A star is a stellar object in deep space, burning with the embers of a nuclear core, providing fundamental elements for the universe to nourish and create objects, places and people. It starts its existence as a molecular gas cloud collapsing, condensing into a huge gravitational mass, eventually igniting in a giant cauldron of fusion energy, luminescent across the Cosmos. A star is the creator and destroyer of all things. There are billions of these stars, hundreds of billions in our galaxy alone. Some small, some large, some bright, some dim, some with planets abound, with the star warming the shores of surrounding world’s, others floating in the void of the vacuum destined to serve little purpose than the generation of light for the wonderers of the deep.
A ship is a vessel, which transports people from one location to another. It has some form of device which propels it along the journey, moving along a carefully planned navigational course, avoiding risks and pitfalls along the way. It is merely a device to enable the journey, from here to there. It allows the occupants, people, to extend their biologically evolved senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch, to go beyond the banks of their origin, to experience different places, to measure the heights and the depths of space, to better understand and comprehend the reality upon which we inhabit.
If you bring these two words together, you have a Starship. This allows people from one place in the Cosmos to connect with people from another place. It allows those people to share their common or not so common experience of the world. To share knowledge, stories, science, technology, culture and philosophies. The starship enables a coupling between species that have been separated by space and time for the age of the Universe, and now they are bought together to discover for the first time, the journey of another. This form of ‘mental conception’ or ‘fusion of intelligence’ will most likely lead to something wonderful including to a greater understanding of ourselves.
We have many ideas for what a Starship may look like, but it is too early to really say. Our minds require more time to comprehend the abstract challenges of sending vessels across light years of space, at speeds approaching that of light, for durations that last for years, decades or centuries. Will it be driven by microwave beams or catalysed by antimatter? Will it have giant fusion reactors or mine interstellar hydrogen as a form of interstellar ramjet? Will it cross that sea of Suns using exotic space drives and warp drives, technology and indeed science, yet to be invented? Will it be a huge cylinder or shaped like a large doughnut with engine nacelles coming off the sides? Will it carry people from one nation on Earth, or representatives from all nations, with a mix of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture and philosophical outlook? Does any of this matter?
When that Starship finally arrives at its destination will it build artificial colonies or terraform the nearby world’s? Will the inhabitants of that Starship, perhaps several generations ahead of those that set out, wonder about the Earth and want to return to it? Will they even care about Earth? It may be that some will colonise the system, their civilisations will rise and fall as we have done before, but always with the shadow of their origin looming over them – the distant pale blue dot called Earth. Perhaps, a new species will evolve, that seeks to go on a journey of their own, to simply return to the home world from which they originated and to see the deserts of the Sahara, the jungles of the Amazon, the icy mountain of Everest, for themselves.
In some ways, it is not the origin or the destination that matters, it is the journey. It is the act of setting out on a bold new adventure that allows human kind to grow and evolve into whatever it shapes itself to become. This is what results in a change to the human being and all that he believes in and stands for. It is rapid rate of change on an otherwise predictable trajectory. It is a kind of mathematical and physical inflexion point, upon which the future of human civilisation thereafter takes a different course. Change, even when disruptive, especially when disruptive, results in a movement to a different paradigm of though. This is what the Starship represents. Just like the ‘Pale Blue dot’ photo of Earth gave us a different perspective on our world, the Starship journey and the act of trying, will give us a different perspective on ourselves.
Just like in the television series ‘Star Trek’ the Starship is merely a vehicle for the plot line, similarly, in the future the Starship is a vehicle to enable continued human growth and for progress to be made – to discover new things about the Universe and what it means to be human – or even to separate from our biological evolutionary tract by a form of technological divergence. And what sort of people will go on this magnificent journey? Will they have the weaknesses that so betray our species today? Will they inherit our selfish ways, our jealousy, our greed and our war like mentality? Will they exhibit our bitterness and our nature to push one philosophical view point on to the mind of a weaker human being? No, I think those Starship travellers will be a bold, daring, confident and capable people. They would have shed many of our weaknesses and adopted many of our strengths. Starship Human, will be a more evolved entity, physically, mentally and culturally.
We came out of the pools of Africa, from a few cells we evolved into the mammals and then the Homo Sapiens that we are today. Now, we are preparing for our greatest period of personal growth yet, to build a Starship and travel to those distant points of light that have so haunted human kind for many thousands of years. We will be a changed people for the attempt and for the experience, definitely if we succeed, almost certainly so still if we fail. Let’s hope that change contributes to the Universe and its intelligence in a positive way. Let’s hope it helps us to reach our full potential, deserving of the title – We the human race, are the Starship Travellers.
Kelvin F. Long