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How big is a human's (space) bubble - in other words: how far could we (as mankind) transport a human being from Earth in such a way that the being would be still alive? (Let's not consider returning.)

I'm a novice in space travel but I suspect the most difficult part is sustaining life in space for a non-trivial period without external support; the second most difficult might be accelerating the spacecraft in such a way that it covers the most distance in the available timeframe. (Colloquially: The bigger the spacecraft the easier I'd believe to support living on it; however it makes it harder to move around.)

Since it's a fully speculative exercise, everything that's realistically available currently or could be built in a relatively short time based on what we know and possess now can be used.

I guess it's a much-discussed scenario (by beers or otherwise) but I don't know how to search for it. Any pointers are welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ I doubt there's any answer. Long term consequences of microgravity are unknown. Radiation causes cancer only statistically, immediately for some, never for others. And there are big individual differences. It is known how to protect against microgravity (by rotating the spacecraft) and radiation (by carrying shielding). So it is a matter of spacecraft design. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Aug 31 '17 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say mars is the furthest thats realistically possible. After that, transfer times just get too high and it gets difficult to bring enough resources (Food, Water, Electricity). Hoewver, how much further then Mars is mere speculation, and I doubt you will find any credible study on it - its simply not an interesting research question (we tend to want to bring people back). $\endgroup$ – Polygnome Sep 1 '17 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ Humans landed on Mars may do a lot of research there. Research of that kind that would be difficult to do with robots only. But what research should the humans do during that extreme space travel? Something that can't be done by robots. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Sep 1 '17 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ Do you want to consider only spacecraft that are currently in service, or any spacecraft buildable with current technology? $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Sep 1 '17 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes: I'm thinking more about the lines whatever is possible to build "within a decade" or so. I'd only exclude technology that we will "surely" invent/bring into the realm of standard space engineering. $\endgroup$ – fastcatch Sep 2 '17 at 7:26
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Assuming unlimited funding and limited concern for astronaut safety, anywhere in the solar system is reachable.

Assuming you aren't building a space farm, which is entirely new technology, the liniting factor is probably food - air and water are fairly easy to store indefinitely.

New Horizons got to Pluto in about 8 years, and a quick search suggests that although canned goods are typically expected to last two to five years, they may be nutritious (if unappetizing) for decades.

Given more reasonable constraints, Mars is definitely doable, with Jupiter and Saturn possible albeit extremely expensive because the efficient transfer would take longer than the food will last.

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  • $\begingroup$ If by "anywhere in the solar system" you mean up to Pluto, then based on the parameters of your answer I think you're fine. I agree that the way the question is talking, it seems like we can probably throw someone pretty far and plausibly keep them surviving the journey out (if we're not worried about what happens after that point). $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Sep 1 '17 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ I'd would have guessed myself somewhere in the heliosphere (based on the Voyager mission). You are probably right, however, that food supplies are unlikely to last that long (esp. weight-wise, though; I guess dried food lasts "forever"). My other concern is psychological: how much humans can endure in that regard. (I guess that is purely speculative for as far as I know no research has ever even been attempted on that.) $\endgroup$ – fastcatch Sep 2 '17 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ @fastcatch: There are ways around most of these problems. The astronaut could be spending most of the time in chemically induced coma. That would reduce resource intake too, and in space muscle atrophy isn't that much of a problem. The main problem here is cost:benefit ratio - that's a pointless, morally dubious endeavor, and expensive as hell. $\endgroup$ – SF. Sep 3 '17 at 23:17

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