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Distance

Every now and then I think of a new way of looking at the universe. The scale of the thing always astounds me.

Consider this. Before the twentieth century the farthest apart any two humans could ever get was 12,756.2 kilometers, that’s 7,926.41 miles, the diameter of Earth at the equator. (I suppose it’s possible that mountains could add a little to that, but we’ll ignore that possibility because it really won’t matter.) The first manned orbiters extended this by a couple hundred kilometers, but it was the moon missions that really changed it.

At perigee, when it’s closest to Earth, the Moon is 362,631 kilometers away. Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr. and William A. Anders, the first people to orbit the Moon, were more than 28 times farther away from other humans than any other human ever had been.

I wonder if that distance weighed on their minds, or if they kept too busy to think about it.

It amazes me that as big and filled with fascinating things as this world is, it’s a tiny place even by the standards of its  own satellite system.

On average, the Sun is about 39o times farther away than the Moon. And we’re one of the near planets, close to our star.

The most distant machine we’ve ever made is Voyager I, which is now 122 Astronomical Units away from our homeworld, 122 times as far from us as we are from the Sun. Traveling at lightspeed, a radio signal from Earth takes 16 and a quarter hours to reach our farthest creation. And it’s still within our solar system.

Which is one of hundreds of billions in our galaxy. Which is one of hundreds of billions in the known universe.

And on that awesome thought, I’m going to bed. Goodnight, Earth.

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