7 thoughts on “The Hundred-Year Starship Study”

  1. When I went to your link, and before my eye’s had properly focused on the screen, for a fraction of a second my brain read “David Neyland” as “Disneyland”.
    Unless someone comes up with something revolutionary in space propulsion “Disneyland” is a reasonable description of starship studies for at least the next 100 years.

  2. Agree with Andrew. Today this planet cannot manage to get out of LEO and land on the neaarby moon, never mind Mars and NEOs. We need to build and fly actual spacecraft with capabilities, not do more Powerpoint engineering. SF and occasional SF essays can fill the starship void until we’ve shown we’re not Earth gravity well bound.

  3. I wish they’d have a Hundred-Year Terraforming Study instead. That seems far more plausible to me. It doesn’t actually require some absurd violation of known laws of physics or ludicrous levels of energy to terraform Mars or Venus. And I, for one, would be happier living in a solar system with three inhabitable planets than being able to (with enormous effort) have human beings on Earth and two colonies many light-years away.

    Maybe it’s just a sign of an unfortunate dominance of physicists at DARPA, since ecological engineering is more a biology thing.

  4. As memory has it, I gather DARPA isn’t actually looking for starship building ideas or other hardware to fund. The real issue is how to establish institutions — a la Heinlein’s “Long Range Foundation” — that will have the mass or skill to shepherd the funds for large-scale space programs (e.g. colonization) and sufficient longevity to see such projects to fruition. We’re looking at intentional social evolution in other words, something like deliberately setting up a non-Christian state religion, rather than relying on the vagaries of what might emerge from the vagaries of free market economics and political conflicts.

    Spaceflight. Can we do it with certainty? How do we do it? Should we do it? Substitute “state-run health care” for “spaceflight” to get an idea of the scale here. Reflect the same methodology could be used to handle anthropogenic global warming, gay marriage, termination of medicare-social security benefits for disfunctional elderly citizens, forced vegetarianism, or whatever cause warms your political heart.

  5. From their January Synopsis:

    The 100-Year Starship Study is a project seeded by DARPA and NASA Ames to develop a sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel viable. The goal is to develop an investment vehicle – under the patronage and guidance of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and technology visionaries – which provides sustained investment over a century-long time horizon, together with the agility to respond to the accelerating pace of technological change.

    This sounds like it could be a vehicle for changing NASA itself over the long haul. It is more in line with the sort of thing NASA should be doing.

  6. Mike,
    isn’t that like saying your going to break the record for the best time swimming the English Channel, when you can’t swim anymore at all due to age or infirmity? That’s where we are with regard to U.S. Space Flight. If we have to have Russian ‘water-wings’ to get afloat in the Channel, you won’t get across quickest.

    I did like this though,

    “Neyland: Small amt of money will leverage much more investment and payoffs.”
    Isn’t that exactly the line we ALWAYS hear when ‘government’ money gets spent on studies, investments or subsidies? And when, OH when, will it pay out?

  7. Shtumpy — What I notice as I age is that the US is an increasingly disfunctional arterioschlerotic society. We’ve got problems that we can’t seem to settle, issues that get revisited time after time without resolution, less and less capability for evolving new solutions as new problems appear. How long have we been “debating” abortion now, without getting one step closer to consensus? 50 years? How long have we had the largest prison population in the civilized world? How long have we been fighting Mr. Darwin’s Dangerous Ideas in our public schools — is it a century yet, or only 90 years? How long have Republicans been fighting “socialized medicine”? Are we going to wait until the sidewalks buckle in Minnesota in December from the heat before AGW-deniers admit that possibly the weather is getting warmer? How long have we been waiting on Bold Entrepreneurs to give us the space program our government can’t afford? Etc. etc. etc.

    Government’s not working too well. Old fashioned political argument in little magazines and town hall debates isn’t working, and blogging has not provided a substitute. Television and radio as tools for unifying society and spreading political concepts has pretty much fallen down. In their place, we’ve got Worlds of Warcraft, and Farmville, and Second Life, and they’ve been no replacement for Edward R Murrow or Cronkite or even Red Skelton and Jack Benny and Bugs Bunny.

    How _are _we going to handle global warming, if we decide it’s a major problem that must be face? How well will we react if China and India use their population size and wealth in 50 years to push their views on the world? What’s our national mood going to be when sizable numbers of American kids start immigrating to better lives in Europe and Asia, when our health statistics hit Latin American levels? How do we adjust to decline if we can’t triumph above it?

    My thought is, that DARPA’s thought is, that we have to find some new tools for stirring up society and provoking change, and that this is a matter of some urgency. And maybe starships are the way of it, and maybe they’re just red herrings.

    Feel free to disagree.

Comments are closed.