Reflections on manned spaceflight, the fate of humanity, and the universe in general, brought on by a recent reader email, and my experience earlier this year conducting tours through the Visions of the Universe exhibit.

Comment by Albert Bakker on September 16, 2011 at 3:35am

Ah I see, thank you I did not realize that.

But I don't know exactly how this works either. The Milky way is extremely flat, compared to it's enormous size, but not infinitely so and the Sun is currently about 100 ly 'above' the galactic plane. So when the equator of the Sun and the Galactic core line up, this means (distance Sun to the SMBH in the center is about 26400 ly) it does so at an angle of about 13,6 '' with the Galactic plane. This wobbling back and forth in a sine wave shaped pattern occurs with a period of roughly 30 million years.

And I had to look this up because I didn't know it but for us meekly Earth based observers the orbital plane of the Earth has an angle of about 7 degrees with the Sun's equator.

But I'm glad we're finally moving to Aquarius, sort of.

Comment by Dale Headley on September 16, 2011 at 4:13am

    I like this guy; he's telling the kids the truth - that our species, which has been around for a very short time, is not likely to be around for long.  They should show this in Sunday School.

Comment by Steve Shives on September 16, 2011 at 9:34am

The comments for this video are so much more interesting (discussing rare and wonderful astronomical events) than an exchange between superstitious 2012 end-of-the-world believers could ever be. Albert and Andrew, you guys prove once again why science is so much more interesting and satisfying and beautiful than religious attempts to understand the world.

 

And, thanks, Dale! I'd love to talk to a Sunday School class about this stuff, though I doubt any will ever have me. "Our species will live out its entire existence and disappear without a trace before the universe ever notices we were here" is not a very Christian message.

Comment by Jason on September 17, 2011 at 9:02am

Well Steve, I certainly think mankind’s desire to explore space is drying up….. But I think it will start back up …….in the private sector.

The private sector exploration will not be driven by a quest for knowledge or curiosity. It will be driven by greed and money. Ever see the movie Total Recall? That’s what I’m talking about. - Harvesting minerals and resources - claiming monopolies on air and land.

So yeah, I believe man will go back to the moon – will go to Mars…. will go further into space. But it will do so only for profit.

Comment by Ralph Oswald on October 10, 2011 at 5:40pm

It makes me truly sad that one of man's most basic instinct -- that of his need/desire to explore his surroundings -- has been stymied by a massively unwieldy bureaucracy. This is one area that should be handed over to the private sector, Yes, unfortunately, greed and power-mongering are inevitably going to have a large part in it: It's unavoidable. The choice is to stagnate the way we have for the last forty years. 

No one says it has to be an enterprise here in the U.S. or even one of our "allies." While the undertaking would be massive, technologically as well as financially and logistically, it is possible.

I do envision a scenario similar to Gregory Benford's "THE MARTIAN RACE" in which a consortium of countries offers a thirty billion dollar prize to anybody who can reach Mars, accomplish specified goals, and return safely to Earth. I would like to see if Richard Branson, or someone with his kind of resources, can actually get something viable going.

DARPA has offered to seed (with an abominably small offering... $500,000) an enterprise to "begin studying what it would take — organizationally, technically, sociologically and ethically — to send humans to another star" As stated elsewhere, just the study of the possibility could take a hundred years.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/18/science/space/18starship.html?_r=2

In the meantime, we would have to develop practical experience; therefore, it is conceivable that an adventurous entrepreneur takes it upon himself to kick the rest of us in the ass. We have to start somewhere, right? I don't relish the idea of our race languishing, consuming the finite resources of Earth until we've (excuse the metaphor) "painted ourselves into a corner."

Comment by Steve on October 11, 2011 at 3:06pm

Very well done Steve!

The short sightedness of living

in the perpetual rat race, often precludes people from

looking any further than the end of their nose's.

I have hope that mankind will make the leap away fro the earth.

With all of our eggs in one basket, we temp the extinction of our

race. Moving out into the universe is the only answer to me.

Thanks for posting this!

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