The more I learn about the universe the more I believe that human beings will never travel to another star system. And I think this holds true throughout the universe for other alien civilizations as well. But for that to be true, one must first assume aliens exist. Fermi asked the question “Where is everyone?” referring to extraterrestrial life in the universe. Where is everyone? is a great question. We’ve been looking and listening for signs of life outside our planet and our star system for a a while now, relative to our existence and scientific technological advancement. In cosmic time we haven’t been looking and listening for very long at all. The entire 200k year existence of modern humans has happened as a mere micro-tick on the cosmic clock. The time we’ve been looking to the skies and listening to radio waves from out there beyond our solar system is a tiny fraction of time of that existence. 

The idea that we are special in the universe is absurdly ludicrous and verges on delusion. To think we’re special is arrogant and ignorant at the same time. Our planet isn’t special. Our star isn’t special. There are trillions of galaxies and our star, our sun, our planet is but ONE among countless trillions of planets in the observable universe. It is literally a delusion to believe humans, or life for that matter is special. But people love their delusions. To look out there into the vast dark universe that’s filled with trillions of galaxies and believe that we’re special is pure fantasy.

Yet…humans are special. To ourselves, individually, as families, tribes, groups of folks just existing, we’re special to us. To the universe we’re just part of it. We’re simply aware of the universe and our existence and that in a way, relative to us is in fact special. To us. We are special to ourselves. We are special in our own way. but, realistically, relative to the universe and it’s existence, nothing is really special. So yes, we can be nihilistic about some extrinsic purpose in the universe, and still have purpose ourselves, as a species, as groups of people, and as individuals. Intellectual honesty dictates that I think.

Is there some extrinsic purpose in the universe? No. It simply is. It simply exists, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever know where it comes from, or if we do figure it out, it won’t be soon, and will likely be a long time from now…if we don’t destroy ourselves first.

Where does the universe come from? The honest answer is we don’t know. That’s the most honest answer. Unfortunately the truth frightens people, it’s human nature to be frightened of the unknown. It’s part of the human condition to want to know things and in the absence of knowledge we delude ourselves into believing in things that cannot possibly be proven in an attempt to diminish the primal fear we feel of the unknown. As humans we look for and try to make order in the world. In the absence of order, which we call chaos, lies fear and that makes people believe things which have no basis in fact. 

Yet, we exist. We are special to ourselves, to our families, to our friends, to our communities, to our people, to our nations. But these are all human constructs. Ideas of self worth, of specialness. We want to be important. We need to be important because that makes us feel special and that gives us some kind of purpose. Without getting into some deep philosophical diatribe, I think we can simply say that there’s a duality of purpose and a mistaken assumption that if the universe has no extrinsic purpose that that also means humans do not have a purpose. It’s a logical fallacy to believe that because the universe has no purpose that that also means humans have no purpose. That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this existence stuff works.

Purpose comes from within ourselves and from within groups of humans. It also comes as a biological purpose or self preservation and propagation of the species on an evolutionary scale.

Why am I talking about purpose of life stuff when the title of this post is about interstellar travel? Because I think purpose is part of the human condition and part of the human condition is answering whether we are alone in the universe, and that in turn directly effects our perspective relative to our place in the universe if in fact alien civilizations exist and that is directly related to Fermi’s Paradox asking “Where is everyone?”. I think it’s all connected.

We attach purpose to everything. Part of our intrinsic human purpose and the purpose of the universe is that which we project onto it and we do this in an attempt to alleviate or lessen the fear of the unknown even to the extent that we delude ourselves into believing things that cannot possibly ever be proven.

So, does our insignificant existence mean we’re unimportant? Well, that’s relative. It’s relative to your perspective and the perspective of the universe itself. In the context of relativity of self, then yes, we are important to ourselves individually, as family units, are community groups, interest groups, and as a species. But from the perspective of the universe relative to the universe itself, no, humans are unimportant.

We’re only important to ourselves. We only have purpose relative to ourselves. And that’s ok. There doesn’t nee to be anything else. There doesn’t need to be some kind of extrinsic purpose imposed upon humankind to have purpose beyond ourselves individually or as a species. We are our own purpose. Existence is our purpose as a species, and providing for and maintaining relationships with our family and friends and colleagues are our main purposes. We have multiple purposes relative to our being and in a context relative to specific scenarios, times, ages, cultures, etc. 

We advance technology to make life easier for ourselves and to learn more about the universe around us. We advance technology to build a better world, to explore our world and the universe at large. We are curious creatures. We want to know what’s out there. Well, most of us are curious about what’s out there. Some are frightened of it. Some of so frightened of the universe they will believe and do anything not to understand it. They literally do not want to know about it because it frightens them on a primal level. It upsets their entire worldview to believe that we are unimportant. They cannot grasp the concept of humans being unimportant because that is their ultimate fear. They are perhaps even more afraid of that insignificance than death itself. It terrifies them to know. Knowledge terrifies them and they will believe anything other than the facts to quell their fear.

It’s a scary thought to know that the universe is indifferent to us. People don’t want to know that because it’s terrifying to them. So they choose to believe in some purpose which they project onto the universe to makes themselves feel better.

In the meantime science advances and the more we learn about the universe the more we realize that traveling outside our own start system might be possible, but it’s highly unlikely humans will ever travel to even the closest star system, which is just a mere 4.2 light years away.

Why is this important? Well, it’s not really. It’s just fascinating. It’s fascinating to think about how space travel would be “so cool” and we imagine ourselves traveling from star system to star system, exploring planets and moons and discovering life forms and aliens of all kinds.

But that’s a fantasy I think given the sheer size and age of the universe our size and important relative to the universe itself, and it’s deep dark silence.

For such a massive thing and to have so many other things within it, the universe is remarkably quiet. 

One can conclude that either one of two possibilities are true. Either we are alone in the universe, or we art not. Either proposition is equally terrifying…according to Arthur C Clark. This is his quote. 

“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” So said sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke

So are we alone? We  don’t know, yet. Honestly. Factually speaking. We don’t know. Yet, being the operative word. I think eventually we will know, but it’s unlikely that will happen anytime soon. Unless it does.

So, again, what does all this have to do with interstellar travel? Everything! The universe is pretty d*** quiet to be so old. And if we are proof that life can develop and evolve independently in the universe (I know it’s circular logic but life on earth is all we have right now to go on), then if the laws of physics holds true throughout the universe we can say there is a likelihood that life is not rare in the universe. It’s possible the universe is empty except for us, or even maybe there are only a few technologically advanced alien civilizations out there. Regardless, we’re here. We exist. We’re proof that life can exist in the universe.

So we have to assume that if the laws of physics are the same throughout the universe that life exists out there somewhere, and in my opinion it’s everywhere. I think, given the sheer size of the universe, the number of stars in a galaxy can in trillions, and the existence of trillions of galaxies in the observable universe that we are likely not alone. But…I think there is a reason the universe is quiet.

Again, this goes back to Fermi’s question “Where is everyone?”. I think everyone is hiding. Read my “Camouflage Aliens” hypothesis, I go into relative detail about why I think aliens exist but they’re hiding from other more powerful alien civilizations. This is just another reason why I think humans won’t travel beyond our own star system. But it’s not just because of hostile aliens. It’s much more than that.

 Special relativity is a problem. Or rather, time dilation is the problem. The vast amounts of time it takes to travel the vast distances between star systems is astronomical. Pun intended.

It would take 30,000 years just to travel at the speed of our fastest spacecraft, Voyager I. Which by the way only travels at a tiny fraction of a percent of the speed of light. To travel from star system to star system is IMPOSSIBLE for humans to do in a single human lifetime. It would take 30k years going as fast as Voyager I, which is painfully slow.

Also, Einstein’s theory of relativity also says that the closer you get to the speed of light the more mass and energy is required. Infinitely more mass and energy is required. Wikipedia’s Interstellar travel page states “practical interstellar travel based on known physics would need to occur at a high percentage of the speed of light; even so, travel times would be long, at least decades and perhaps millennia or longer.” 

Meaning it’s likely impractical to travel that far that fast. Is it possible? Sure. But we’re talking about generations of people on a space ship for possibly hundreds maybe even a thousand years or more. Even if we do figure out a way to travel fast enough to cut the time down to something we’re willing to except, the trip to another star system will be ONE WAY.

There are too many physical limitations that make it difficult and extremely impractical for humans to achieve interstellar travel. Not to mention it’s extremely dangerous. I wrote a list of the dangers of interstellar travel in a previous article and that doesn’t even touch on all of them. Humans (and other biological life out there in the universe) are not evolved for interstellar space travel. Sure, it’s possible, the technology exists to travel the vast distances needed to reach another star system. We have the ability to do it now, though extremely primitively. We could build a generation ship, train the crew, create some kind of stasis chamber for crew members, stock the ship with enough food, water, air and fuel to last a long while, and send them on their way…to their death. 

They likely would not make it even outside our own solar system before major health issues started to take it’s toll on the crew. Microgravity is not kind to the human body. It causes blood pressure issues, heart problems, bone problems, atrophy, vision issues, focus and concentration problems. Not to mention mental health issues. Even our fastest spacecraft would take 30 years just to reach the edge of our own solar system. Meaning the original crew members would be elderly by the time they were leaving the inner solar system. These crew member would die of old age before they ever reached interstellar space. And that’s if they remained healthy for the entire 30 years in microgravity without any complications. Which likely will occur.