If NASA ever gets a clear directive for interplanetary exploration, a new Hundred-Year Starship could be their version of the Mayflower. And like the first pilgrims, Martian explorers might set sail with the knowledge they would never return home.
NASA and DARPA have joined forces to build something called a Hundred-Year Starship, according to the director of NASA's Ames Research Center. Simon "Pete" Worden said NASA contributed $100,000 to the project and DARPA kicked in $1 million.
"The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds," Worden said, according to a Singularity University blog that covered the event. "Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired." (Worden added that he was fired by President George W. Bush.)
Beyond that, there are no details. But the prospect of a DARPA-NASA spaceship collaboration for Star Trek-esque exploration sounds thrilling — even if by definition, a 100-year ship means leaving Earth and never coming back.
Incidentally, that's exactly the proposal in a new paper in press in the Journal of Cosmology, a relatively new, peer-reviewed open access journal. Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Paul Davies suggest sending astronauts to Mars with the intention of staying for the rest of their lives, as trailblazers for a permanent Mars colony.
They would get periodic supply missions, but they would be expected to fend for themselves for water, shelter, nutrients and mineral/chemical processing. They would be expected to develop some kind of homegrown Martian industry, which could ultimately serve as a hub for an expanded colonization program. Plus, leaving some people on another planet would probably ensure that we'd want to go back, to visit them and see what they created.
Such a mission would save money, the authors say, because the prohibitive costs (in dollars and payload) of a manned Mars mission are mostly associated with bringing the astronauts home.
"Eliminating the need for returning early colonists would cut the costs several fold and at the same time ensure a continuous commitment to the exploration of Mars and space in general," they write.
In a news release, Davies, a cosmologist at Arizona State University's Beyond Center, compared would-be Mars colonists to swashbuckling explorers like Columbus and Amundsen.
"It would really be little different from the first white settlers of the North American continent, who left Europe with little expectation of return," he said.
Still, getting there would require an advanced propulsion system that could get off the ground with minimal fuel and land safely. At the weekend event, a Long Now Foundation-funded conference in San Francisco, Worden also said NASA is also exploring electric propulsion systems.
He believes we should go to the moons of Mars first, and believes it can happen by 2030.
"(Google cofounder) Larry Page asked me a couple weeks ago how much it would cost to send people one way to Mars and I told him $10 billion, and his response was, 'Can you get it down to 1 or 2 billion?' So now we're starting to get a little argument over the price," Worden said.
Of course, that price tag does not include the inestimable cost of saying goodbye forever. NASA has worked with several psychologists and psychiatrists to study future astronauts' response to isolation and long-term absence from loved ones — but a permanent absence is even more complicated.
Schulze-Makuch, a Washington State University associate professor, said he would do it — but only after his kids are grown.
This is great. I'd love to sign up. I'd have my Civil Engineering degree by then, and could help with development.
This is like the Wright Brothers trying to fly across the Atlantic, we just aren't ready.
I will be the one to go but they need to send me with some hot chick if i get some fat Russian space lady for a mate noooo wayyyy
2020? Whoah, get me a flight suit on order now! Computers might have had that kind of rapid acceleration, but space travel won't see any of that kind of rapid development. Unless it become entirely commercial with profit to be made, space travel will not become viable for another 75 years between planets if at all. (I'm being overly pessimistic today.)
Whoa! Comparing a trip and stay on Mars with the discovery and colonization of the new world is not possible. First of all the new world had free air, water, flora and fawna to use for sustainment. True, the trip was frought with dangers and they needed to carry provisions for the trip and some did not land in hospitable areas. But you could always count on breathing wherever you went.
As we have found out from the probes we have sent those items necessary to sustain life (air, water and food) doesn't freely exist on Mars (a food source probably doesn't exist at all on Mars). To have a viable colony on Mars they would need to send air, water, food, medicine, tools to build complex machines to create shelters and build the mechanisms to extract any sustainable products from the environment.
Power generation is a big consideration, solar cells on Mars have a limited cycle due to planatary orbits and the dust storms and they need to be huge to create any real usable power. A nuclear reactor could be the answer but the weight of shielding it and the risk of an accident in the Earth's atmosphere while sending such a system to Mars are factors to consider.
Shielding the colononists from cosmic rays is another question. Mars has a very thin atmosphere and a very weak magnetosphere so the surface is bombarded by solar radiation and other cosmic rays that the Earth's thicker atmosphere and magnetosphere protects the flora and fauna from harm. Unprotected exposure on the surface of Mars to the thin atmosphere, the cosmic rays and the cold would quickly be fatal to a human or a plant.
It is hoped, no experiment has yet been placed on the surface of Mars to demonstrate the possibility, that early Mars explorers would be able to extract water and breathable air. Without that any further operations are not possible without massive supplies carried along of shipped in re-supply missions from Earth. If those two components can be extracted the next issues are power, food and shelter with food being the first priority. It is expected that they would set up some form of agriculture (most likely hydroponics to start, we have no tests at growing anything in Martian soil) that requires water and shelter from the Martian storms and cold, heat to maintain growing tempratures which means a sustainable power system and the list goes on.
While talk of colonizing other planets is a goal mankind should be doing and working toward, let's just be sure we do not make it sound as simple as sailing across the Atlantic to land on Hispanola. It was not a case where Columbus needed breathing gear to step onto the soil of that island. There was water, plants, animals and even people there to greet him. The explorers of Mars will not have those ammenities when they arrive and will need to take everything to live with them until they can develop the means to sustain themselves.
If thats you chuck, I hope for your sake (and mine) that they can get that nano tech going asap, maybe fix your chin and stop loosing me money when you fight as of late.
I’ve heard the argument about waiting for the technology to catch up before we head out to the stars and I agree with it to an extent. I know people will disagree with me but I’ve always felt that a small moon base would be a reasonable first step. It would serve as an experimental station to see what problems may exists that we never thought of. Kind of like what we learned from biosphere 2 down in Tucson AZ. The compost pile took more oxygen from the air then they had originally calculated.
(BTW not to make you feel bad or anything Chuck Liddell, but I had to look you up to see who you were. I don’t get out much LOL.)
Ahh yes your the real Chuck Liddell.. since you've only been a member for 3 days... I highly doubt that in the past three days the REAL chuck liddell has had time to post as many comments on popsci as you have. Fighters don't have time to go on the computer and find sights to join... word of advice, learn a little something about your computer, just did an IP address trace on your account... in lea mans terms.. YOUR FULL OF CRAP
---> In a news release, Davies, a cosmologist at Arizona State University’s Beyond Center, compared would-be Mars colonists to swashbuckling explorers like Columbus and Amundsen.
Yes let's hope when we arrive we don't kill off the indigenous people by planting our flag into their crop and saying "Hey it's ours".
Sounds exciting...probably best if we come up with something faster though propulsion wise. Moving to Mars is...well...it's like beach front property in Arizona.
I know this is a Bush era train of thought, but I'm of the opinion that we really need to get our feet wet with colonizing before we risk lives and billions of dollars, and to me, that means the Moon. I know it isn't as sexy as Mars, but there are reasons to go there, not the least of which is learning how to survive off world. Granted, all the big leaps in space have never been made by playing it safe, I realize that. This, however, would be the most epic undertaking of our species, the start of our colonization of space (not just LEO) and an insurance policy for all of us. Why go halfway across the solar system to try something out, when we can do it in our backyard? Resupply would be far more feasible/less costly and, heaven forbid, a rescue mission could be done in a more timely manner. That's not even taking into consideration all the commercial benefits of the Moon (Helium 3 and space tourism).
Never going to happen.
The closet star system to Earth is Proxima Centauri at 4.22 light years. That's 5,874,589,152,000 miles away so even if we could reach 100,000 mph using a next generation ion drive as proposed recently (nuclear generated) it would take 6706 years to make it there.
No one is going to be willing to stay onboard a ship that long!
Of course there are those who think we can go faster--like .1% of the speed of light. That's Dreamers! Too much energy would be required. Period.
I say we use prisoners. Anyone who's in for life should be used to confinement. If they die, no big deal.
What an awful comment. "If they die, no big deal"? Klassy with a capital K, dude. Beyond being gruesome, I think engineers and legitimate astronauts would be a better fit considering the technical complexity of something like that, plus I don't think anyone is comfortable with criminals in space.
What's really weird is that we actually save criminals from dying, then we give them a death sentence. So...we want them healthy to die?
Sign me up! I'll go right now! Never see Earth again? Who really needs it?
Sign me up, as far as speed ION engines are beautifully efficient and would accelerate continuously as long as you have fuel 15% light speed would be highly possible over long distances perhaps more, granted time on the ship would slow down the faster you go (whole relativity thing we all know about). Also you can use the sling shot effect that would give a good boost to speed. Interstellar travel would have to be a generational thing at this time. Also it probally be most important to have a 3 to 1 ratio of women to men. For the simple speedy efficiency of population vs a 1 to 1 ratio. Then there's the whole cultural ramification of such a set up (at least locally). I'd imagine those chosen for the journey would accept.
Side note fastest speed by a man made object was by helios 153,000+ mph(orbital velocities, sling shot effect and rockets)
What a stupid idea - just to save the cost of bringing them back alive? With today's technology let alone technologies in development we can or soon will be able to send artificial intelligence to explore space and find a suitable scenario out there where we could then send astronauts in the future with the scientific assurance they could and would survive without having to return - any other way is not exploration but suicide and only a fool would even propose such an approach.
- Just Two Words . . . " S O Y L E N T - G R E E N ".
Comets are made of ice and trend highly elliptical orbits.
Therefore, it may be possible to divert-stabalize-colonize a large comet, near apogee ... Even riding that comet from the inner solar system, to near apogee.
I would want to colonize a large asteroid, that was already headed in the general direction that I wanted to go.
... That asteroid could protect me (some) from radiation and micro-collisions, particle abrasion, etc.
I also would just "sell it" as a "permanent space colony" and if we truly were to finally find some planetary body to be hospitable, long term, well, then, all-the-better.
The space-evolved culture would be intensely demoralized if their "single target body" turned out not to have "the right stuff".
WAIT!! Entirely different approach !
It would be more efficient to have unmanned "bio-probes" splice the best of our sentient DNA into whatever indiginous life systems that probe may discover, as was done with humans, here on Earth.
Because Earth-Humans are long-evolved to exploit a very narrow envelope of gravity, climate and lunar gravitational rythms ... because of bone-loss, in micro-gravity ... We must evolve our DNA up from algea to primates to humanoids, over centuries (at the least), to exploit a different "sustanance-envelope".
So ... A robotic A/I life-probe with "nursery skills".
Major assumption made in the title. Were I to get the opportunity to relocate to Mars, I'd see myself as "Home" when I got there! You couldn't pay me enough to return. The individuals selected for such missions should not see Earth as home, but rather the place they're being relocated from.
I think I love the sound of hitchhiking on comets and the like, why consume so much energy trying get up to a certain speed when you could just hitch a ride on something that already had the momentum going?
Something I wonder - In the space station and the like.. Nasa installs something to create a frequency of 7.83 Hz, to mimic the Earth due to the poor health experienced without. So will the moon and mars have safe frequencies?
1) Prisoners actually make a great deal of sense. They are disposable, adaptable, and used to hard living. (The US State of Georgia and the country of Australia were populated initially as penal colonies).
2) Leaving people there is more cost effective. Breeding people there, even more so.
3) The idea of a 100 year ship gives you an idea of the mindset here. 100 years is not what it takes to get to Mars. 100 years is a ship that you land and live out of on the Martian surface.
4) This is not about building wealth to return to Earth, it is about building value to stay. 100 years of recycled efficiency means that the crew has 100 years to "open" their closed system to positive imputs from outside.
First, this would include developing methods that allow for materials (primarely H2O, O2, CO2, and useful C-H's) to be taken from the Martian environment and integrated into the "closed" system.
Second, this would include developing methods that allow for the exspansion of the system (increased habitation and life support systems), likely subterrainian, but also possible if a method for small scale refinement can be developed to create materials for 3D fabricators/printers. This would cover both exspansion and maintainance.
Third, this would include developing methods that allow for long term energy production.
Once you have the ability for sustanance, saftey, and exspanion in place - the colony would no longer need outside support and could be left to grow and expand on its own.
Do you people realize how cold it is on Mars ? Do you ?
Trust me it's not going to get ANY warmer soon. Accept of course if you could give it bump closer in to the sun.
A nice big Cue should do the trick.
I think Chuck is onto something here and his ideas carry merit (regardless of his true identity). Nano tech will really be a game changer that makes the timeline drasticaly closer to colinization of our solar system. For instance it has already been proposed that a nano particle relased in a paticualar layer of the atmosphere could reflect sunlight thus acting as a shield of sorts (conversly it could be modified to redirect sunlight back to the surface to heat cold areas kinda like a one way mirror). Such technology is just one example of how we are quickly gaining control of large scale environmental factors.
I don't think prisoners make good candidates because either they lack self impulse control which is why they are criminals or they are not very smart which is why they got caught.
I would like to know why no one is looking at Venus rather than Mars. I know it is hotter (see nano tech idea above) but it is closer in gravity. I know venus has an atmosphere but what about a magnetic field? We should definatly be looking into colinization purely to ensure the survivability of all life here now on Earth.
what will happen when the settlers decide mars is theirs and earth have no right to enslave them in the worst environment any humans have ever lived in, in order to provide earthlings with their new shinny toys.
just a thought...it's not like it already happened.
Uh... Who is Chuck Liddell and why would I care what he says? (Yes, I Googled him, I know he's a UFC fighter and I still knew nothing about him until about five minutes ago. Whoopty do.)
It's like me saying I'm Justyn Amick! Do you guys care? No, not really... I care more about credentials when it comes to science, not some dude's name. Now, if you said your name was Michio Kaku, that's TOTALLY different; then I would be like WOW, YOU'RE AWESOME!
has anyone here read:The Case for Mars by robert zubrin?
we could have allready been landing men on the mars now. if nasa hadn't had its head up its (insert body part of chose here). now everyone thinks we have to go to the moon to go to mars or that it will take 20 or 30 years. if we wanted to we could be there in 10 or less years. just look what we did during the space race. granted mars is farther away but thats not really a concern. but we dont need fancy ion eniges or nano techonlogy. just a 2 Saturn v a ERV and a lander/hab and 4 lucky souls
ALL HAIL THE COMMON SENSE
Chuck Liddell is entiteled to his opinion on this site as anyone else. The poster at that name seems to have a great deal of enthusiasm and grasps the depth for the comming technologies and I respect that.
As to why would I care, someone with that level of money and an interest in nanotech should be shopping around for development oppourtunities to bankroll so they could aid in the advancement of technology. I for one am just an electronics bum and unless I win the lottery I won't be doing any nanotech anytime soon. And hey Chuck, if your for real did I mention my EE and maverick approach to design and development:-)
I confess, I had to google Kaku to see who he was but once i saw him I was like "oh yeah that guy". I'm not fit to polish his physics boots but I still come here to talk because i love technology and popsci is not about the guys with the big brains but the little guy typing on his lunch break.
Of course, sometimes it's the little guy who makes the big discovery that changes things (Are you listening Chuck?)
I think most of you have been watching waaaaay to many SCI-FI movies. Here is an FYI, we are only on the brink of retiring the shuttle, which was a piece of crap to begin with. We still are launching oursleves into space with a controled explosion called a rocket. This won't happen in my life time or that of my children or grand children. The viking probe was aimlessly just shot out into space to see what would happen, guess what? its not coming back. The only thing good about landing a rover on Mars was it proved we could do it, not worth the billions it took to do it, I would rather see that money going toward the national debt and we can send robots to mars when we "Actual" have money to do it, not just made up money.