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NASA Reveals Hundred Year Starship Program 351

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the lost-in-space dept.
cmansley writes "NASA Ames Director Simon Worden revealed that NASA Ames has 'just started a project with DARPA called the Hundred Year Starship,' with $1 million funding from DARPA and $100K from NASA. Worden said '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?"'"
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NASA Reveals Hundred Year Starship Program

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  • yikes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lojoho (1905040) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @07:55AM (#33959710)
    So we're just 999 million dollars short?
  • Re:Cutting Corners (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Combatso (1793216) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @08:12AM (#33959860)
    they can start with the 8-billion slated to hire a consulting firm to lower costs in the NASA cafeteria
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @08:14AM (#33959878)

    Well, that should pay for the catering for a year.

    But seriously, I know DARPA and NASA are just fulfilling their primary missions here (i.e., dazzling the press with PR), but is there anyone out there still gullible enough to think that ANYTHING will ever come of this, that this is anything more than pissing $1.1 million down a hole? With changing administrations, there is no way that DARPA or NASA could ever mount even a 10-year campaign for anything anymore, much less a 100-year.

  • by maxume (22995) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @08:23AM (#33959964)

    You should just go ahead and blame the last 25 years of administrations and congresses, not having a program to replace the shuttle isn't just a failure of the last 3 years.

  • by Conchobair (1648793) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @08:24AM (#33959974)
    The proposal of a one-way tripe has been around for a long time. From what I have read, most, if not all people in the field that are qualified, would be willing to volunteer to go. And why not? You would be one of the first people to set foot on an alien world. You would be history. Movies would be made of your life. Ego aside, the experience would be amazing. You'd see things no other human ever has and discover things that could possible change the way humanity looks at itself. This would be one of the most epic journeys mankind has undertaken. Many qualified sane people would willingly volunteer to boldly go where no man has gone before.
  • by ledow (319597) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @08:31AM (#33960054) Homepage

    With current technology (and current technology discovery rates), anything we send past the outer planets will, almost certainly, be overtaken by something else that we send later way before it ever makes any new discoveries. The speeds and distances involved mean that waiting 100 years (twice as long as the entire history of spaceflight) is more sensible because then we'd be able to build something that would overtake ANYTHING that we could send today. And, to be honest, it's quite probably that even THAT would be overtaken LONG before it got anywhere interesting (e.g. nearest star).

    If we tried to catch the Voyager's NOW, it would take probably 15-20 years if we could use all the best technology (and assuming everything just worked as we expect it to). By that time, they'd be another 15-20 years in front. And the point at which we overtake them will be a point at which we could probably launch something from Earth that would get to the same point in much less time (and probably, again, overtake both!).

    Interstellar travel is nonsense at the moment. It's a waste of money to put even one remote probe out that far because by the time it gets to anything interesting from an interstellar point of view (Voyager took nearly 25 years to get out of the solar system), we could build something that would launch, travel and pass it and have better sensors too. Any notion of sending these 20-generation, half-the-speed-of-light fanciful starships to other stars is a waste - unless you WANT your great-grandaughter to watch someone overtake them, waving as they go, and realise you are several generations away from your destination, several generations away from the home planet, AND you never got to any real interstellar science while you were travelling.

    When something is possible in a generation (or possibly two) then it's worth doing. But it's really embarrassing to spend billions in order to be overtaken by a faster, better, cheaper probe that will get to your destination years before you ever do anything useful and was sent by people who've not had to do with food shortages, oxygen problems, radiation, muscle-weakening, etc.

  • Find someone dying (Score:3, Insightful)

    by voss (52565) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @08:40AM (#33960150)

    It sounds heartless right? However the person whos dying and is told "You can be the first person on mars and we will provide enough supplies and medication for the rest of your life and big chunk of money for your family and let you have the biggest blowout party in history but your not coming home". It aint such a bad deal.

  • Re:yikes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @08:51AM (#33960302) Homepage
    Let's be honest here: Put in the context of the bailout, or even of the military budget or social programs like Social Security or Medicare, everything we could possible do in space looks like a bargain. The issue has always been political will.

    Absent an imminent threat, real or perceived, the average voter doesn't want to fund anything, especially in today's political climate. It's easy to campaign for increasing military spending because of the evil terrorists. It's easy to campaign for keeping Social Security because nobody wants to see grandmothers starving on the streets. In contrast, it's very difficult to win elections running on platform of increasing our efforts in space. Most voters don't understand why we're even up there and wouldn't care if they did because it doesn't impact their day to day lives or their perceived sense of security.

    So, when we decide we want to cut money from the budget, NASA and other programs like it are the first on the chopping block. We cut a billion here and a billion there from various programs, but won't touch the programs that take the largest bite out of the federal budget: the military, social security, and medicare. We could fully fund a mission to Mars right now just by cutting out a small portion of the money the military wastes on various projects it doesn't need or even particularly want, but that's never going to happen because to the average voter failing to fund whatever Congress thinks the military wants is anti-American and will cause the terrorists to win.

    Our government has consistently shown that the way to win elections is to increase military spending and cut education and science research, including space exploration. This should tell you where our priorities are as a society, and why we're unlikely to make it to Mars or anywhere else in our lifetime.
  • by Lev13than (581686) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @08:52AM (#33960310) Homepage

    Well, they've already got the speech ready:
    http://watergate.info/nixon/moon-disaster-speech-1969.shtml [watergate.info]

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @08:59AM (#33960426)

    ...what the point of getting humans to Mars is? It's not science. We have robots and will soon have better robots. It's not resources. There's nothing *there* worth bringing back from a distant gravity well. If we're going that far out, why not just do a mining survey of the asteroid belts and find out which ones might be heading our way at the same time.

    Sounds like NASA doing what it does best. Avoiding practical real world missions at all costs. Guess why people want to cut their budgets?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:03AM (#33960480)

    Please define that better than "send something out of the solar system".
    Voyager won't see anything more for 300,000 years, even at 100x speed a new craft won't see anything for 3000 years.
    There are a lot more interesting things to study than the heliosphere right now, than to send a craft out there just for that.

  • Waste of Time? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Plekto (1018050) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:03AM (#33960486)

    Isn't this just a wish-list by NASA considering the current lack of any way to actually implement it given how Congress seems to mess things up and change their mind every term?

    Until we fix this problem, we're going nowhere. We need to lock in funding and missions for a few decades instead of a a couple of years at a time. Having a bunch of idiots in Congress who know nothing about science and engineering changing the game plan more often than we change Presidents is just crazy.

  • by rakuen (1230808) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:18AM (#33960676) Homepage
    Well, he came up with concepts, and not really the science behind it. What's happened is the scientific community sees these kinds of things, and thinks, "Hey, we can make that!" Then they try to develop the science, and they're succeeding at a reasonible pace. I'd actually argue that starting with the design in mind makes the process easier, because then you already know the end result you're trying to reach.
  • by TheoMurpse (729043) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:20AM (#33960710) Homepage

    First, the obvious conclusion of your argument is that we should never send anything into space because we will always be able to overtake it 20 years later.

    Second, you ignore the benefits of the first 20 years of using the thing (i.e., knowing things 20 years earlier than we otherwise would have).

    Third, building the initial improves our ability to build a successor. Without building one now, the one we build 20 years from now might be ten years behind where it otherwise could have been. We might as well not build anything we can send into space until we've got FTL travel down cold.

  • Re:yikes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StuartHankins (1020819) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:38AM (#33960930)
    And you were doing so well, being very informative, until you decided to throw in the political rant...
  • by denzacar (181829) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:53AM (#33961082) Journal

    OMG! They will waste billions and kill American astronauts in the process!
    No... to late... if only you were there to point out that Wikipedia article to them sooner.

    Come on...
    BESIDES the fact that the Hydrogen payload is going AHEAD of the rest of the mission so the fuel for the trip back is already there when astronauts arrive - don't you think that they would you know... include the proper safety measures for landing 6 tons of H2 and a FUCKING NUCLEAR REACTOR ON THE FUCKING MARS?!

    Since the contemporary political reaction to any insufficiently large disaster is to create the conditions for truly massive failures (aka. the "stimulus), the big hydrogen clouds on mars must look pretty attractive to Obama ...

    Oh! I'm sorry... Didn't realize you were a troll, just going about your daily business.
    Terribly sorry about. Didn't mean to offend your race or culture or anything.
    There are some nice political stories coming up in the Firehose. You might like them.

  • by anUnhandledException (1900222) <(davis.gerald) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @10:04AM (#33961214)

    Irony
    Definition: Someone bashing DARPA on the internet, a global network that grew out of the ARPANET project funded by DARPA.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARPANET [wikipedia.org]

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @10:16AM (#33961366)

    Did it occur to you that my point was just as valid for the moon in 1968? What have we gotten from the moon?

    The moon landings were cold war political theater. There's little technology that we couldn't have gotten by other means.

    Had we put up long term near-earth stations designed for say, power generation, zero g manufacturing, etc. it would have made sense. The moon? Just another gravity well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @10:19AM (#33961410)

    What's this compound interest rates nonsense? I'm an American, and I want a Lexus. Now. The hell with my future.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:31AM (#33962362)

    Colonisation to prevent the death of human civilisation if the Earth gets pegged?

    How is this better served by a Mars mission than a long term zero g station at L5?

    Potential discovery of life/fossils, which would have massive implications for exobiology and evolutionary theory?

    Interesting, yes. Critical? No. I'd focus more on the bits that will keep life going on *this* planet, eh?

    A better platform for space telescopes than Earth? (the Moon would be even better, though)

    At risk of repeating myself, how is this better served by a Mars mission than a long term zero-g station at L5?

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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