An ambitious effort for an interstellar travel planning organization officially kicked off this week, after DARPA awarded $500,000 to form the 100-Year Starship initiative. Former astronaut Mae Jemison, whose proposal was selected earlier this year, will lead the new independent organization. The goal is to ensure that the capability for human interstellar travel exists within the next 100 years.
The year 2245 is just too distant — we should build and commission a real USS Enterprise right now, cracking the champagne across her hull within 20 years, according to an enterprising engineer. The gigantic ship would use ion propulsion, powered by a 1.5-GW nuclear reactor, and could reach Mars in three months and the moon in three days. Its 0.3-mile-diameter, magnetically suspended gravity wheel spinning at 2 RPM would provide 1G of gravity, and the thing looks just like the "Star Trek" ship of lore.
A project to pave the way for humanity's journey to the stars will be helmed by a former astronaut, Mae Jemison, already a pioneer in her own right. She will lead DARPA's 100-Year Starship project, the BBC says, citing DARPA documents.
Jemison, the first black woman in space, was one of scores of people to submit proposals for DARPA's ambitious project. It doesn't seek to build an actual starship per se but rather a program that can last 100 years, and might one day result in one.
Fragmented human genomes could be shipped toward the stars and reconstructed upon their arrival, spawning the first interstellar citizens and avoiding the problems of long-distance space survival.
That's just one idea — proposed by genome pioneer J. Craig Venter — emerging from the field of dreams seeded by DARPA's 100-Year Starship project. DARPA is collecting proposals for a conference on the starship project this fall.
Since its inception (okay, since the early 1960s) the United States has been the world leader in space travel and exploration, taking the lead in crafting mankind's vision and agenda for humanity's role in space. So it made sense when NASA and DARPA announced their joint "100-Year Starship" study last year to explore the possibility of a one-way manned mission to another planet.