Could Human Beings Ever Reach 'Earth 2.0'?
by KEITH WAGSTAFF
But don't pack your bags just yet. While the planet might seem like a tantalizing target for NASA's next mission, it's extremely unlikely that human beings will ever set foot on Kepler-452b, thanks to the 1,400 light-years they would have to travel to get there.
The separate discovery of the closest confirmed rocky exoplanet to Earth, HD 219134b, was announced by NASA on Thursday — that one's only 21 light-years away.
So what makes Kepler-452b so great? NASA called it "Earth 2.0" for a reason. It's a "Goldilocks planet," meaning it sits in the habitable zone of its star, where the temperatures are not too hot or cold for liquid water to form.
HD 219134b, on the other hand, is a broiler of a planet, way too close to its sun for water or life to ever develop.
Meet Kepler-452b: Earth's 'Bigger, Older Cousin' 1:45
Scientists still need more data, but there is a strong possibility that Kepler-452b has a rocky surface and a thick atmosphere. It might not be Risa, the tropical vacation planet from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," but it's the best candidate NASA has found so far for another planet that might support life.
How far away is 1,400 light-years?
Even in science fiction, that is not a quick journey. If Captain Jean-Luc Picard wanted to travel from Earth to Kepler-452b, it would take the USS Enterprise more than 16 months traveling at warp 8 to reach its destination.
Related: Kepler-452b: NASA Mission Discovers 'Older, Bigger Cousin' to Earth
That is for a ship that can go faster than the speed of light — which, as far as we know, is impossible. Sticking to existing technology, a trip to Kepler-452b might take so long human beings could evolve into a different species before the spacecraft completed its mission.
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