Consciousness, according to Google, is 'the state or quality of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind'.
Unconsciousness, according to Google, is 'the state of being uninformed or unaware'. This may also be referred to as the subconscious part of the mind, although this is not in technical use in psychoanalysis, where unconscious is preferred.
Interstellar travel, according to Wikipedia, is the term used for hypothetical piloted or unpiloted travel between stars or planetary systems. The authors of the Wikipedia page go on to state that interstellar travel will be much more difficult than interplanetary spaceflight; the distances between the planets in the Solar System are less than 30 astronomical units (AU)—whereas the distances between stars are typically hundreds of thousands of AU, and usually expressed in light-years. Because of the vastness of those distances, interstellar travel would require a high percentage of the speed of light, or huge travel time, lasting from decades to millennia or longer.
According to Space.com, the fastest object ever launched into space is the Voyager 1 probe, and it would take nearly 75,000 years to reach our nearest star.
With all of our clever thinking, the possible (hypothetical) means of interstellar travel discussed or theorised today, can be listed as the following: Rocket technology (nuclear, ion or plasma), Lightsail, Bussard Ramjoet (collecting fuel on the way), Slow Boat (sleeper's ship, seed ship or Einzmann Starship (frozen hydrogen fuelling nuclear fusion rockets)), Faster Than Light (FTL) travel (distorted space time bubble around a starship), and an antimatter annihilation drive. Sci-fi right? Right.
It may disappoint some people when they realise that each one of the above means of transport of our mostly organic bodies to interstellar space has one or more extreme flaws, i.e. in consideration of the natural laws of physics, each of the method listed above is either impractical or will just not work no matter how much effort we apply.
Light, the fastest thing known, which travels at approximately 300,000,000 metres/second, requires more than 4 years to get to the nearest star. Is there anything faster than light? The simple and logical answer is no!
However, some people have recently considered the importance of the speed of conscious thought via neurons in our body and also via reflex actions, i.e. those responses that do not involve neurons engaged in conscious thought.
In the human context, according to Earthsky.org, the signals carried by the large-diameter, myelinated neurons that link the spinal cord to the muscles can travel at an average speed of 150 metres per second, while signals traveling along the same paths carried by the small-diameter, unmyelinated fibers of the pain receptors travel only at speeds ranging from 0.5-2 metres/second.
I know..I know...that doesn't sound very fast in comparison to the speed of light. But wait, what about the reflex actions and/or the unquantifiable intuition that we all possess? If we consider than there are approximately 100 billion neurons in the human brain and there are currently 7.5 billion people on the planet, that is a lot neural activity, and (I am guessing that) not all is engaging conscious thought.
But what is all of this neural activity currently focussed on? Possibly today, for the majority of people (I include myself) conscious neural activity is probably dictated by the mainstream media, e.g. sport, advertising, politics, fear, self, sex, hatred, survival etc. It would appear that in comparison not much of the conscious neural activity of the worlds population is focussed on interstellar space travel, apart of course from the popular sci-fi movies and the latest 'scientists discover' articles in the news.
What about the unconscious (subconscious) part of our brain? Could this be used for interstellar travel? To understand what is going on here we can focus on the theory and practice of mediation in conjunction with the function of our pineal gland.
Firstly, let's deal with meditation. How is the brain activity affected during the meditative state? Is there more activity or less in our brains during meditation? This is where things get really interesting. Using modern technology like fMRI scans, scientists have developed a more thorough understanding of what’s taking place in our brains when we meditate (Reference). The overall difference during meditation is that our brains stop processing information as actively as they normally would and we start to show a decrease in beta waves (13-30 Hz). Beta brain waves are the brain states of our normal waking consciousness. Nearly all forms of action, thinking, and problem solving are done with a beta brain wave. Most people spend most of their waking lives in a beta state.
With a reduction of beta brain waves during the meditative state, comes an increase in alpha brain waves (7-13 Hz), the brain state of relaxation and meditation. This is accompanied by a lesser but possibly important increase in delta brainwaves (0.1-4Hz), the brain state of deep sleep and unconsciousness, and also theta brainwaves (4-7 Hz), the brain state of REM sleep (dreams), hypnosis, lucid dreaming, or the barely conscious state just before sleeping and just after waking.
The pineal gland is a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain. The shape of the gland resembles a pine cone, hence its name. It is located in the epithalamus, near the center of the brain, between the two hemispheres, tucked in a groove where the two halves of the thalamus join. The pineal gland produces melatonin, a serotonin-derived hormone that modulates sleep patterns in both circadian and seasonal cycles. Nearly all vertebrate species possess a pineal gland.
From the point of view of biological evolution, the pineal gland represents a kind of atrophied photoreceptor. In the epithalamus of some species of amphibians and reptiles, it is linked to a vestigial organ, known as the parietal eye, which is also called the third eye.
The Egyptians and the Greeks both believed that the pineal gland was our connection to the realms of thought. René Descartes believed the pineal gland to be the "principal seat of the soul" (a mystical concept). Academic philosophy among his contemporaries considered the pineal gland as a neuroanatomical structure without special metaphysical qualities. However, the pineal gland continues to have an exalted status in the realm of 'pseudoscience'. I am guessing that the design and function of our pineal gland was not an evolutionary mistake.
Now what has all this got to do with interstellar space travel? Well it is clear that for the foreseeable future we are not going to achieve more than inter-planetary travel due, in part, to the large distances involved and problems of propulsion through the vacuum of space. Also, if we are thinking of going along for the ride, we would be trying to attempt this even though we are aware that the organic shell we dwell in does not appear to travel well - so why try in the first place!
For interplanetary adventures, I am sure we will somehow manage to be physically present in the future...but then this type of (commercial) voyage would be about seeking and manipulating resources rather than trying to discover and/or connect with other forms of intelligence outside of our own. In contrast, our mysterious 'subconscious thought', which can be accessed initially by meditation, may well provide us all of the answers we seek.
As the boy in the video below says, 'Do not try to bend the spoon (similar to travelling physically through interstellar space), that's impossible. Instead, only try to realise the truth'. It is not physical communication that is actually required, this would appear to be an exploration that is not warranted or required. It is simply communication that we seek and it appears that this may achieved by entering the meditative state, with the ultimate aim of achieving activation of the pineal gland.
As a friend of mine once told me, "Open your mind, because there is no way in the world to graft a new idea onto a closed one".