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Jet Lag

Have you ever watched a train travelling along an embankment, Albert Einstein did and concluded that the amount of time spent by a passenger on board was less than that passed by someone waiting for them  to complete the journey and furthermore that could the train be propelled at the speed of light, the fortunate traveller would not age by a single second. Now imagine this train setting out for the nearest star. It will take perhaps eight hours to leave the solar system and four years to reach its destination. But while Einstein has given with one hand, he has taken away with the other, because his calculations show that to even to approach this speed would require prodigious amounts of energy and indeed the only possible way of making such a journey would be to extract energy and the means to use it from space itself.

 But would the journey be worth making. Our nearest star is not one star but three, a yellow sun, its orange companion and circling around both of them a red dwarf. Science has shown that each of these stars could have planets that might support life, but our instruments are not powerful enough to detect them. You have only to imagine the sight of these stars coming nearer and nearer to understand that when the Neutrino-Jet was finally built, many young men were eager to give up part of their lives to make this most momentous of all journeys.  

 Every great venture must be tested in simple stages, or it is certain to fail. The first unmanned vehicle was tracked through the solar system, out beyond the heliopause where the true loneliness of space begins and through the bow-shock into galactic space.

The next step was to send three astronauts beyond the orbit of Pluto and back, reaching speeds where the distortion of time predicted by relativity would become apparent. Indeed it was calculated that at the moment of return, the chronometer on the spaceship would record four minutes less than its twin on earth. Of course the journey itself, with its acceleration and deceleration stages, would last more than a year and could, to say the least, be uneventful. However humanity has to remember those early voyages across the great oceans of earth and the wonders revealed when the tired and emaciated sailors, at least those few who survived, returned. It is recorded that men who made those voyages were changed forever by them, as were those who later made the far less hazardous trip to the moon.

 The ship departed and now it was returning to the landing pad. Most onlookers were to recall how still the air became after the sonic boom and the final descent and how the vessel appeared both real and unreal as the heat shimmered above it. The crew, whose muscle-tone had been maintained in the centrifugal exercise chamber, would descend the traditional ladder and walk across the tarmac to meet the reception party halfway across, and this is what they did. There is a feeling we have when something strange beyond strange is about to happen. The scalp tingles, the small hairs rise on the back of the neck and the air grows cold as though the heat has been sucked out of it. The men walked towards each other, but their eyes did not meet. Indeed they would never meet again. The crew had arrived four minutes ahead of time.




Note. The reasoning behind this is fallacious, but the question remains, are we all living in the same now?