"I want to go to there." (Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)
At last count, exoplanet hunters have dead-eyed 495 distant worlds. Granted, none of them are "Earth-like," but what will we do if such a world finally pops up? Will we be able to travel there in person or send a probe? Or are our interplanetary relationships doomed to remain long distance?
The Tau Zero Foundation takes this question very seriously. The nonprofit group encompasses scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and writers who all share a common goal: to conduct research into interstellar flight technologies.
According to Centauri Dreams writer Paul Gilster, one of the founders of Tau Zero, getting to another star isn't beyond reach. Getting there within a human lifetime? Now that's a problem.
"Technically, if we could point one of our Voyagers at Alpha Centauri, we could get it there," Gilster says. "But it would take over 70,000 years. The problem comes with how we can shrink those travel times."
Yet the prospect of traveling to another star within a human lifetime does not violate the laws of physics. Several interstellar travel methods are mere centuries away from becoming a reality, provided it remains something that human societies want to achieve, according to Gilster.