The Speed of Voyager

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Voyager' started by culleyb, Nov 5, 2010.

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Nov 5, 2010
So I downloaded the entire Star trek Voyager series, and I have just finished the first episode of the second season. In it Paris says to Amelia Earheart that voyager can travel "warp 9.9, in your terms thats about 4 billion miles per second"

I am a mechanical engineer and could not help myself checking to see if it would actually take you 75 years as is stated at the begining of the series to cross the galaxy.

The milky way is approx 100,000 ly across, at 5.87849981*10^12 miles per ly this is 587,849,981,000,000,000 miles. A truely massive number.

The problem is that at 4 billion miles per second, or 126,144,000,000,000,000 miles per year it would take you only 4.66 YEARS ( not 75 years) to cross the entire diameter of the galaxy.

This seems like a gross miscalculation. Am I missing something?

Star Trek: Voyager, like all other Star Trek series, operates at the speed the plot requires of it. Never a wise idea to examine it too closely.

Last edited: Nov 5, 2010

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Aug 26, 2003
Starships, like most vehicles, are probably capable of short dashes at high speed, but incapable of sustaining that speed for any significant length of time.

All right, so on two other occasions it was claimed that the ship could sustain warp 9.975 (or at least this speed was called "sustainable cruising speed"), which would be even faster than warp 9.9. But another episode clearly established that even one minute at warp 9.7 would tear the ship apart - so apparently "sustainable" is typical military-industrial bullshitspeak and means "sustainable for a few seconds"...

Timo Saloniemi

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It's a miscalculation, mainly because Warp Speed factors were never meant to mean anything. Going at whatever is considered the average warp speed would take you 1000 LY in 1 year according to VOY. So 75,000 LY is supposed to be a 75 year journey at maintainable speeds (since they can't keep going at maximum warp for that long, they have to slow down sometimes).

So the only concrete thing is the 1 year = 1000 LY, and even that was sort of inconsistent with prior TOS/TNG stories.

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In the "making of" book (I can't remember it's name), there are memos from the technical consultants saying that Voyager's top speed of warp 9.975 is "too fast", and would get them across the galaxy too soon. Then again, warp speed in Trek has never ever been consistant - the TOS Enterprise reached the rim of the galaxy in the first episode, in STV they go from Earth to the centre of the galaxy in hours, a few TOS episodes make random speed/distance claims, the NX-01 reached Rigel and then Kronos in days at warp 5 etc. Star Trek moves at "speed of plot".

Oh, and downloading episodes is illegal. Buy the DVD's like the rest of us.

6. The_BaronCommanderRed Shirt

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Clearly, Tom left the handbrake on, thus slowing down the ship.
Plus he probably ran into roadworks, congestion and that.
And Tuvok would have insisted on stopping at every service station for a wee.

Plus, I bet there were a few average speed cameras on the way too.

7. The_BaronCommanderRed Shirt

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Of course, he could have paid to download them from an online store, like iTunes...

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But it would make sense for 1 week to be much more than the 20 ly you get by simple dividing, because you'd make fewer pit stops in 1 week than in 1 year. And the distance covered in 1 day would again be much more than the weekly distance divided by seven. And the distance for 1 hour would be more than the daily one divided by 24.

The distance you cover in a second could easily be 4 billion miles... But only in the first second.

Timo Saloniemi

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That's what I mean by how even the 75 years thing was inconsistent with prior Trek like TOS and TNG.

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Good point. Maybe I'm just assuming the worst.

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Oct 16, 2003
I would sooner take that as the inability of the writers to adhere to the established technology ... forcing them to dumb down aspects of Trek (by a fairly high amount - and done on multiple occasions) in order to increase the drama, instead of coming up with a solution that would incorporate the drama with the existing tech.

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It's not the VOY writers fault that no one before them hammered down just how far and how fast a Starship could go.

And if they did stick to how Warp Drive could apparently take you to the edge of the Galaxy like nothing, then the entire premise of the show falls apart.

I mean, DS9 did the same thing by having the Wormhole take them 75,000 LY away to the Gamma Quadrant and talking about how incredible this was. But no one complained that they weren't adhering to past Trek tech levels since Warp Drive should already be able to take them that far.

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If you encounter a problem with the show's premise being in danger due to tech ... then here's a way out:
They could have simply stated that their new engine suffered heavy damage that would essentially take significant amount of time to repair without access to a star-base (and making repairs on the go would be limited at best - at least when it comes to restoring full sustainable speed).

They could have incrementally increased their speed by the end of each year.
By the time they reached the Borg, there could have been some interesting scenes with the chase at high warp because the ship could hypothetically keep up and increase their speed as the story with the Borg progressed (which could further peak the Borg's interests).

Even in the regular show, it was by early season 4 that the crew started to view their situation as 'when we get home' and not 'if'.
So I really don't see the problem in how this is different with them being able to get back to Federation space under their own power (eventually, with at first being the question IF they will be able to fix their engines to the point to allow them to travel as fast).

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Because then it sort of renders DS9 moot as well. If it's that easy to get 75,000 LY away then there's no real value to the Wormhole. And even in TOS things get silly over their grand exploration missions if it's so easy to traverse the entire Galaxy.

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The Wormhole still allows access to the Gamma Quadrant in just a few seconds.
Also, StarFleet in the late 24th century is essentially about a decade or two away from achieving faster Warp speeds as it is (which would again render the Wormhole a moot point).

There is no real reason to think the show wouldn't be able to work with the technology they have.
The writers would simply have to go about writing the story a bit differently so it doesn't clash with the technology.

Trek pocket books for example seem to get by as do most well thought off fan-fictions.

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Seeing, how the shows themselves (including TOS) can't even be bothered to be consistent with how fast warp is I don't see why VOY can't stay as it was.

The problem with Voyager is the fact that they gave you two hard numbers. How far they were from home (75,000 light years) and how fast the ship could go (4 billion miles per second).

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Yeah, but TOS+ do things like have the Enterprise to to the edge of the Galaxy and then later have "We won't make it there in time!" stories.

So it's the same problen, inverted.

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Oct 16, 2003
That's just stupid writing.
Had the writers actually cared, they could have easily made some quick calculations and at the very least make the distances involved consistent with the Warp speed required to traverse it in the designated time-frame.

Using speed of the plot is idiotic at best because you are using one speed that's faster than anything you previously used, and on another, you are so slow to the point where it's taking you 10 seconds to traverse several hundred thousand km's at Warp 4 (when realistically, it would take you a fraction of a milisecond at THAT speed - more or less).