Monday, August 22, 2011

DARPA Wants A Spaceship(?)

This might come as a surprise but the  United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants ideas for a trip to colonize planets outside our solar system.
They are calling it the "100 Year Starship Project."

The thought behind the project is that in 100 years human technological advancements should put us in a position to visit other star systems. DARPA thinks we should start planning now so we can be ready.

Don't get me wrong, DARPA has done some great things for the advancement of science and technology in the past decade or so. From cars which drive themselves, to thought controlled prosthetics, to flying armored cars, DARPA has advanced research on some great projects and had great success doing it.

My question is, what are they doing shopping around for a spaceship?

I realize we are talking about a long term plan which might have an abundance of ancillary of benefits, but still, why would DARPA want a spaceship? Ever.

DARPA doesn't usually ask for things which are purely hypothetical and that would serve no solid purpose either now or at least in the immediate future. It is a store house of research information, but usually for projects which are at least likely to happen sometime soon. What purpose would it serve them for someone to develop an interstellar drive? Or an artificial gravity device? Or a system for maintaining life support on a 100-year space journey?

I realize there would be good derived from these advances. I am no less a supporter of all things space related than the next person, but I can't help but wonder how DARPA intends to put them to use.

Am I therefore opposed to the $500,000 they intend to spend on this research? No.

Am I dying to know what they REALLY hope to gain by doing this? You bet your ass I do.

In a few short weeks, the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, will award a US$500,000 grant for a 100-year starship project.

The grant will be awarded at the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., Sept. 30 through Oct. 2.

The symposium will deal with the practical issues humanity needs to address to achieve interstellar flight 100 years from now.

The award will be given to the organization or person who comes up with the business model selected to develop and mature a technology portfolio enabling long-distance manned spaceflight by then.

What will that portfolio constitute? Cryogenic sleep? Advanced arcology techniques that will enable generations of space travelers to live on board a spaceship on a flight that might span millions of light-years and hundreds of years of elapsed time? Or other technologies?

Click here to read the entire article.

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