How Far Can Humanity Go?

*Alan Shadowrine*

Oh, when the saints…
Go matching in…
Will you be among the number?

Good people! I am not purporting to depict a Biblical context here but imagine this: When humanity finally conquers the solar system and starts taking people to planet Mars, will your name appear on the list of those boarding the spacecraft? Or will we be left playing political chess and victimizing innocent Kenyans at KMTC on claims that they have Coronavirus disease?

Have you ever wondered how small insects like ants mate? Do they have fall in love with the queen? Do they experience heartbreaks or do they live happily thereafter? Wait, they don’t have the heart to be heartbroken, do they? 

Far from that, did you watch the historic launch of two astronauts by NASA and SpaceX to the international space station a few days ago? Perhaps you are not into space exploration but here is something you need to know about your universe! There will be a few questions in between with answers just to make it easy, apart from one question which is intriguing and subject to further debate.  

By the end of this reading, you will have discovered just how much you know about your world and your cosmos! What’s the big deal in that? Let us first find out what you know.

Carl Gustaf! That’s the name of the famous recoil-less Swedish rifle that Dj Afro calls rocket-launcher Karoboshta. You see the bazooka you have killed people with and given police officers a hell of a time with on the game GTA? They have the same role. I thought I needed to tell you that before we rock and roll into an epic ride of finding out who we are and what we can do as human beings.

Let me guess, you are probably seated inside a house or under some building, ignore the make, and outside the house you are in right now are other houses too. It doesn’t matter how many.

How bad is my guess?

Before you judge it, what did you score in your primary five social studies? Of course a good score so I can go ahead and assume you know the difference between a ward and a county. Is that too much credit to your wits?

If you did not know, an umbrella is a device that protects people from rain and sun. Of course you know that, but you did not know that during the 1700s in ancient Egypt and Babylon, only royalty and nobility were permitted to have umbrellas. That doesn’t surprise you yet so I hope this one will:

It is possible to see sunrise and sunset every 45 minutes and down below, I will tell you why.

Forget about that for a bit, now you know more about umbrellas.

Where were we?

I will go ahead and assume you know and can spell the name of your country in three seconds while closing your eyes. Before you try doing that, where is this country of yours? Within East Africa? Part of the big African continent, right? Wow. So, you know your continent huh? Africa is part of the bigger planet Earth, which is our only home for now.

Did you know there exists a controversial place in the United States of America called Area 51, where there is alleged research and interaction with aliens? Conspiracy theories have it that America is developing the deadliest weapons humanity will ever see in Area 51. If you would like to know more about area 51, you just have to do your research.

Back to our continents. Does the path of defining your home end here? A house, in X location, Y ward, Z county, country Q, W continent?

No, if your science teacher spent their campus preps revising their courses and not flirting with first years at the school’s cafeteria, you already know that Earth is part of the Solar System with 8 planets. Did you want to say 9? It’s okay, let us preserve the argument until later because we cannot continue acting normally, can we? 

That is not all. What is beyond the planets of the solar system we know? The answer is a galaxy. You got it just right! You and I are a part, a very small part indeed, of what is called the Milky-way Galaxy. Close your eyes and see how small you’d appear as an element of the Milky-way galaxy (I’m sure you haven’t closed your eyes to imagine but that is fine!)

Imagine (this time you really have to imagine) getting into a machine that never runs out of power (thanks I already said it’s an imagination) and then flies away from the sun.

Too much science already? You can’t be that cheap, I know right? But just in case, all planets in our solar systems orbits around the sun. While some planets closely orbit around the sun, some orbit far from the sun.

So, if you were traveling far from the sun, you would cross the orbit that planet Mercury follows, then Venus, in that order, and further away, you will cross the orbit that planet Pluto follows around the sun. If you continue flying in your imaginative space machine, you would bump into empty space! Is that right?

What is beyond the furthest planet? (Just imagine what is beyond the furthest place our scientists have discovered.)

Beyond our Milky-way galaxy are other galaxies. Billions of other galaxies! About 30 galaxies, including the Milky-way galaxy (where your house is), are held together inside a pocket of the universe known as the Local Group. Don’t worry, this is not an online class so you don’t have to cram any details. The Local Group, interestingly, is inside a bigger collection called the Laniakea Cluster. So, a cluster is a collection of galaxies! See, you just discovered that too! Are you wondering what a cluster is part of?

Discover how simple mathematics is (ODE and PDE is not mathematics, just in case they gave your nerves mayhem) by following this simple explanation.

Light can travel at a speed of 300 million meters in one second. 1000 meters make a kilometer. So, in other words, light can travel 300 thousand kilometers before you are done saying one. If light can cover all those kilometers in one second, how much can it cover in 1 hour? 1 day? 1 year? 1 decade? 1 thousand years? 1 million years? Wow. That would be billions and billions of kilometers.

That math class was meant to explain that the radius of our Laniakea Cluster is 250 million light-years in radius. Don’t even imagine how big the diameter is.

What if our omnipotent machine took you to the farthest cluster? What would be beyond that? 

A lot of nothingness? How finite would the nothingness be? 200 trillion light-years?

Wow. That’s worth pondering about. The sad question is; will you drink the last sip of your life on earth without finding out? Will the generations coming after us go beyond planet Mars, contact Aliens if they exist, and intermarry to become supermen? Or will technological advancements wipe out the human race? Will another asteroid collide with our planet and crush us all in a wave of dark energy?

Human beings have made giant leaps towards discovering their universe. The invention of telescopes, satellites, and space ships have contributed incredible discoveries. But here is the catch:
The most sophisticated, advanced, and complicated machine made by human beings since time immemorial is the International Space Station (ISS). I just said that fingers crossed because you may be tempted to say it’s the Egyptian Pyramids or the Biblical Babel.

ISS is a modular technology, as big as a soccer field, that is rotating around Earth (15 and a half times a day!!). There is 0 gravity in the ISS, so you just float in the air weightlessly and take care not to pee or poo haphazardly, or otherwise, the pee/poo will suspend in the air weightlessly too (more like a superman). It’s the world’s most special laboratory.

And there are people in it. Astronauts who are doing scientific research about microgravity and how human beings can survive outside Earth, among other fields. Is that not cool? On earth, ISS would weigh millions of kilograms but luckily, the lower orbit of earth experiences very small gravitational effect. Consequently, it can float around the Earth like a free kite!

The International Space Station

Going to the Space Station is possible through a space ship. Just so it doesn’t sound like we are talking about the titanic ship, a rocket. A rocket is a spacecraft, and the best thing about them is that they are real and not fictional.

Did you know that to escape the pull of gravity, a rocket must be traveling at a speed not less than 28000km/hr? As I promised, it is possible to see a sunrise and a sunset every 45 minutes at such speed!

When launching a rocket, the thrust produced is too strong that it can blow dust up to 2 kilometers away. I hate that you are not shocked, but did you know that to avoid explosion when re-entering the earth’s atmosphere (you know the resultant friction), a space shuttle contains more than 30,000 tiles of heat shield constructed essentially with sand?

NASA, the US space exploration agency, has been able to take humans to the space station and back. And so have other countries like the USSR, Japan, and China. Is your country on the list of space maniacs? Don’t worry, it is probably because your country is still fighting locusts and heavy rains but as soon as they are over that, you will live to experience space exploration in your home town.

The journey towards conquering space has not been as easy as drinking U Fresh juice on a hot nasty afternoon. People have died during rocket launching, right? Like the 1986 explosion of the Challenger space shuttle that took away the lives of all its crew.

However, the good news is that humanity hasn’t given up. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors (producing electric cars to save our home from our stupid emissions) and SpaceX company, designed a reusable spacecraft with the aim of colonizing planet Mars.

It is the first private company to launch a crew to the Space Station. I am not sure if we will be on the list of those who will go to Mars, but just in case we are not, don’t miss out on everything. Prompt your mind to find out its niche in the universe.

Finally, I promised an intriguing question. Did you know that you don’t know whether or not Dr. Ruto will be the president of Kenya in 2022?


Read other great articles by Alan Shadowrine:

  1. Best Graduation Ever, about virtual graduations.
  2. Live! And Live, on how to recover from break ups.
  3. Defending the Human Race, about how we are all basically one race.

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