Prepare for a shock! The answer is an absolute NO! Mortal man WILL NEVER get outside his immediate solar neighborhood — NEVER get out to the limits of his own galaxy or to other galaxies.
TO MAKE such statements as "can't" and "never" and "impossible" where science is concerned is to invite immediate sneers and scoffs of pity. With the almost completely unbelievable achievements of America's Apollo 11 mission — the actual lunar landing and moonwalk — the collecting of lunar samples — millions are convinced NOTHING is impossible with man, now. Dream of it, speculate about it, add money and science, and it will come to pass. Or so millions think. The magic formula is as simple as turning on a TV set — even if those same millions have not the slightest notion about what makes the set work. Just dream of some completely unimaginable feat — add enough money and enough scientists, and wait until the networks tell you when the spectacle is scheduled for viewing.
FIRST TWO MEN TO WALK ON MOON — American astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, right, and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. - NASA Photos
What's This — Heresy Against Science?
To doubt the ability of science today is to conjure up visions of skeptical onlookers at Fulton's steamboat, or the people jeering at the dock when Columbus waved good-by. To seriously question the limits of man's scientific conquests is to appear guilty of some terrible heresy — some shocking denial of the faith. To the millions sitting glued to their TV sets, watching two Americans cavort with easy strides on the lunar surface, this was as impressive as seeing fire come down from heaven — with your own eyes. Millions said, as if with one voice, "I can't believe it!" "Fantastic!" "Impossible!" Words spoken, almost reverently, as the greatest "death-defying leap" in the history of man-made spectaculars was enacted before half a billion human beings. To question the final limits of man in space at this point is to seem irreligious, somehow. But maybe you should read on.
No-Trespassing Signs Out There
Heretical as it may sound — there are limits upon us. Man is still LIMITED. So far, we have been operating within those limitations; but accomplishing feats of technology which are breathtakingly impressive. So much so that millions have been caught up in a scientific spell as if captured by the magic of the stentorian voice of the traveling medicine man with his sure-cure, sure-fire snake elixir guaranteed to fix whatever ails you. To doubt now is simple heresy. Or so many believe. But man is limited. Today, we are reaching almost to the walls about us — almost ready to touch the bounds which constrain us. But, like someone exploring his environment who has not yet discovered the high wall hidden by the climbing vines, mankind has not yet discovered the finality of his environmental confines. There is a wall beyond which we cannot go. There is a point out there beyond which only impossibility lies. You doubt limits? You disbelieve? If man is absolutely accurate in his measurements — light is observed to travel at the speed (through a vacuum) of 186,281 miles each second. And that is the utter limit. Beyond this, there is nothing else where speed is concerned. This is the ultimate in speed for physical objects — an ultimate imposed by the laws of the universe itself, by the laws which man did not invent, produce, nor even properly define. Nothing is known, or can come to be known, which is faster than the speed with which light travels. Perhaps you will balk at reading this — say
Artist's conception of the July Apollo 11 lunar module landing of Armstrong and Aldrin in the "Sea of Tranquillity." Lunar module is composed of ascent and descent stages. Upon lift-off from moon the descent stage is left behind. Only ascent stage, housing astronauts, left the moon, then docked with mother ship circling the moon. Ascent stage was later jettisoned.
to yourself "everything is constantly changing," or "they'll soon find something faster." And this, itself, proves one of the basic premises of this article — that the sublime dedication, now, to science, surpasses in many cases the near-hypnotic trances of many a savage caught up in the voodoo of a parading witch doctor. I speak not only of the dedication of some (though by no means all) scientists — but mainly of the layman. People like to believe scientists need only more time, money and ingenuity — after which literally NOTHING is impossible. And in this is the stuff of which religious faith consists. But scientists are limited by the very laws of the universe. They are bound by laws. Science does not create or produce those laws — it often finds itself lacking clear definitions for them — and scientists must operate within the absolutes of powerful forces which are far beyond science. The reason many people find such limits hard to accept in this modern age is because most people are not scientists. Many a layman has found himself in awe of fairly simple scientific experiments. How much more, then, the open-mouthed admiration at a lunar walk? And a lunar walk is to be admired — don't misunderstand. The incredible courage, training and performance of U.S. spacemen is impressive beyond adjectives. But there are limits, nevertheless. What are they? Speed is one. As already mentioned, there is a "light barrier" built into our universe which is like a universal "speed limit" law. Beyond it, no additional speed is possible. The speed of light is the final limit — beyond this, nothing. No material, man-made object (or any other object, for that matter) can even approach that speed — let alone surpass it. And this admits no speculation, or argument, or denials. This is fact. Not "scientific" fact in the sense that man has discovered, defined or created such a "fact," but incontrovertible, immutable FACT of the universe. It is simply the way things are. Why can't anything reach or surpass the speed of light? Because of the way the universe itself is constructed. It takes an inertial push to move an object. At the launch of Apollo 11 (I witnessed this fabulous sight from Cape Kennedy), the Saturn V moon vehicle was given inertial push of up to 7.5 million pounds of thrust. As the spaceship accelerated, it also grew ever heavier (or "more massive"). At slower speeds, with which most humans are familiar, the proportion of speed that goes into mass is so tiny it is ignored. But it is a LAW of the universe that, the higher the velocity, the larger the percentage of the acceleration (push) that is converted into mass, and the smaller the percentage of acceleration that moves the object. There is a final point of acceleration beyond which it is physically impossible to accelerate — and that is the speed of light. This is a FACT of the UNIVERSE — not just "speculation" of science. Of course, the idea of pushing any material object to even the remotest speed close to light is in itself in the area of sheer fantasy — but even if this would be remotely possible, there is nothing beyond.
Why Do Men Idly Dream?
A wild speculation, idle dreams to the contrary, man WILL NOT explore his galaxy, or even a CORNER of it. Not now — not in 100 years — not in one billion years — never. Not in physical, human bodies, he won't. Why not? Assuming a spaceship co4lld (but it can't) be made, to travel up to the speed of light — let's take a look at the distances we're talking about in journeys to the stars, and beyond. Presently, it takes about four days for astronauts to go to the moon — four days to return. That's at speeds which vary drastically as the space capsules are affected by earth and moon gravity, and the propulsion achieved by stored fuels. But, even assuming the practical impossibility of pushing spaceships up to the speed of light could be surmounted — let's take a look at other barriers around us. With a ship traveling at the speed of light, it would take over eight and one-half YEARS to journey from earth to the NEAREST star and back. You believe that is POSSIBLE? Does your mind think of a space-age "Noah's Ark" complete with chemically fertilized soil plots, cattle, and everything aboard for life support? Do you imagine how men would experience no great difficulty in traveling under continual stress and strain for over eight and one-half years? Millions have no problem imagining such accomplishments. After all, they have read a great deal of "science fiction" novels. But what about a moderately distant star — one further away than Alpha Centauri? Well, even traveling in our fictitious spaceship with a happy colony of travelers aboard, that trip would require a MINIMUM of 200 years! You'd get a little tired of critical TV broadcasts by the time that mission was over, wouldn't you? "You?" No, not "you," since "you" would not be here — but then, neither would the original astronauts. They would have been forced to procreate children, educate them to do what they have been doing, and then be either ejected somewhere en route to drift lifeless in space, or buried aboard in an "earth plot" to become organic fertilizer. You would never be bored by a mission taking a longer time than the whole history of the United States as a nation — since you could not live to see the end of such a mission. And all this, at the IMPOSSIBLE speed of light, to only a MODERATELY DISTANT star. But what about the claims of TV broadcasters, austere scientists, and former astronauts as you sat transfixed, watching the various stages of the Apollo 11 flight? Remember the comparisons? Remember how some said this was the "most important step for mankind since he strode ashore from the seas," and other such evolutionary dogma? Remember the sober projections? Some said, "And now the moon — but soon the galaxy, and then distant galaxies, and then the WHOLE UNIVERSE!" But they got just a little carried away. What about our own galaxy — this "Milky Way"? Will men EVER explore it? Well, if they could travel in that spaceship at the speed of light, it would require the minimum time of more than 25 times all recorded human history — ONE HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND YEARS. That's just to the other side of OUR GALAXY! Still think it's possible "we" may get to the "universe" — out to other "galaxies?" No, "WE" won't — of course — but will MAN? I suppose some, whose minds are brainwashed beyond belief with evolution, may muse idly about how man may become a totally different "creature" even unlike modern man — and that some such accomplishments will some time, in the endlessness of foreseeable future, become possible. But even to reach one of the closest galaxies outside our own would take about FIVE MILLION YEARS, traveling at the speed of light. You can't change that. Science can't change it. It's hopeless to do anything about it one way or the other — that's just the way things ARE.
Other Laws of Survival
But speeds and distances are not the only walls built around us. They are not the only limits to mankind. The very nature of our bodies and minds, and their absolute dependence on the earth, and its environment — these are limiting, too. Man must carry his energy SOURCE with him, in the form of measurable quantities of fuel. He must also carry with him a measurable FOOD supply — and this, too, presents another wall, an other barrier beyond which man cannot trespass. This food supply is MAN'S source of "fuel" or energy. And the dispensing of energy is superhumanly tabulated by a fantastically accurate method of "bookkeeping" done by the universe itself. The same energy cannot be used over and over again, since an absolute LAW (the second law of "thermodynamics" as scientists try to define it) occurs which does not allow the reuse of expended energy. While the first law of thermodynamics states that "energy is always available" — the second law, nevertheless, states that the energy becomes less and less available for useful work as it is transferred from one form to another. And, notwithstanding the fictitious imaginings about tiny capsules like grains of sand giving off enough energy to approximate a steak dinner — there are ABSOLUTE volume requirements of the human body. Only so much energy can be derived from so many atoms of food ingested. It's that simple. It is a fact that the body MUST ingest a LARGE ENOUGH SUPPLY OF ATOMS, or the body simply dies. The barest minimum to survive (and even then only under terrible strain, and as yet unknown physical damage after so long a time) would be seven ounces per day of the most energy-filled, nourishing substances possible. Nothing less. And there is No way to make that quantity less. Not if you wish to remain alive. Based upon these seven ounces per day, it is possible to program a computer to analyze the exact amount of room aboard a spaceship required to carry a food supply for any given period of time. FIVE MILLION YEARS? What size should the missile be? Certainly large enough to contain somewhere in the neighborhood of 800,000,000 pounds of stored food which would have to be carried along, or enough to give all the 750 million Chinese, 525 million Indians, 240 million people in the Soviet Union, 100 million Japanese and about 200 million Americans a spaceman's meal. That's a lot of food — even at the rate of seven ounces a day. So there are limits — walls — barriers. Man has been enthralled at his abilities to reach ever more closely toward those walls, and has begun to assume the walls don't exist. Enraptured by scientific achievement, millions have assumed science is the only god worth worshipping — that science holds the answers to all the problems of mankind, not only survival in space, but survival here on this earth. Not so. Science, too, has definable limits. These are not limits science has imposed upon itself temporarily because of lack of knowledge — but limits that are, by the very nature of things, imposed UPON science by a higher power of which they know nothing. The universe is out there — so endless, so vast, so awesome that feeble human minds with feeble human expression cannot accurately define it. Man has reached the moon. But each journey will prove equally as hazardous as the last — and the moon will remain the same bleak, inhospitable, airless, waterless, foodless place it has always been. The idea that man will "live on the moon" or "vacation there" is as remote as the likelihood of man vacationing more than a mile deep in the ocean. "Vacationing" is hardly the term to describe the most demanding technical tasks needed to survive in a most deadly environment. So, while we stand in admiration of technology and admire the courage of men, we must not lose our balance. We must not set up a Dagon, or a Diana, and bow before the altar of scientific achievement. We must cautiously appraise what has really been accomplished, and that appraisal must take place in the calm acknowledgement of the many problems confronting man here on earth. We must still ask — for all the splendor, drama, terror, excitement, apprehension or disappointment of the space race — what, on earth, good is it? And, in the words of one observer of the blast-off of Apollo 11, "The time to worry is when you see them bringing animals aboard one of these... in pairs."