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Running out of gas – in Space!

Google has been complaining that my images are too large for those using mobile phones to view properly, so I decided to post this one tonight, which needs no images – other than the ones you paint in your mind.

Suppose that one bright day we received a message from the stars? Someone in the seven sisters star system [Messier 45 in Taurus] has communicated with us, and even invited us to visit!

All of those “nut jobs” that claimed aliens were living on other stars are finally vindicated, and we decide to visit them and partake of their knowledge. A team of eight volunteers is assembled, who, although they know that they will never return to Earth in their own lifetimes, is willing to go and send back the details to us.

Message number one even gives us tips on how to improve our combustion system on the rockets we use, in order to cut down on the enormous fuel needed, and save some money in the bargain, not that NASA ever actually worried about spending the taxpayer’s money, but it looks good on the fake news bites on TV.

But it’s a long way to go …. and we don’t want to run out of fuel. We need to take enough to return as well, just in case they want to send us some of their technological goodies or ancient texts to look over. So, we need to plan for our ship going, looking around, and returning back to Earth.

Let’s compare some other trips in space to see what it might take.

The trip to the moon is 238,855 miles, give or take, and we need to come back, and allow another 50% fuel to look around and for contingencies, so that would be multiplied by 2.5, or some 573,252 miles.

Apollo 11 is claimed to have used up 950,000 gallons of liquid oxygen, helium and kerosene, mixed. So our mileage on that old boat was about 6/10ths of a mile per gallon. In other words, it took 1.657 gallons to go each mile of that trip (supposedly, and this is all according to NASA figures). Yes, I am aware of some of the proposed evidence that we never actually went to the moon in the first place, but kindly play along with me in this “what if” scenario, since we also never actually received any messages from the Pleaides. That we know of. Yet.

Mr. Musk must have his stuff together, because he claims that his SpaceX rocket can go to the moon, tool around for awhile, and he only needs 75,900 gallons of fuel to do that.

To be fair, his Falcon 9 is smaller and much simpler, and it’s also not designed to re-enter orbit safely, but that still works out to about 7.55 miles per gallon of fuel. He’s also going to (supposedly) use mostly kerosene, which is more efficient, but kills a bunch more people and trees down below on Earth, and probably on the moon as well.

In our hypothetical scenario, the Pleiadians teach us how to get 75 miles per gallon out of the old Saturn V rocket! Ten times better than that Tesla guy, is what they said in their message.  But they meant Musk, the Tesla car guy, and not the genius version, who passed away some years ago.

So how much fuel would we need to take to get there and back? Well, it would help to know how far it is, so let’s turn to our top scientists, using the best equipment and teams of PhD’s that we paid oh so much money for, and see what we get.

The following are true facts, all from published and peer-reviewed documents, and not part of the fantasy outlined above:

First of all, on distances that great, they use parsecs, rather than miles, since it cuts down on the zeros. They’re even better than light years when you wish to add things up! One parsec is approximately equal to 31 trillion kilometers (3.1×1013 km) or 19 trillion miles (1.9×10 13 mi), and it equates to about 3.26 light-years. So you can see why 3.26 light years, or 1 parsec, is easier to handle.

So, here are the distances, from the lips of our best and brightest, using equipment, (expensive) paid for by the taxpayers.

1999 125 parsecs Hipparcos satellite (European Space Agency)
2004 134.6 +- 3.1 Hubble Space Telescope Fine Guidance Sensor
2009 130.2 +- 1.9 Revised Hipparcos
2014 136.92 +- 1.2 Very-long-baseline interferometry
2016 134 +- 6 Gaia Data Release 1 European Space Agency
2018 136.2 +- 5 Gaia Data Release 2

From this list of satellite telescopes, all from fairly recent time periods, the estimates vary, but the names of the systems are familiar to most of us – European Space Agency, Hubble, Gaia 1, Gaia 2 – and some are revised figures. The Very-long-baseline interferometry is another way to gauge distances in space, using the light given off and the shifts of that light, to determine the distance from objects.

You might notice the lee-ways given for most of the figures. That’s when they’re really not exactly sure, and give their best scientific guess, or wild-ass-guess if you happen to be from the south, to cover themselves. We see the same thing in regard to our history, when they put a small letter “c” in front of dates, with the “c” standing for circa, or about, roughly.

So the absolute, latest data available, from the latest Gaia Data Release 2 satellite, tells us that it is somewhere between 131.2 and 141.2 parsecs distance. Sound close? Well, not really. This represents a leeway of 10 parsecs or 32.6156 light years.

To go 32.62 light years, or 190 trillion miles, at 75 miles per gallon, how big of a calculator would we need to figure out how big a gas tank to carry?

The others are equally bad.

So, if we carry enough fuel for a 131.2 parsecs trip, on the way back to  earth we would run out of gas about 32 or so light years before we get home.

Say, somewhere around the constellation Ursa Major (perhaps close to the Big Dipper) the yellow low-fuel warning light comes on, and a few miles later we hear the silence of an empty tank. Chug Chug Chug Oooofff!

And, according to reports from NASA, it looks like they have encountered this same situation at least once before:

‘We had 15 seconds of fuel left’: Buzz Aldrin said, on their nervy moon landing.

“The Apollo 11 lunar module was on its historic descent to the moon’s crater-pocked surface on 20 July 1969 when a fuel light blinked on. Still 100ft (30 meters) above the ground, it was not what the astronauts needed. The Eagle’s tank was nearly dry.”

“We touched down, and I think the estimate, not because somebody put a dipstick in the fuel to see how much was left, but it was calculations and information on-board, we probably had about 15 seconds of fuel left.”


I’m all for going to the stars, or Mars, or some other planet. When we are ready. But my point in this article was to show that, when our scientists, and especially those really expensive scientists from NASA that like their new telescope toys, you know – the ones that cost a bunch of money and they can not wait for Christmas to open – offer us information, we need to take it with a grain of salt.

Their idea of “close” is not what I would call close at all. And just because they claim to know a specific fact about something as important as the distance to stars, does not mean that (A) they all agree on it or (B) that they are not simply slipping us a bedtime story.

If by chance you believe that I have used a loaded example, or one where the results are skewed purposely to make NASA look bad, kindly take a look at any of their other estimates – either for distance, radius, or weights of planets and stars, and you will see this same level of accuracy (or inaccuracy).

And if you really want to scratch your heads in puzzlement, read on their website concerning Mars, where NASA assures us that “all of the surface of Mars has been surveyed” and then read the fine print in their own articles, in the little-bitty print section, where it admits that the areas north and south of 85 degrees in latitude have all been “estimated” based on the area below that latitude, and not actually looked at, flown over, visited, crashed into, etc.

They do something like we would do if we looked at a twelve-foot-tall giant from the ground up. We can only see the first ten feet, so we presume that it’s body ends in a chest, because it’s a chest up as high as we have been able to see, and that’s also as far as we have looked – missing the head completely, in our ignorance.

So when we finally do plan this trip to the distant stars, we either need to be very sure about how far the distance is or we need to take quite a few extra gas cans along with us.

Again, if you drop me an email using  the Contact Me link, and let me know which types of reports you would prefer more of, and which you would hope that I would destroy immediately, it will be done as you command.  Possibly.