Why Long-Distance Space Travel Requires A New Way of Thinking About Travel

While the idea of meaningful space travel may not require truly long distances (such as from Earth to the Moon, where meaningful might involve a Moon-based colony), it largely does. Even Earth to Mars would require about 21 months of travel for a round-trip. Imagine, then, the idea of traveling outside of the solar system or even to a destination a light year or more away. If a light year is about 5.8 trillion miles, even traveling at the fastest speed we have achieved for unmanned travel (NASA’s Parker Space Probe launched at 430,000 mph), it would take 1,538 years. Of course, there is plenty of research into engines that would provide greater acceleration and speed than conventional means, they still rely on a fundamental concept: moving from point A to point B. No matter what means of propulsion, the idea of moving directly through space is hampered by a number of other issues such as crew quarters and feeding, crew stasis, ship maintenance, and, of course, the psychological affects of long-term isolation. Even if you could travel at the speed of light, it would take 4.8 years to reach the nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

But many of our concepts of travel, again physically moving from point A to point B, are based upon the human experience. For its entire existence, human beings have physically moved across the surface of the planet. We have walked, sailed, flown, and driven. We walk next door, we drive to the movie theater, we fly to visit our family. In every situation, our experience is about going from point A to point B over a certain amount of time. And when it comes to space travel, this experience has manifested in our popular culture. When you look at all of the movies and books that involve space flight, such as science fiction stories, the journeys reflect this ingrained perception of travel. Even in stories, such as Star Wars and Star Trek, where faster-than-light travel is made possible through “hyperspace” or by “warping”, the travel itself still involves moving from point A to point B. Of course, there are always outliers. Frank Herbert, in Dune, for example, proposed the idea of “folding space” which allowed travel between two points instantaneously through, basically, an Einstein Rosen bridge.

Still, when you think about the Einstein Rosen bridge, it still encapsulates the concept of vector travel. You are moving between two points, albeit much faster than conventional travel, but bridging between two points in space-time. Travel that might have taken light years could take just seconds. For humans to cross truly vast distances, we must stop thinking about “traveling” and start thinking about “being”.

One of the basic tenants of Quantum Mechanics (QM) is entanglement. This is the principle that sub-atomic matter, such as electrons, can become entangled with other sub-atomic matter without concern for the distance between the two particles. When extrapolating this tenant to the idea of space travel, we lose the concept of “travel”. Let’s say that you want to go from point A to point B. Rather than using propulsion to generate acceleration to “travel” that distance, point A and point B can be entangled at which time your “being” at point A becomes “being” at point B. There is no more concept of “traveling” from point A to point B. It’s not about “distance covered”. It’s about a state of being in which you, or your entire spaceship, exists in a different place. Within QM, this would mean that the particles at point A and point B have correlated properties. In essence, they exist in the exact same space. While they are still separate and distinct particles, they are connected (i.e., entangled). If those particles include the particles of the spaceship itself, then the ship can “be” in two places simultaneously.

This idea of rethinking the way we think about traveling, from “moving” to “being”, would also impact the way we construct the engines to power our spaceships. Rather than using propellant or fuel to power our spaceships, to create thrust that moves them “forward”, we would simply use energy to entangle the particles and then energy to untangle them. This idea of an engine or drive changing the spatial location of an object, like a spaceship, requires some additional components as well, such as Quantum Space which proposes that all matter exists in all locations simultaneously and allows for this kind of transition from one place of being to another place of being. When we shift our thinking away from moving to being, where we aren’t traveling a distance per se but are simply changing our existence from one location in space-time to another, it opens the door to limitless travel to any point in the universe and does not suffer from the constraints as vector-based travel.

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