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BBC Space Boldly Go

where this time, it's a voyage to the stars We humans have come a long way. Travelling our world in search of new lands. Spreading to every corner of the globe. But the time has come to look to new destinations. To go, once more, into the unknown. This is the story of our journey in space. We will fly to the stars on a ship that sails on sunlight. We'll explore the most distant edges of the cosmos by taking a roller-coaster ride through the fabric of our universe. We'll discover the machine that has charted the heavens as never before. It's the voyage of a lifetime, a voyage to our future in space. We've always had the urge to explore. Our ancestors journeyed into the unknown to discover new lands. And now it's time to do it again. And this time, it's not a voyage between continents. Vast clouds where new stars are born. Strange galaxies. Even tantalizing hints of Boldly Go. Space is full of wonders. But will we ever see them for ourselves? It's less than 50 years since we took our first steps into space. Since then, thousands of rockets carrying hundreds of people have made the ten-minute flight into orbit. Astronaut Story Musgrave is one of a new breed of space adventurers. When you see a launch from the outside, it's a rather glorious thing. Inside, it's the absolute opposite of that. You have atmospheric turbulence that adds another shake, rattle and roll. That's all over you and, at the same time, you're being shook. And it can't help but pass through your mind that you just want the whole stack to hold together. You're along for the ride and you want to survive. So, it's not a joyride for me. It's what I need to go through to get into the serenity and the celestial dance of zero gravity. Hello, Houston, we are inspired. We are ready. Let's go and fix something. We are becoming space farers. It's a strange and unfamiliar world. But for the privileged few who go there, it is an experience they can never forget. Space walking is more like dance than anything. You choreograph every move. You choreograph every finger, every toe, every body position and how you will do all of that. It's just as precise as a ballet. Going into space is opening night at the ballet. During a space walk, I live to look at my feet. You see your boots going 25,000 feet per second. You see them going down the road. If you ever want to play Superman, that's where to do it. We stand on the edge of space. Our most ambitious project is testament to what we have achieved: the international space station Freedom. But it's surprisingly close to home. It is floating less than 400 kilometres above our heads. The furthest we have travelled into space is this. In 1969, we set foot on the moon. For man, one giant leap for mankind. For the first time ever, we looked back at our home from the surface of another world. It's amazing to think that people have actually walked up there. The trouble is, it may have been a giant leap for us, but in the vastness of space, it really was one small step. Although we humans haven't reached any further than the moon, our robot ambassadors are already reaching for the stars. Where we cannot go, we have sent machines. This is the Voyager probe. Nothing we've created has travelled so far. It's left our solar system on its way to the stars. Look at how far it has gone. Voyager left Earth in 1976. It passed Jupiter, then Saturn. Now it has left all the planets far behind. After decades in space, it's 14 billion kilometres from Earth. It's an impressive journey until you consider this. On this scale, the nearest star to our solar system is way over there. In fact, it's over 100 kilometres away. To reach it would take Voyager another 25,000 years. At Voyager's speed, even reaching the nearest star is an impossible journey. But perhaps there is hope. It's easy to forget that in one lifetime we've gone from this to this. And in our quest to reach the stars, some scientists believe the answer could be to go from this to this. Deep Space One. Its secret is a new kind of engine - the ion drive. And it is the passion of NASA scientist Marc Rayman. The idea for ion propulsion was around from before I was born, but I first heard of it on Star Trek. They were using ion propulsion, and Spock said, Configuration unidentified. Ion propulsion. High velocity. Unique technology. And I thought, Well, this is really amazing, but I'll never see anything like that in my lifetime. But in 1998, Marc's dream became reality. Deep Space One. But what is it that makes the ion drive so different? Compare it with a conventional rocket. The rocket fuel burns with tremendous force. And, as it thrusts down, it pushes the rocket up. In the lab, Marc Rayman watches a prototype ion drive in action. Instead of tones of rocket fuel, the engine uses a few grammas of a gas. It gives the gas an electric charge and spits it out atom by atom at incredible speeds, creating a seemingly gentle blue haze. The ion drive doesn't have the raw power of a rocket. It has something better - staying power. It's a bit like the hare and the tortoise. Conventional rocket engines create huge thrust and awesome acceleration. But they burn through their entire fuel supply in just a few minutes. After that it's all over. The ion drive is nowhere near as powerful. In fact, it would take Deep Space One four days to get from naught to 60. To travel further, to reach the stars, we'll need something new. And it may be based on one of the oldest technologies we know - the sail. Long ago, the limitless power of the wind carried our ancestors to Boldly Go. In the future, we may use the same idea to travel to the stars. On sails that catch nothing more than sunlight. A solar sail, using only the light from our sun. Many scientists are sure that this is the future of space travel one of them is Les Johnson. The sun puts out photons - light. Standing here on a sailboat, the photons that are falling on us are pushing on us. But the push is so slight that we don't feel it. The other forces around us are so much higher that it's not noticeable but in the vacuum of space, if you have a large and light enough material, the pressure exerted by solar photons can cause it to move. To see if sunlight could drive a sail through space, Johnson and his team built this - a man-made sun. In front of me, we have a simulated sun, about three times wider than the sun is at the Earth.


 
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Learn how to manipulate the very fabric of space itself
Learn how to manipulate the very fabric of space itself
  Telescopes get ever more powerful
Telescopes get ever more powerful
  Deep Space One is the fastest spacecraft ever
Deep Space One is the fastest spacecraft ever
  To reach the immense speeds needed to travel from star to star
To reach the immense speeds needed to travel from star to star
 
That's the reason I'm wearing these UV protecting sunglasses. It could damage my eyes if I was to accidentally look into the beam. They are testing the ultra-thin, ultra-light material they would need to make a real solar sail. It's mounted in the full glare of their sun. As you look in there, you can see it slowly rocking back and forth. What is causing that is the photon pressure as it's pushing on the sail. Incredibly, it works. This piece of sail material is being moved by nothing more than light. Based on work that's being performed around the country, solar sail technology is getting to the point where very soon, we'll be flying it in space. The solar sail must start its voyage with as big a push as possible. It must fly as close as it can to the source of its power - the sun. It's a dangerous maneuver, but if it works, the craft will whip around the sun and hurtle out into space at almost three quarters of a million kilometres an hour. A solar sail could reach the nearest stars in just decades. It's a truly impressive start, but is it enough? Our galaxy is a very big place. To get from one side to the other, even using a super-fast solar sail travelling at incredible speeds would still take 2.5 million years. And our galaxy is only one of billions that make up our universe. And this is the final frontier. If we ever want to be truly star travelers, we'll have to take a completely different approach. Some scientists believe there may be a quicker way to get around the universe. One of them is cosmologist Peter Coles. When early man first began to explore his environment, he would run into fundamental barriers when he got to mountains. Mountains are not easy to cross when you're faced with a wall like these mountains around us. You've no choice but to go around them or over the top. Now, these days, it's exactly the same thing with space travel. If I'm going to explore the galaxy, then the distances I have to travel are truly immense. When it comes to space travel, we're still very much in the Stone Age. The answer could be to take a shortcut.     Don't go round the obstacle, go through it. If you travel through space, you are fundamentally limited by the speed of light. But the laws of physics might have a kind of loophole in them which allows us to travel slower than the speed of light, but still travel huge distances quickly the way we can accomplish that is through a wormhole. A wormhole is basically a tunnel that takes a shortcut through space-time here to the nearest star could be connected by a short tunnel. Wormholes may sound like science fiction, but creating one may just be possible. First, we'd have to harness the incredible forces of an exploding star and use them to punch a hole through space. We'd need exotic forms of energy to keep the tunnel open. But the science IS sound. At least in theory, it is possible to create a tunnel that reaches clear across the universe. Experiments have already begun to try and build the first tiny wormholes. In theory, wormholes will take you across the universe in literally no time at all. Instant travel anywhere! A wormhole could just as easily have taken me halfway across our galaxy. But how do you decide where to go? For that, you're going to need a map. Space, as we've discovered, is very big. Giant archipelagos of galaxies stretching hundreds of millions of light years across intergalactic space. I'm going to launch from right here, I go to the beach right over there. I go to the ocean. I'm down by the ocean and I'm looking at the satellites crossing overhead. But I look at those satellites just whizzing along and I think, Tomorrow, that's me! I think that kind of thing where you don't know if you're coming back, you don't know the final outcome and you don't really know where you'll end up You focus on a journey, and that's what carries you forward. There's a lot out there to explore, and one day, humanity may be lucky enough to do it. Our descendants will reach for the stars. So, the next time you look at the night sky, remember that space is stranger and more beautiful than we can begin to imagine. And, above all, remember this out there in space is our future.