|A portion of the Voyage scale model of the
Solar System on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is shown in
the photograph at the bottom of the page. The
real Solar System is exactly 10 billion times larger than the model.
Voyage stretches from the east side of the National Air and
Space Museum to the Smithsonian Castle, as seen on the map below.
The planets depicted above the map are on the same scale as Voyage’s
|Imagine leaving the grapefruit-sized Sun walking westward
toward the Washington Monument. After walking just 50 feet (15 m)
you encounter Earth, home of the human race, and smaller than the
head of a pin. The entire orbit of the Moon fits comfortably in the
palm of your hand. The 50-foot distance between the Earth and Sun
represents 17 years of travel at the speed of a commercial jet.
After a comfortable 20-minute walk, stopping along the way to visit
a number of other worlds, you arrive at the Smithsonian Castle Building,
6.5 football fields west of the model Sun (2000 ft or 600 m). Here,
just visible, is tiny Pluto—far smaller than the head of a pin.
Looking back at the model Sun, across over 6 football fields of empty
space, you realize that Earth is no more than a small speck of dust
orbiting close to the Sun. How does the human race even know Pluto
If you could continue your walk westward, you wouldn't find the nearest
star to our Sun—Proxima Centauri—until you had reached
the California coast. The Sun and Proxima Centauri are just two stars
in our home 'city of stars'—the Milky Way galaxy. The Milky
Way, an insignificant plot of real estate in the greater universe,
contains enough stars to give 50 to every human being on Earth. How
insignificant is the Milky Way? It is only one of over 100,000,000,000
galaxies in the observable universe.
Light, the fastest thing in the universe, can circle the Earth 7.5
times in one second, traveling 40,000 times faster than the space
shuttle. The speed of light on the scale of Voyage is 1 inch
per second (2.5 cm/sec), about the speed of a fast ant. Leaving the
model Sun an ant would arrive at the model Earth in eight minutes,
Pluto in 6 hours, and a model Proxima Centauri in California after
4.5 years. Put another way—exploring just the space between
the Sun and nearest star to the Sun at the fantastic speed of light,
would be like exploring the continental United States as a colony
This is the story of our existence--a race of explorers, 6 billion
tiny souls strong. It is a story that ignites wonder about the universe,
and a sense of pride in our ability to reveal its nature through both
human imagination and ingenuity. It is a story that humbles us, and
brings a sense of humility to our lives.
It is a Voyage that will forever change your perspective