Saturday, June 20, 2009

File this one under random thoughts...

I just finished watching one of those pseudo documentaries about UFOs. You know the kind, filled with all sorts of serious sounding interviews with pilots and military types who swear that we are being visited by alien spaceships. Invariably, there is never any hard proof to back any of it up and the show ends on a mysterious note that suggests that the viewers should decide what to believe on their own. It occurred to me afterward, why do we care if we are being visited. Why don't we do the visiting.

Now anyone who knows a thing about our current space flight technology is already aware that we do not have a way to send a manned mission to another planet as of yet, much less to another star. The fact is, we really don't have more than the most crude of ways to send anything to another star. That being said though, the most crude of ways would be good enough for what I have in mind. So far, we have sent four unmanned space probes outside of our solar system. The Pioneer 10 and 11 probes and the Voyager 1 and 2 probes are on their way to somewhere else. (Yes, technically they are still sort of in our solar system but they have passed Pluto and they will keep on going). I don't know where somewhere else is and I am pretty sure that it will take millions of years to get there but, if you take the long view, they will eventually get somewhere. Now suppose we take this concept and update it a bit.

We now know of the existence of many extra-solar planets, worlds that orbit stars other than our own. How about building a series of simple, very tough probes and target those worlds. Sure, it will take millions of years for those probes to reach their destination. But, in a universe that is 15 or so billion years old, a few million years is not that long if you look at the big picture. Unlike the earlier Voyager and Pioneer probes, these little space ships would be calculated to actually arrive at alien worlds. I would assume that if we do the launch and guidance math right, some of them really would get there.

Think about it, if there is intelligent life on one of those planets (admittedly a very small possibility) we would be answering for them the very question that our UFO shows are asking, to wit-Are we alone? If we really want to take the long view, a very long view, we could equip these probes with encapsulated containers of the chemical building blocks of life. I know that it sounds fanciful but such a space ship could, possibly, introduce life to a lifeless world.

When you think about it, this idea is one of the few I have encountered that really allows for the possibility of mankind leaving some lasting mark on the universe at large. Money wise, the space probes I am envisioning would be little more than well aimed inert containers. As such, the price really shouldn't be astronomical, relatively speaking. I think it is worth considering.


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