Since a black hole only has as much gravity as it did before it collapsed, it's perfectly safe to orbit it. Do any countries have plans to send a probe to orbit a black hole? What is the timeframe?

  • $\begingroup$ The black hole will continue to add mass and increase its gravity over time. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2013 at 3:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Don Yes, but if you orbit it high enough you can expect to get years of operation. $\endgroup$
    – user12
    Sep 12, 2013 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ Seems so. Is there one close enough to visit to arrive within the next few hundred years? $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2013 at 3:49
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    $\begingroup$ It's probably easier to make one here than to get to one way the heck out there. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Adler
    Feb 16, 2014 at 6:47
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    $\begingroup$ They're all light years away. We'd never be able to reach one with current technology in a realistic amount of time. $\endgroup$ Aug 27, 2015 at 15:35

3 Answers 3


No, for these reasons:

  • We're not yet entirely sure of any black holes being black holes. If you want to send a very expensive probe on a mission to inspect a black hole, you need to first be sure that it indeed is a black hole.
  • No black hole candidates are close to us. It would take very, very long to get results.
  • We don't have near-light-speed propulsion technology. Voyager 1 is a pithy 125 AU away from us. Propulsion technology has improved since then, but not the the extent that we can send something at near light speed. To reach such speeds one needs to accelerate, and for that the probe needs to carry lots of fuel, which in turn makes it harder to accelerate.
  • There's no way to tell the probe what to do once it's gone. We have a 4 minute lag for the Mars rovers, which isn't too bad because we can still respond to new data. This can't be done for a probe that's going so far away. If there are any problems, it's sunk. This means that will have to set it on a very precise path and then just pray we aimed it right. This brings me to my next point:
  • We don't have the technology to aim so well. We could include an onboard computer that is able to dynamically correct the path, but this requires extra fuel on the ship for thrusters. If the probe is going at near light speed, it will take a lot of fuel to deflect its path.
  • The cost. Getting to the technological levels listed above probably would cost many, many times more than the entire world economy put together.

With all these hurdles, we don't even know where to start on making such a probe, (and if we did, we would have to wait a long time to make it and a lot more time to get results). In light of that, the cost is very hard to justify.

It's far better to focus on things that are within our reach (the Moon, and Mars for manned missions, other planets and possibly our outer solar system for probes), and use these goals to improve out technology. When we are reasonably close to having the required technology, we can work on a black hole probe.


No so far there is no plan to send probe to orbit black hole but we are more interested in finding the presence of black hole.

One of the reason for not sending probe to black hole is that they are not close to earth

Wikipedia article states as

V4641 Sagittarii ( V4641 Sgr ) is a variable X-ray binary star system in the constellation Sagittarius ...... At the time, it was considered to be the closest known black hole to Earth, at a distance of approximately 1,600 light-years (490 pc)

So with it is approximately 15141 trillion kilometres from earth and with the speed of voyager 1 (17 Km/s). It will take 890.64706 trillion seconds (30 million years ) to get there . We don't have propulsion system to take a probe to black hole ( only way is with the help of gravity assist and warp drive in case it is developed successfully)

  • $\begingroup$ "... not close to Earth" -- I'm quite confused. Is it really a necessity? I mean, what do you mean by "close" here? For instance, I can say that ISS is closer to Earth than Chandrayan, which is closer than Curiosity, which is closer than Juno (well, for future viewers), which is closer than Cassini and finally, to Voyager (just crossed the heliopause). Now, there are a lot ofclose here. So, are these close to your suggestion? (or) can you redefine your "close"? (BTW, I wouldn't imagine a blackhole to be closer to my home) :D $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2013 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ @CrazyBuddy: Read that last paragraph; at Voyager 1 speeds, it would take about 30 million years to get there. Sending a probe to the nearest known black hole is completely impractical with current technology. If we foolishly launched such a probe tomorrow, more advanced probes, launched, say, 100 or 1000 years from now, would pass it on the way there. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2013 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithThompson: Nah, both answers addressed that. But, my confusion is focused here: "because we don't have a blackhole close to Earth" What does "close" signify? What I said is, "We have sent Cassini to Saturn even though it's farther than Mars". So, how exactly can you say something as "close"? It depends on our technology. Roughly, it can be phrased as "close to our solar system" (because, we've browsed throughout) or, "we can't send probes to stay farther than the Oort cloud" or something like that. Simply "close" can mean almost anything ;-) $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2013 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ @CrazyBuddy I think it's safe to assume that, in this case, "close" is relative to that within our solar system. Technically, you could get nitpicky anytime someone uses the word "close" without a frame of reference. But people are usually wont to understand the relative measures at hand. In other words, you're making a fuss over nothing and are very close to being annoying. ;) $\endgroup$ Dec 2, 2013 at 2:42

No. It's too far.

Even if the Alcubierre-White Warp Drive does work as hoped for (10C), the nearest black holes would remain centuries away. The nearest is more than 1500 LY away. Our best long-term power sources are good for under a half a century, and won't come close to powering the Alcubierre-White Warp Drive.

And the only scientifically reasonable drive that could make it feasible is not even yet to practical lab testing. Dr. White hasn't released even preliminary test data yet. We don't know if it will even generate a practical sublight warp, let alone Dr. White's predicted 10C.

Black Holes don't exist?

According to the leading mind on Black Holes, Dr. Stephen Hawking, as of the start of 2014, black holes don't exist. (Not that supermassive objects don't. It's just that it's that they don't meet the definition, and, per Dr. Hawking, nothing probably does.)

So, from that point of view, there are no black holes to send a probe to.