Space: The Final Frontier.
I woke up thinking about Space today. Probably because there has been a lot of fuss this week about the photo of a black hole in space. Scientists don’t really know what happens inside a black hole, but they have theories of course. They may lead to another dimension entirely, or back to one that is parallel to our own. Time might stand still inside a black hole, creating a Star-Trek style time warp, changing the concept of time as we understand it.
That sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
But then I heard that this monster black hole is actually 55,000,000 light years away from Earth. I don’t know a lot about light years, but driving 130 miles to London seems like a mission to me, so I am guessing that 55,000,000 light years is a considerable distance, to say the least.
I looked up how many miles are in just one light year. I don’t really understand the answer, but here it is. 5.8786254 x 1012 miles. Sounds like a lot of miles to me. I multiplied that by 55,000,000, and got this answer. 327 204 289 764 miles. I’m guessing the 327 is ‘trillion’, and the 204 is ‘billion’. If so, it’s a lot further than my imagination can reach, in terms of comprehending distance. Much further away than anything else that is a long way away, I’m guessing.
Is it just me, or does this all seem rather pointless to anyone else? The cost of producing these current photos alone is estimated to be around $16,000,000 dollars. And it’s not actually a photo of the black hole at all. It is the result of pointing a number of radio telescopes into the region, and then getting a computerised prediction of what it would look like, based on the ‘findings’. If you gave a group of nursery children enough marker pens and asked them to draw a black hole in space, they would probably have come up with something remarkably similar. A big red circle, with a black hole in the middle of it.
I am old enough to remember when the first spaceships were launched, and I have always wondered about the point of it all, and how much better the money could have been spent on problems we face on Earth. Since then, we have had Moon Landings, (or did they?) Space Walks, Space Stations, Space Weapons, and Satellites. Then there were ‘ robot landers’, small vehicles creeping around on planets that looked a lot like Death Valley in America, sending back hazy images of ‘other worlds’.
Now there is talk of an American ‘Space Force’, armies based in space, presumably on very large space stations. In the decades following Yuri Gagarin’s trip into space in 1961, we have had some very nice photos of planet Earth from above, the idea of teflon-coating saucepans, (apparently) and satellites to make using mobile phones and TV channels easier. The military can watch their drones and bombs kill people across continents, in real time, and terrorist suspects can be observed as they enjoy a mint tea in Damascus.
But was it all worth it? Do we still need to keep spending money on something so far away, we cannot even imagine the distance in our educated minds?
I suggest not.
Not on a planet where we face untold issues around climate change, plastic pollution, water shortages, disease, and a list of other problems too big to add here.