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TRAPPIST-1: Can Mankind Reach The Newly Discovered Seven-Planet Solar System In Our Lifetime?

First Posted: Feb 24, 2017 03:52 AM EST
TRAPPIST-1 Travel
It seems that travel to TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may not be possible in our lifetime.
(Photo : The Kepler Telescope Channel/YouTube screenshot)

The discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 solar system, which has seven Earth-like planets orbiting the host star, is among the biggest news now that is taking the world and Internet by storm -- with Google dedicating a Doodle to it. However, what people really want to know, i.e., besides the possibility of there being alien life on one of the planets, is if humans are going to reach the exoplanet system anytime soon. Unfortunately, the answer is a big "No."

TRAPPIST-1 is located about 369 trillion kilometers or 39 lightyears away from Earth, which means that it would take 39 years to reach this star system if one were to travel at the speed of light. This is absolutely out of the question at the moment or the next, because no known spacecraft can travel at this speed. However, how long would it take to reach TRAPPIST-1 if humans were to make use of the existing technology and spacecraft?

According to a Space.com report, “Given a spacecraft's speed, calculating the amount of time it would take to travel to TRAPPIST-1 is simple. Because speed is equal to distance divided by time, the total travel time must equal the distance to TRAPPIST-1 (39 light-years) divided by the spacecraft's speed.”

If humans apply this equation to the New Horizons spacecraft, which is traveling at a speed of 14.31 kilometers per second, the time taken to reach TRAPPIST-1 would be a whopping 817,000 years. If humans were to travel to the seven-planet star system on Juno spacecraft, traveling at its top speed of 265,000 km/h, it would take people 159,000 years to make it.

In short, there is no way anyone alive right now who could make it to the sister solar system in their lifetime, unless of course there is some miraculous invention in the field of space travel. The possibility of which is truly bleak. Therefore, space-travel enthusiasts should not make plans for interstellar travel anytime soon; however, they could aim for interplanetary travel to Mars -- if that is any solace.

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