“Traveling at 90 percent of the speed of light is not good enough,” said the Research Director. “We want to make a spaceship that will travel at 99.9999 percent of the speed of light.”
“Aren't you being greedy?” asked the Chief Scientist. “Why does it have to go so close to the speed of light?”
“Because of time dilation,” explained the Research Director. “Don't you remember the facts of Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity? Let me refresh your memory. If a spaceship travels at very close to the speed of light, then time slows inside the spaceship. They've known that since the 20th century.”
“Ah yes, I remember,” said the Chief Scientist. “The famous Twin Paradox. You could have one 25-year old twin go on a space voyage near the speed of light, and then come back to Earth in a year. That twin would then only be 26, but he might meet his twin who stayed on Earth, and that twin might be 90 years old.”
“Yes, it all depends on how close you come to the speed of light,” said the Research Director. “The closer you come to the speed of light, the more time dilation there is; the more time slows down for the astronauts. Now if we can make a spaceship that travels at 99.9999 percent of the speed of light, the time dilation factor will be 707. That means our astronauts can make a journey of 700 light years, but it will only seem like a single year to them.”
“But I still don't understand why we need our spaceship to go such a long distance,” said the Chief Scientist.
“Very well, I'll tell you something top secret,” said the Research Director. “They've discovered unmistakable signs of intelligent life on a planet named Aquarius 45G. It's about 700 light years from Earth. We've detected signs of some technology there far more advanced than ours. That's why we want our spaceship to go close to the speed of light – so that it can get to Aquarius 45G in what will seem only a single year to the astronauts.”
After years of trial and error, the grand research team finally developed a spaceship capable of traveling at 99.9999 percent of the speed of light. A team of seven astronauts was selected for the dangerous mission to Aquarius 45G. The hardest part was finding astronauts who would have no problem with the idea that when they finally returned to Earth, it would be 1400 years in the future (even though the mission would only seemed to have lasted two years to the astronauts). The spaceship was named Ultimate Dream.
The Ultimate Dream left the solar system in the year 2175. The time dilation effect worked exactly as Einstein had predicted. Because the ship was traveling at 99.9999 percent of the speed of light, a voyage of about 700 light years was made in what seemed like only a single year to the astronauts on board the ship.
The Ultimate Dream finally reached orbit around the planet Aquarius 45G. A landing craft from the spaceship landed on the planet, and five astronauts began exploring the strange planet.
“We saw huge space stations in orbit around this planet,” said astronaut Joe Freeman. “It shouldn't take us long to find some intelligent life here.”
The astronauts explored for a while. Eventually they came to a lake in the middle of some rocky terrain. At one end of the lake, Joe spotted a strange looking alien building. “There!” Joe cried, pointing his finger. “That's one of their buildings!”
The astronauts entered the building, and were greeted by intelligent life forms with thick necks and huge brains. The astronauts stayed at the building for weeks. It took the extraterrestrials only a few weeks to learn the language the astronauts spoke.
Once communication was established, the astronauts had many questions. The extraterrestrials gave many answers. It was the grandest question and answer session any humans had ever engaged in. The extraterrestrials seemed to have the answer to every question the astronauts could ask.
The astronauts asked: what caused the Big Bang? The extraterrestrials gave the correct answer. The astronauts asked: is there a God? The extraterrestrials gave the correct answer. The astronauts asked: is there life after death? The extraterrestrials gave the correct answer. The astronauts asked: why does there even exist a universe? The extraterrestrials gave the correct answer. The astronauts asked: what are the greatest civilizations in the galaxy? The extraterrestrials gave the correct answer.
The astronauts final question to the extraterrestrials was: how is it you know so much? The extraterrestrials answered: because we are immortals who have had many, many thousands of years to find all these answers.
Finally the astronauts returned to their landing craft, and lifted off from the planet. The landing craft docked with their interstellar spaceship Ultimate Dream.
“We have been given the most astonishing gift of knowledge that the human race has ever received,” said Joe Freeman. “Let's get back to Earth as soon as possible so we can give these revelations of the immortals to the human race. When we get back and tell what we have learned, it will be like the ancient Greek legend of Prometheus giving fire to mankind.”
The ship hurtled through interstellar space, traveling about 700 light years at 99.9999 percent of the speed of light. Halfway through the voyage, some of the crew began to get sick. They developed cancer.
“This is what I was afraid of,” said Sue Hendrix, the mission's doctor. “It's all these cosmic rays we are getting from traveling through space.” Like all astronauts since the twentieth century, the astronauts knew that space is filled with cosmic rays, a hazardous form of radiation that can cause cancer.
By the time the Ultimate Dream reached orbit around planet Earth, all of the crew had died of cancer except for one. Only Joe Freeman remained, and even he had developed advanced cancer. For Joe it had been just as if only two years had passed, because of time dilation.
But Joe was determined that he would return to Earth to give the revelations of the immortals to mankind. He told himself that nothing must stop him from telling the human race about the astonishing cosmic truths that had been revealed to his crew on the planet Aquarius 45G.
Joe got in the landing craft of the spaceship, the same one he had landed on Aquarius 45G. He landed the landing craft near New York City.
A crowd of people surrounded the landing craft. Struggling painfully with his very sick, cancer-filled body, Joe exited the landing craft. Joe looked at the crowd, who were dressed in some clothes unlike any he had ever seen. Of course, thought Joe; because of time dilation it is now 1400 years later on Earth.
He went up to one of the people in the crowd.
“I am one of the astronauts who left Earth 1400 years ago,” said Joe. “And I have the most important knowledge imaginable to transmit to you-- the answer to all of mankind's most profound questions. The answers were all given to us by the extraterrestrials.”
“Shropa nika soyn drog shroopy slong friz,” said the person.
Joe thought to himself: he must be a foreigner; there are lots of those around New York City.
“We made it to Aquarius 45G,” said Joe to another person in the crowd. “Let me tell you all about what we found out from the immortals on that planet. They gave us the most important truths ever discovered by humans.”
“Zyna tring vun syma yoop krong dysterbonitz,” said the person.
Coughing violently, and beginning to bleed internally, Joe tried several other spectators in the crowd. The result was the same. No one could understand a word of what he was saying.
Joe finally realized what had happened. In the 1400 years that had passed on Earth, the English language had changed dramatically. The people now used a language that Joe couldn't understand. None of them could understand the language Joe spoke.
But there was in New York City one scholar who could speak Joe's language. He was a professor who specialized in analyzing old texts from the twenty-second century. His knowledge of twenty-second century English was so good that he could understand most of what Joe spoke.
The scholar was rushed to the place where Joe's landing craft had landed. Pushing through the crowd, the scholar came up to Joe, and began slowly speaking in a heavy accent.
“Hello, my name is David, and I can speak the language you call English, the same language you speak,” said the scholar. “Do you have something to tell me?”
Though his cancer-filled body gave him great pain, Joe was overjoyed. Now at last he could reveal the greatest truths a human had ever discovered! Now at last he could tell someone on Earth the answers to all of man's age-old questions, the answers the immortal extraterrestrials had revealed to him!
Hemorrhaging heavily, Joe struggled to speak. “We found...they told us...” he said.
But then his internal bleeding got the best of him, and Joe died before he could say another word.