Is the Millennium Falcon the fastest ship in science fiction?

Contributed by
Dec 18, 2015

With the Millennium Falcon back in action (at last!) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, here's a way to see if it really is the "fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy."

Over at Slate, they came up a little while back with a widget -- at least partially based on some actual science, and the rest based on what each vessel's creators made up about it -- that set the Falcon against a number of other vehicles from major sci-fi franchises to see if making the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs really was as big a deal as Han Solo once made it sound.

The chart, which can be seen here, features nine different spacecraft (including our own, real-life Voyager 1) and can tally how quickly each one of them would get to Alpha Centauri (our closest galactic neighbor at 4.2 light-years away), the center of the Milky Way (27,000 light-years away) and the Andromeda Galaxy (the closest galaxy to our own, at 2.5 million light-years distant).

In addition to the Falcon and Voyager, ships in the survey include the original Enterprise from Star Trek, the TARDIS from Doctor Who, the Heart of Gold from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Planet Express from Futurama, the Jupiter 2 from Lost in Space, Serenity from Firefly/Serenity and the Galactica (as in Battlestar).

Not surprisingly, Voyager is the slowest of the bunch, simply because we lack any sort of technology to go sliding through wormholes or whizzing along at warp speed. It would take poor little V'Ger thousands of years just to schlep over to Alpha Centauri, while the next slowest ships, the Serenity and the Jupiter 2, would zip over in decades and years, respectively.

As for whether the Falcon is the fastest of them all, based on the available evidence it beats the Enterprise, for example, pretty handily, even taking just days to get to Andromeda while the Enterprise would take millennia. But even the Falcon's vaunted (and much-repaired) hyperdrive can't match the likes of an infinite improbability drive (Heart of Gold), a dark matter drive (Planet Express) and whatever the hell the TARDIS runs on.

The bottom line? The next time someone says to you, "See you around the galaxy" (bonus points if you know where that line came from), it would only be reasonable to ask them what they're currently driving.