An interesting conference over the weekend was held in Orlando, Florida. It was the 100 Year Starship Symposium, sponsored by the Pentagon.
In a major undertaking, serious amounts of brain power, time and money from government, universities, NASA and private institutions are being expended to consider actually building a spaceship to travel to another star.
The space program is mature in a sense, but because of time taken to travel, it is only at the beginning. A spacecraft could leave our solar system next year, or whenever. To send a machine to another star is a tall order.
It would take four years for anything travelling at the speed of light to reach Alpha Centauri, the sun’s nearest star. However, man-made objects with mass take considerably longer than light speed.
However, NASA and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are contemplating just such a venture! The conference was a step on that journey. Apart from scientists, astronauts, industry leaders there were science-fiction authors! (Elizabeth Bear, Robert J Sawyer and Stephen Baxter).
In a million dollar project they are looking at the technologies and organizational strategies for an interstellar mission within the next century. They aim to inspire generations to come to commit to the research and development (money) of ‘breakthrough technologies and cross-cutting innovations across myriad disciplines’.
- fusion v. nuclear thermal propulsion;
- social and psychological implications of sending people on one-way missions;
- the religious/philosophical aspects of space travel.
Apparently they’re not yet taking applications!
Clara Moskowitz, msnbc.com 30 September 2011.