Will humanity one day boldly go… somewhere? Credit: Paramount.
The idea for a 100-year starship has been tossed around recently, and now DARPA the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has put out a Request for Information (RFI) looking for ideas about how a long-term human mission to boldly go out to the stars could possibly happen. It’s been estimated that such a mission would cost over $10 billion, and the idea has gotten $100,000 from NASA and $ 1 million from DARPA – which means that as of now it is just that, an idea.
Pete Worden, the Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center announced the idea last fall, and it received plenty of coverage, but not much publicized research on how the idea could possibly come to fruition. Worden optimistically said he expected to see the first prototype of a new propulsion system within the next few years, but that seem unlikely given NASA’s frozen budget and a Congress that doesn’t seem very forward-looking in their vision for what NASA should be doing. But perhaps DARPA’s input could have some leverage.
There would be several technological obstacles to overcome, such as how to create an artificial gravity so that those aboard the ship wouldn’t experience the muscle and bone loss that astronauts on the ISS have after just six months in space. Then there’s how to manufacture food, and create other things the crew might need while they are out in the middle of nowhere. Those are just a few examples of what would need to be dealt with.