The long haul

It’s raining outside. I lift my head and stare aimlessly through crystal clear windows that made up most of the walls in the commonroom, relishing the calm ambience the rain creates as it hits down hard on the roof. After a few minutes of mindless gazing, the smell of coffee drifts past my nose, causing me to snap out of my reverie and glance back at my notes that are sprawled all over the table. Amongst them were drawings of various telescopes and lenses littered with notations and text. It felt rather strange because i’d never really gotten ahead of my work until now. Picking up my textbook, I flick through the remaining pages of my favourite chapter, savouring this little moment of interest until i have to study what’s known as the courses ‘Main content’. I lay back, pen twiddling in my fingers as I get lost in the vast scientific field known only as astrophysics (I guess you’d just call it physics, but If I’m honest, I didn’t really like all the stuff physics had to offer. It was a love-hate relationship)

It was only when I leant back in that chair and began thinking that I realised how much I enjoyed that subject. It never ever bored me, instead taking up a fair amount of my free time as I got lost in books and various TV documentaries on the matter (my personal favourite being Brian Cox’s wonders of the universe). What inspired me more was that technology was (and still is) advancing at an extremely high rate, what with fully functional bionic arms and floating images made out of projected plasma appearing in the media. Nowadays, its no longer a question of ‘is that possible?’, It’s a question of ‘what’s not possible’. I really want to be involved in this technological race, I would love to one day be in space in my own little room with a pot of coffee and a laptop where I can write about the astronomically beautiful view out my little window, whilst during the day work on new data that reveals an insight into strange stars and exoplanets. Maybe I’m just naïve, but the idea of a space station that’s furnished with living apartments, libraries and laboratories doesn’t seem to be too far stretched, especially with a source of albeit imperfect artificial gravity generated by spinning at an alarming rate. Just imagine it, you wake up from a cosy bed to the sight of stars and proceed to pour yourself a coffee whilst making your way down to the living area to say a rather weird good morning to the other residents on the ship, every day getting closer to your destination. Then when you feel claustrophobic, you take a step into the biosphere where the trees and plants reside, accompanied by a gentle (though artificial) breeze.

I’ll admit, it seems very dreamy at this point and not one bit scientifically possible, but let me tell you something a little interesting. Recently, scientists have been looking into the possibility of functional warp drives, and while this seems without a doubt science fiction, there have been at least two Phd papers on the matter that have announced it theoretically possible; although there is a tiny catch. The limitation arises with the extortionately large amount of energy the drive requires to operate. The latest paper on this topic has since found a way to reduce the energy requirement, but it’s still a rather daunting number. My understanding of the topic is minimal, though this is how it operates, briefly: The ship possesses rings around its body that vibrate so much, it enters its own little bubble of space-time and transcends into a higher dimension whilst space moves around it. You’re travelling to another place in the universe, but you’re not moving at all. Don’t worry, I don’t get it myself. The interesting thing to note is that if this theory was tested by building a prototype drive and found to actually work, we would suddenly have unlimited access to the universes every nook and cranny. And as we would inevitably visit foreign star systems that are so very far away, we all know long haul missions require comfort to maintain a decent level of sanity. Which means comfy beds, and of course, coffee.

So here begins my journey to achieve my life-long dream of travelling into space as someone who has studied the field they love to reach the front-lines of our exploration into the vast, beautiful universe. If one things for sure, it’s not going to be easy.

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