The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times over many years and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travelers and researchers.
The introduction begins like this:
Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-boggling big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space. Listen… and so on.
(After awhile the style settles down a bit and it begins to tell you things you really need to know, like the fact that the fabulously beautiful planet Bethselamin is now so worried about the cumulative erosion by ten billion visiting tourists a year that any net imbalance between the amount you eat and the amount you excrete while on the planet is surgically removed from your body weight when you leave: so every time you go to the lavatory there it is vitally important to get a receipt.)
To be fair though, when confronted by the sheer enormity of the distances between the stars, better minds than the one responsible for the Guide's introduction have faltered. Some invite you to consider for a moment a peanut in Reading and a small walnut in Johannesburg, and other such dizzying concepts.
The simple truth is that interstellar distances will not fit into the human imagination.
Even light, which travels so fast that it takes most races thousands of years to realize that it travels at all, takes time to journey between the stars. It takes eight minutes to journey from the star Sol to the place where the Earth used to be, and four years more to arrive at Sol's nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Proxima.
For light to reach the other side of the Galaxy, for it to reach Damogran, for instance, takes rather longer: five hundred thousand years. *
The record for hitchhiking this distance is just under five years, but you don't get to see much on the way.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy says that if you hold a lungful of air you can survive in the total vacuum of space for about thirty seconds. However, it does go on to say that what with space being the mind-boggling size it is the chances of getting picked up by another ship within those thirty seconds are two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand, seven hundred and nine to one against.
*The editor of this page would like to suggest that it in fact takes one hundred thousand years, but would also like to stress that he has been wrong about things from time to time.
THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY series was written by Douglas Adams. If you're amused by any of the entries here, trust me, you'll like his books, from which I took them, infinitely more. -tek