With ’100 Year Starship’, NASA, DARPA Seek to Build Long-Distance Space Exploration Organization
Star Trek is everyone’s favorite Utopian space opera — the premise hinges on the fact that humanity has become so peaceful and enlightened that it dedicates its time and resources sending the likes of William Shatner and Patrick Stewart to explore the reaches of space in pajama-like uniforms. Well, we’re not quite there yet — we’re still dealing with war, poverty, climate change, and resource depletion here — but that doesn’t mean the US government doesn’t want to start shooting for long-distance space exploration anyways.
Network World has some details:
What started out as an idea about how to further explore the outer reaches of space is now beginning to take more serious shape as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) today issued a call for industry information on how to form such as cosmic entity. Specifically DARPA said it issued a Request For Information intended to solicit ideas and information on structure and approach, and identify parties qualified and interested in furthering what’s known as the 100 Year Starship project. DARPA says the 100 Year Starship Study is a project to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible. The Department of Defense and NASA are also involved in the Starship project.
We’ve looked at the viability of private sector space travel before — as well as NASA’s vision for businesses to set up shop in orbit, in a weird mining operation/luxury lifestyle hub concept that was actually dreamed up by scientists in the 1970s — and it certainly presents its fair share of worries. But given that the government isn’t likely to dole out the amount of funding needed to back a project like this, perhaps partnerships with ambitious companies like Elon Musk’s Space X will indeed speed the process. Remember, Musk claims his company will have a man on Mars in 10-20 years — that’s the kind of gusto that a 100 Year Starship program needs.
Also, it’s worth noting that while some will surely frown at such an idea as superfluous — creating a real-life Star Trek expedition to someday go gallivanting around the galaxy may seem a tad exorbitant during lean economic times — the research and investment in a program like this will no doubt spur innovation in related fields as well. NASA’s research in the space program has brought about more progress in everyday utility than you’d ever know — but that’s another post.
In short, there’s no doubt that the prospect of long distance space travel is captivating. But it’s also something that’s closer to fruition than many would believe, and those prone to long-term thinking would agree that it’s a better use of our resources than interminable wars in the middle east.
Photo credit: Rebecca Seung via Flickr/CC BY