# Distance to celestial objects chart

This beautiful old chart, headed "Unbelievable Time Required to Cover Immense Distances of Space", displays the time it would take to get to various "nearby" celestial objects, using an unspecified propulsion system. Does anyone know what that system was, or where the chart comes from?

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1. Anonymous says:

Does anyone know what that system was

Considering thet the speed is specified as two miles a minute, and the chart is covered with illustrations of fanciful airplanes, I’m going to guess ‘aeroplane’.

2. Anonymous says:

Clearly they are rated by the speeds of those awesome Allied airships!

3. SinisterExaggerator says:

My quick pencil sketch math shows an average speed of 124.163mph to Saturn, 112.007mph to Jupiter at distance / stated travel time in years / 365 days / 24 hours. Roughly in the ball park of the top speed of an old Thunderbird (I’d like to think).

4. Spikeles says:

Apparently the image is Copyright, 1914, 1918, by Geo. L. Shuman & Co.

Probably from their book series “Our Wonder World” or “New Wonder World”.

5. spazzm says:

Two miles per minute = 53.6 m/s, or about 193 km/h, in modern units.

Or in other words, about twice the legal speed limit in most places.

6. SinisterExaggerator says:

If, as stated, you’d get to the sun in 88.5 years, in the year 2000, you’d place yourself in the vantage point of mid-1911. Good call, Spikeles…

7. MythicalMe says:

I’m going to guess that the concept of constant acceleration and celestial navigation was unknown. We attain higher speeds than 120 MPH by using the Sun’s gravity and taking advantage of planetary positions.

8. codereduk says:

he he hee Uranus he he he

9. Haesae says:

The “celestial invaders” have an American flag. . .

No Pluto yet – that’s so cool.

This would make a simply beautiful poster :)

11. Anonymous says:

This has the look of an old encyclopedia we had called the “Book of Knowledge”

12. Anonymous says:

Isn’t the flag going the wrong way?

13. HairySammoth says:

I’m with Carl Sagan! With Obama making all these nice anti-nuke noises, we’re gonna need something to do with all those warheads. The obvious answer –
honking great rocketships! High exhaust velocity plus high thrust means redonkulous travel time. A few weeks to Pluto maybe, 40-odd years to get to Proxima Centauri. Hell, there’s a very Earth-like planet round Gliese 581 – that’s only 20 lightyears away, which ain’t so bad at 0.1c…

Can anyone point me to a site on doing the math for this, preferably one for idiots?

I’ve recently been fascinated by the very topic but I mind-wiped my A-levels a long time ago — and it wasn’t mechanics or physics, anyway…

15. Spikeles says:

Distance to sun: 149,597,870 kilometres

Time taken: 88.5 years
Hours in day: 24
Hours in year: 24 * 365
Hours taken to get to sun: (24 * 365) * 88.5 = 775260 Hours

149,597,870 kilometres / 775260 Hours = 192 km/hr

192 / 60 = 3.2 km/minute
1 kilometer = 0.621371192 miles
3.2 kilometers = 1.98838782 miles
Or
2 miles per minute

16. tastewar says:

I find it amusing that the concern with airplane travel in space is that “not in airplanes which would fall to pieces with age” rather than the lack of air for the propeller to push. Also cute is the space dirigible. And the space station also with a propeller. Tee hee hee.

17. SamSam says:

@shadowfirebird: I love Google’s conversion system (though it won’t teach you how to do it):

(384 403 km) per (83 days) = 119.908108 mph

18. memoi2001 says:

hehe, “terrific speed” ;)

maybe if you make a ramp for a tvg train (450 odd KM/h) we could beat them to saturn ;)

bizzare as it may be, I too want this as a poster

19. kimnbri says:

A race to the sun…

“Mission control (STOP), this is solar one (STOP), after 88.5 years we are now landing on the surface of the …POOF!”

“Solar one?”

“We’ve lost the telegraph signal…”

Sorry, maybe I should have been more specific.

I’m after the math for a continuous-acceleration journey in actual, newtonian space.

Although I’m not bothered with any complications from relativity (and it would probably take too long to explain why).

sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. I’m interested in the math for a continuous-acceleration journey to the planets (and for reasons that are probably too complex to explain here, I don’t care about relativity).

Sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. I’m interested in the math for a continuous-acceleration journey to the planets (and for reasons that are probably too complex to explain here, I don’t care about relativity).

Sorry, didn’t make myself clear.

I’m interested in the math involved in a continuous-acceleration journey to the planets.

(For reasons that are too complex to explain here, relativity doesn’t matter to me.)

24. Philbert says:

The propulsion system is visible in the picture: good old fashioned propellors. Proven technology. Why would you use anything else?

25. Philbert says:

The propulsion system is visible in the picture. Good old fashioned propellors! Proven technology. Why use anything else?

Oh, and of course Pluto wasn’t listed because they only mention planets.

26. Halloween Jack says:

I believe that it’s the time needed to travel via pogo stick.

27. Xeno says:

I believe this chart was made by Woz and the method of propulsion is a Segway.

What? did you think he was going to be dancing with the stars?

28. Xeno says:

I believe this chart was made by Woz and the method of propulsion is a Segway.

What? did you think he was going to be dancing with the stars?

29. Xeno says:

I believe this chart was made by Woz and the method of propulsion is a Segway.

What? did you think he was going to be dancing with the stars?

30. Xeno says:

I believe the author was Woz and the method of transport was a Segway.

31. agnot says:

Geesh guys.

How many actually read the text?

Nice computations but, as one poster finally notes, the speed is given.

So is the vehicle.

And, no, they didn’t have Ford Thunderbirds, 54 years following Lincoln’s assassination, although Ford Motor had been around for some 3 years. Do they teach history any more?

The question was for the propulsion system.

Since it is a race, that eliminates the gravity suggestion. That race would end in a tie.

The only propulsion system of the time that I can think would achieve 120 mph at that time is rockets.

32. agnot says:

Geesh guys.

How many actually read the text?

Nice computations but, as one poster finally notes, the speed is given.

So is the vehicle.

And, no, they didn’t have Ford Thunderbirds, 54 years following Lincoln’s assassination, although Ford Motor had been around for some 3 years. Do they teach history any more?

The question was for the propulsion system.

Since it is a race, that eliminates the gravity suggestion. That race would end in a tie.

The only propulsion system of the time that I can think would achieve 120 mph at that time is rockets.

33. Enormo says:

Does anyone know what that system was, or where the chart comes from?

Hemp.

34. agnot says:

Geesh guys.

How many actually read the text?

Nice computations but, as one poster finally notes, the speed is given.

So is the vehicle.

And, no, they didn’t have Ford Thunderbirds, 54 years following Lincoln’s assassination, although Ford Motor had been around for some 3 years. Do they teach history any more?

The question was for the propulsion system.

Since it is a race, that eliminates the gravity suggestion. That race would end in a tie.

The only propulsion system of the time that I can think would achieve 120 mph at that time is rockets.

35. agnot says:

Geesh guys.

How many actually read the text?

Nice computations but, as one poster finally notes, the speed is given.

So is the vehicle.

And, no, they didn’t have Ford Thunderbirds, 54 years following Lincoln’s assassination, although Ford Motor had been around for some 3 years. Do they teach history any more?

The question was for the propulsion system.

Since it is a race, that eliminates the gravity suggestion. That race would end in a tie.

The only propulsion system of the time that I can think would achieve 120 mph at that time is rockets.

36. Enormo says:

Hemp.

37. agnot says:

Geesh guys.

How many actually read the text?

Nice computations but, as one poster finally notes, the speed is given.

So is the vehicle.

And, no, they didn’t have Ford Thunderbirds, 54 years following Lincoln’s assassination, although Ford Motor had been around for some 3 years. Do they teach history any more?

The question was for the propulsion system.

Since it is a race, that eliminates the gravity suggestion. That race would end in a tie.

The only propulsion system of the time that I can think would achieve 120 mph at that time is rockets.

38. agnot says:

Boing Boing
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39. Jessy Randall says:

I am the Curator of Special Collections at Colorado College. I found this illustration in a set of books slated for withdrawal from my library. I decided to transfer the set to Special Collections. They are no longer useful as encyclopedias, but are tremendously useful and interesting as a snapshot of the way people thought about the world (and the future) in 1918. I scanned the two-page spread and put it on my Flickr site on January 16, 2009: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessyrandall/3201185231/. The image linked from BoingBoing shows only half of the two-page spread. I cannot be certain it is my scan, but it seems likely.

40. Takuan says:

1918! thanks Jessy!

41. takeshi says:

This reminds me of a National Geographic article from the 1980s. At the time, NASA was saying we’d be making the voyage to Mars in the early ’90s. I think it was supposed to take 6 years, round trip.

I wish I knew more about this subject, because I was discussing this with someone just yesterday. Can anyone tell me whether anything besides fuel can carry someone into space? With all these kids sending balloons into space, I’m wondering if we can’t use a similar method for takeoff, conserving precious fuel. Or perhaps some kind of rail gun technology. That’d be stellar.

42. Jessy Randall says:

I take it back, that can’t be my scan; mine is much poorer quality.

43. jphilby says:

You can find the equations of motion here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equations_of_motion

Note:
IF the journey involves arriving at the destination’s surface with zero velocity, THEN you can just calculate the time to travel half the distance, and double that. (With continuous accel., once you’re halfway you need to start decelerating.)
Of course you’ll need to ignore gravity of the sun and planets in this calculation, or it becomes *much* harder.

44. Azrael Brown says:

The scan ModCult posted originally came from my website (but as Jessy said, it’s not an unusual image; at least ModCult had the courtesy to link back to me) — it is from the encyclopedia Our Wonder World, printed around 1918, of which I have a copy and scanned nicely, including removing the seam in the middle. Our Wonder World is a “children’s encyclopedia” style multivolume set; the image above comes from a section about outer space, which on one hand was surprisingly accurate given how we see the early 20th century, and although being written with children in mind.

45. SamSam says:

@takeshi: Yup, there are several ways of getting to space, and several propulsion systems available once you’re in space.

Getting to space you have balloons (BB just had a post on kids doing this), solar sails, the aforementioned lasers, and probably other arcane systems. Thera’s a wikipedia category here which seems to have about a zillion options, but I haven’t looked through it.

46. Takuan says:

â€œBut,â€ I added, â€œhow can I be sure unless I go there?â€

â€œAnd why not?â€ I answered myself immediately. â€œPrometheus once went to heaven to steal fire.â€

These feverish remarks were followed by the hope of succeeding in such a fine voyage. To accomplish it, I established myself in a fairly remote country house and entertained my imagination with various means of transport. Here is how I betook myself to heaven.

I attached to myself a number of bottles of dew, and the heat of the sun, which attracted it, drew me so high that I finally emerged above the highest clouds. But the sunâ€™s attraction of the dew drew me upwards so rapidly that instead of approaching the Moon, as I intended, I seemed to be farther from it than when I started. I broke open some of the bottles and felt my weight overcome the attraction and bring me back towards the earth.”

47. slain by an elf says:

That’s neat! Where’s my USS Crossbow?

48. Anonymous says:

Man a lot of ppl busted out with real math. 60 is a mile a minute, so 120mph.

But, The record for the fastest speed by an unmanned space craft was set by the NASA/German Helios 1 and 2 space probes, which reached 252,800 kph during their orbits of the Sun. Of course, gravity helped.

49. spazzm says:

Note:
IF the journey involves arriving at the destination’s surface with zero velocity, THEN you can just calculate the time to travel half the distance, and double that. (With continuous accel., once you’re halfway you need to start decelerating.)
Of course you’ll need to ignore gravity of the sun and planets in this calculation, or it becomes *much* harder.

You’ll also have to ignore the relative motion of the origin and destination.

50. Anonymous says:

Confirmed: Our Wonder World. Have had this hanging in my bathroom for a while, in my collection for years.

– Trevor Blake

51. takeshi says:

@ SamSam:

Thanks for the insight. Yes, the kids I was referring to in my post were the ones I read about here. I’m just wondering if you could actually get a vessel into space using gas.

Poe wrote a story about a guy who makes a balloon out of newspapers and takes his cat to the moon. I’m just wondering how possible that is, if you remove any expectation of the creatures arriving safely. Assuming you had some terminal illness, I think drifting off into space in your lawnchair might not be a bad way to go.

52. reel aesthete says:

And the way the flag is moving makes no sense. . . wouldn’t it burn up anyway. . . or float. . . I suppose this is why they paint them into metal these days. And now I’m remembering a friend who (re)staged the moon landing (via carl rove’s plan) and them trying to get the flag “right.” Hummmm.

53. Anonymous says:

The chart seems to assume a straight line of travel, using the minimum possible distance from Earth, without taking into account relative motion. At 120 mph, as others have already pointed out.

54. Anonymous says:

how does this help?