

    the fastest man or unman probe is voyager 1 or 2 which is moving at a rate of 11 miles a second and yet it is still not out of are solar system. should mention that it was sent out in 1977, goes to show us just how big our solar system is not to mention our own galaxy.

  • White_ninja_2012

    look ppl we don’t even know what is at the bttm of our own ocean yet and we want to explore space we should at least know what is at the bttm of our waters before going to someone else’s

  • aadith

    i dont know what iam saying is stupid or not but may be we could get there using a space ship with a massive amount of fuel and curent.

  • John Collins

    YoPur missing the [point you don’t send people you send programed RNA or Dna and other currently unknown precursor self replicating molecules… Job done.


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