“Space is big. Really big.” This is how The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy begins, a fictional, electronic travel manual in Douglas Adams’ book of the same name. Right up front, Adams wants everyone to understand – or at least to acknowledge – that space is very, very big. And to really drive this point home, he then adds “vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big.”
Like many people, I struggle to wrap my head around the sheer bigness of space. I know that our galaxy, the Milky Way, has an estimated visible diameter of 100,000-200,000 light-years. But even though I know this as a fact, it remains abstract. Luckily, Star Trek has on many occasions provided some much-needed context for those of us who find sci-fi more easily accessible than maths.
One of my favorite examples is Star Trek: Voyager. Specifically, the predicament of the entire crew, and the entire series, as presented in the very first episode.
An alien entity called ‘The Caretaker’ drags USS Voyager from the Alpha Quadrant, our local galactic neighborhood, to the Delta Quadrant, some 70,000 light-years away over on the other side of the galaxy.