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  • Jimmy Negus

Cosmic Sail



Solar Hibernation


A new dawn casts vibrant light onto the fatigued dreamers. Warmth resonates throughout the chamber as the inhabitants slowly awaken. Hopeful eyes trace the luminous glow as the halls of the vessel illuminate. “Might the visions be realized?”, an elder occupant inquires, as his voice begins to crack. “Are we starting the adventure?”, a young child asks with wide eyes.


Coalescence


For those enthralled by the wonders of the Universe, space exploration often embodies the ultimate means of connecting with our origins.


Through the lenses of our telescopes, we are reminded of the true extent of our backyard. Yet, the pane of glass through which we observe the cosmos reflects the lingering barrier between our ground locked civilization and the boundless corridors of space.


Seldom moments of lucidity whisper softly that we are not alienated fragments displaced in a grand celestial web, but that we comprise its very fibers.


Can we dissolve the barrier?


Transfixed Gaze


Astronomy remains one of the few scientific fields that require little to no tools to engage with. In fact, the only tool you need is your eye - the first telescope ever designed (thank you nature)!


As a result, observing the night sky has threaded our human history. For millennia, we have peered above to comprehend the dynamics of brilliant stars, neighboring rocky and gaseous worlds, and even the Universe itself. We’ve even linked deities to heavenly bodies due to their ethereal nature.


Could the ancient cultures have envisioned that one day we would command instruments that now venture along the outskirts of our solar system, uncovering its secrets along the way? Perhaps, even more striking for them would be our trips to the Moon or our residency aboard the International Space Station.


What milestones will astonish our descendants?


The Darkness Beckons


The Moon is the furthest our species has ever voyaged (last visited in 1972).


On average, the Moon is 384,400 kilometers (238,855 miles) away from Earth. Comparatively, the most distant planet in our solar system, Neptune, is 4.4 billion kilometers (2.8 billion miles) from Earth. If the Earth-Neptune distance was equivalent to the New York-California distance, the Earth-Moon distance would be less than a quarter of the length of the Brooklyn Bridge (~ 1 mile).


We tread cautiously along the sandy shoreline of the vast cosmic seas. In the distance, gems twinkle in the darkness. Vivid spherical structures collapse dense pockets of matter to birth new stars. Photons traverse infinite depths to illuminate hidden columns of gas and dust.


Obscured worlds, potentially teeming with life, orbit parent stars beyond our veil.


Will we depart our dock?


A Flicker in the Night


In 2019, NASA announced a plan to return humans to the Moon in the 2020s, with the assistance of commercial partners. The program was termed “Artemis”, the twin sister of Apollo and the goddess of the Moon in Greek Mythology. The agency subsequently declared its intention to utilize the Moon as a base station for future travel to Mars.


The doorway impeding exploration opens anew. A generation frozen in nostalgia gradually regains motion. Sparks glisten within the spirits of children and adults born after Apollo. Enthusiasm blossoms in the hearts of astronauts daring enough to charter into the unknown.


What will embark with us?


Earth’s Reflection


Throughout human evolution, profound changes have altered our cultural, economic, and political structures; yet, certain elements invariably surface across all human epochs. Conflict scars much of our brief history on this planet.


As we avert our gaze towards new horizons, what aspects of our humanity will be transported along the trek? Will we sail as a species or as separate nations? If commercial partners invest, what return will be their return? Can land be owned beyond Earth?


Uncertainty permeates the collective mind. However, the desire to explore remains ingrained and the call to push the bounds of familiarity prevails.


The desire to stretch our cosmic perspective burns fiercely through the night for the tireless dreamers.


Will we unite?


Unbound


The Cosmic Sail initiates its routine start-up sequence. The floor rumbles as the vessel’s engines fire. “We’ll be taking off shortly, folks. Please buckle up until we clear Earth’s gravity. We’ll do our best to ensure a smooth journey”, the captain affirms in a soothing tone.


The Sun shines intensely this morning.


A mother smiles as she buckles in her daughter. “Yes Amber, we are starting our grand adventure today.”

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 University of Colorado Boulder

  Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences   2000 Colorado Ave, Boulder, CO 80309

Duane Physics Building, Rm. E226

Jimmy Negus

Ph.D. Graduate Student - Astrophysics

© 2020 by James Negus