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NASA Space Science

DARPA Chooses Leader For 100-Year Starship Project 180

Posted by timothy
from the make-it-so dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "With Nasa scaling back its manned space programs, the idea of a manned trip to the stars may sound audacious, but the 100 Year Starship (100YSS) study is an effort seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible. The goal is not to have the government fund the actual building of spacecraft destined for the stars, but rather to create a foundation that can last 100 years in order to help foster the research needed for interstellar travel. Now DARPA has provided $500,000 in seed money to help jumpstart the effort and chosen Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to go into space, to lead 100YSS. Jemison, who is also a physician and engineer, left NASA in 1993 after a six-year stint in which she served as science mission specialist aboard space shuttle Endeavour, becoming the first black woman to fly in space. Since leaving the space agency, she has been involved in education and outreach efforts and technology development. Rounding out her resume, Jemison also served as a medical officer for the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia, is a professionally trained dancer, speaks Russian, Swahili and Japanese, and was the first real astronaut to make a cameo in an episode of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation.' Jemison won the contract with her proposal titled 'An Inclusive Audacious Journey Transforms Life Here on Earth & Beyond.'"
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DARPA Chooses Leader For 100-Year Starship Project

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  • My Awesome Bio (Score:4, Informative)

    by alphatel (1450715) * on Saturday January 07, 2012 @11:36AM (#38622136)
    This reads like a bio of Jemison and her funding opportunities. News?
    • Out of the Hundreds of Thousands, if not Millions, of qualified candidates, from all races, men and women, is it mere coincidence that they choose a black female to lead this program?

      The news-worthiness of the entire article boils down to Political Correctness

  • I've heard arguments that the space program should have never been put in the hands of government in the first place. If it had been left to the private-sector from day one, space travel would be the norm by now because of the competitive aspect of the private sector and the ability to raises more capital than going the bureaucratic route.
    • by Moryath (553296) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @11:57AM (#38622358)

      Bullshit.

      The private sector STILL can't get a man into space. If it had been left to the private sector "from day one", the US would never have had anyone try, because the private sector never would have put forth the R&D money to get anything done.

      Scaling back NASA is a result of small-minded fools from the right wing who scream "cut cut cut everything we like yeah military!!!" They want to kill PBS, they want to kill NASA, they call numerous things "government waste", but they never want to admit that the biggest waste of government money is sending the US military everywhere to be the world's policeman, wasting $500 billion a year to invade countries, set up military bases, and bomb the fuck out of places where nobody wants us.

      PBS gets $422 million currently. That is 0.084 PERCENT of what we waste on the military.
      NASA's annual budget is only $19 billion in 2011. And for that you get all this stuff that you fucking take for granted [thesun.co.uk].

      We should say fuck the military, stop buying them new toys, and spend the money on NASA instead. We'd be to Mars in 5 years if we budgeted it.

      • by triclipse (702209)
        That $422M given to PBS is a powerful pro-war propaganda "investment."
      • by Scarred Intellect (1648867) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:44PM (#38622748) Homepage Journal

        The waste isn't necessarily the military.

        It's General Dynamics and Fluor and countless other DOD contractors. My time in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine Infantryman was beyond understandably austere. Larger bases has clean flush toilets, clean showers every day, fresh cooked food every day including pop (soda) and ice cream. They had Pizza Hut, Burger King, Subway, Green Beans coffee, movie theaters, dance night... Reliable communication back home. Mail delivery every day. Gyms. And electricity. We shat in bags and burned it. We were able to shower at most once a week. Our Staff NCO's had to pay out of their own pocket to get a water pump that worked. We usually lacked air conditioning or heat in our bunks...

        All that we lacked is understandable and doesn't bother me at all. What bothered me was that the POG's had it, and bitched if they lost it like it was their right to have it while we ate stuff I wouldn't feed to my dogs.

        When it was suggested by a Marine General in charge of such things that they cut back on these MWR (Morale, Welfare, Recreation) activities in Stars and Stripes, there was outlandish backlash from POG's (Person Other than Grunt) about how it would affect them and how they needed these services. Nevermind that he wanted to cut them back to divert the funding for these activities to us that were farther deployed and had practically none of that.

        Virtually all of these services are provided by civilian DOD contractors. I think the largest compound in Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan was the Fluor compound.

        While there IS waste in military spending, it dwarfs compared to what is spent on unnecessary contractors. Hell, they built a golf course in Baghdad for the Generals to play golf!

        • by jwhitener (198343)

          I think most people who complain about military waste are (should be) referring to the horrendous waste spent on no-bid contractors. At least, I hope they are aware of how bad it has become.

          Most of the people I know and associate with are under the impression that almost any push for military action is 50% to accomplish some strategic goal and 50% to funnel tax payer money to campaign contributors and/or companies that are directly or indirectly connected with some politician. Cheney-Haliburton for exampl

      • by Nutria (679911)

        Scaling back NASA is a result of small-minded fools from the right wing

        Except that the people who actually scaled back NASA were left-wingers who wanted to give the money to people who produce nothing but more children.

      • > The private sector STILL can't get a man into space.

        Perhaps you mean "can't get a man into orbit"? Suborbital flights above the altitude defined as the edge of space have happened.

      • by khallow (566160)

        The private sector STILL can't get a man into space.

        They actually have several times with SpaceShipOne. I know you mean in Earth orbit now. In a few years, you'll mean beyond Earth orbit. Then it'll mean landing on the Moon. Then some time after that, beyond cislunar space. Then it'll be beyond the asteroid belt. Then it'll be beyond the orbit of Neptune, another star system, the local galactic spiral, whatever.

        I don't know what the fascination is with telling us somewhat difficult things can't be done, but it has to be one of the more futile pursuits eve

      • Your entire argument is destroyed by quoting the single most dubious tabloid newspaper in existence - the Sun newspaper. There is no reason why anyone should trust a word they say. The Sun hires liars and spouts bile continuously. I wouldn't even wipe my backside with it.
    • by currently_awake (1248758) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:00PM (#38622384)
      The private sector does stuff for money. The only "Space" thing with a ROI is satellites. The moon and probes would never have happened. Americans have this strange mind set where they think everything should be done by "not the government", even stuff like this where the government is the ONLY realistic solution.
      • so very true. Government agencies can train people with specialities that private industry would look at as wasteful - but thats because private industries' involvement ends at their front door. There are some things you /cannot/ accomplish alone. Humans are communal. Government is a given.

        Privatize-everything-people are either stupid, or control freaks - but they are not as efficient as they want to think in accomplishing greatness. It takes a whole /people/ to do that - Not any one company.

        • by khallow (566160)

          Government agencies can waste money because they have a captive revenue stream.

          FTFY. The number one reason that private industry would look at a government action as wasteful is because the government action is wasteful.

          Privatize-everything-people are either stupid, or control freaks

          "Stupid" is possible. Relinquishing control as would be done with privatization is not the symptom of a control freak. So "control freak" is not possible.

          but they are not as efficient as they want to think in accomplishing greatness. It takes a whole /people/ to do that - Not any one company.

          Pardon me for rolling my eyes at this nonsense. But the real answer here is several competing businesses. Not "any one company" nor a "whole /people/".

      • by khallow (566160)

        The private sector does stuff for money. The only "Space" thing with a ROI is satellites.

        Currently. Once things change, then statements like this become false.

        The moon and probes would never have happened.

        More accurately, they wouldn't have happened until private industry got to the point where they're feasible on modest budgets.

        Americans have this strange mind set where they think everything should be done by "not the government", even stuff like this where the government is the ONLY realistic solution.

        A "realistic solution" without a problem.

    • by jythie (914043)
      Unlikely. The private sector tends to do pretty badly with anything that requires sustained long term research before having a return. The first commercial application was communication satellites, but it took decades of research (and failures) before it was possible at a reasonable success rate for private companies to get interested.

      I always wonder if the people who put forward that idea have actually worked in research before. I have been on both sides (public and private) and have generally found th
    • by egamma (572162)

      I've heard arguments that the space program should have never been put in the hands of government in the first place. If it had been left to the private-sector from day one, space travel would be the norm by now because of the competitive aspect of the private sector and the ability to raises more capital than going the bureaucratic route.

      And what, exactly, has prevented the private sector from putting a man in space the last 50-60 years?

      My guess is, a lack of government subsidies.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously. This woman reads like "Also she built a time machine, killed Hitler, and fought back the entire Napoleonic army from Moscow." I know a lot of smart people make me feel stupid. This woman just makes me feel lazy.

    • by jythie (914043)
      Heh. Agreed. I had not heard of her before, she seems rather awesome. The TNG cameo is just icing on the cake.
    • by Hartree (191324)

      You and me both, AC. And I've met Jemison.

      Believe me, compared to her I feel like a bumbling moron and an utter layabout.

      And she topped it off by being the cutest person in the room.

  • For those wondering (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2012 @11:42AM (#38622192)

    That's the episode where the Enterprise finds Riker's transporter-accident created duplicate that was abandoned on a planet several years earlier. The new Riker, dubbed Thomas, eventually goes on to leave the ship before one day ending up at DS9 where he steals the Defiant to help the Maquis and is captured/imprisoned by Cardassians. Fun fact: TNG writers briefly considered killing Riker Classic in the episode to have Riker II take his place in the show, but at a lower rank.

    • by gmhowell (26755)

      Thanks for the information. I was wondering why the submitter included a link to that shitty Peace Corpse page instead of one to Memory Alpha.

    • by bondsbw (888959)

      Ha, watched the DS9 episode on Netflix just yesterday.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @11:49AM (#38622272)

    The private sector will not finance anything like this. They want quick, guaranteed profits. This is why governments should pioneer space travel: the private sector will never go further than LEO unless they are sure it's profitable.

    • by Megahard (1053072) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @11:52AM (#38622292)
      Here's one way to solve it.
      1. 1. Develop near-light-speed spaceship.
      2. 2. Put the stockholders on the ship
      • by Megahard (1053072)
        Sorry, forgot the obligatory.
        1. 1. Develop near-light-speed spaceship.
        2. 2. Put the stockholders on the ship.
        3. 3. Profit!
        • by physburn (1095481)
          Profit, By combining the twin powers of compound interest and relativistic time dilation. It indeed would work. Plus the passengers could benefit from the all the advances in Medical technology and other technologies when they get back to earth.
      • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:38PM (#38622692)
        There is no remotely feasible way to make this a quick trip. At 1G acceleration halfway there and 1G deceleration the other half - that is, the fastest you could possibly go without suffering super-gravitational forces the whole time:

        "A journey from the sun to the galactic core at 1G constant acceleration takes 340 years as experienced by the ship crew and 30,000 years as experienced by Earth observers." cite [wikipedia.org]

        So (overwhelming technical hurdles aside) the business case (especially for investors on earth) is extremely hard to imagine. Sure, corporations can outlive humans, so investors today can be paid in the hopes of returns in the future. But there is no corporation, no government, NOTHING manmade that has any creditworthiness over that time period.

        • "A journey from the sun to the galactic core at 1G constant acceleration takes 340 years as experienced by the ship crew and 30,000 years as experienced by Earth observers." cite

          Hmm, my calculations show ~30400 years as seen from Earth, but only 20 years foe the crew.

          Of course, noone is interested in going to the center of the Galaxy. I think we'd settle for Alpha Centauri first. 3.5 years for the crew, 6 years from our PoV on Earth.

          • by MikeURL (890801)

            Well, if we're doing manned space travel purely for the opportunity to feel good about our species then it makes a lot more sense to go to Mars or to the moons of Jupiter. We would not have to wait nearly as long and it would have a similar impact on the human psyche.

            This notion of building a giant ship to go to another solar system is extraordinarily impractical. The time lag for communications alone would make it very easy to ignore or forget about or just get kinda jaded over the whole thing (oh, this

            • This notion of building a giant ship to go to another solar system is extraordinarily impractical.

              The point of the operation, I think, is to consider the changes required for human society to implement plans requiring decades/centuries/millenia to complete.

              Right now, we have a hard time holding our focus for one Congressional Election cycle, much less a decade. Much less a century.

              So some fundamental changes will have to go down to even make an interstellar trip possible to plan, much less implement.

          • by HuguesT (84078)

            You need to decelerate halfway. 20 years to the core is if you go full throttle all the way and don't brake.

            • You need to decelerate halfway. 20 years to the core is if you go full throttle all the way and don't brake.

              Nope. ten years subjective to accelerate 15,000 light years, another ten to decelerate the other 15,000 light years.

              And yes, I did recheck my math. 10.0234 years acceleration and the same deceleration, rounded to 10 for lack of signifcant digits in the distance....

    • They will go for profit. It is already profitable, which is why Branson, Allen, etc are all trying to get in on the ground floor. The cost of shipping a 'thing' to orbit is astronomically high. Lower the costs and you have a guaranteed profit.

      IMO, this project is a waste of time and money. We have space around our own star that we have not figured out how to exploit. I would much rather see us try to build automatic mining/extraction probes for asteroids or recyclers to clean up some of the junk i

      • by CRCulver (715279)

        They will go for profit. It is already profitable, which is why Branson, Allen, etc are all trying to get in on the ground floor. The cost of shipping a 'thing' to orbit is astronomically high. Lower the costs and you have a guaranteed profit.

        Branson is not aiming for orbit. Virgin Galactic seeks to offer sub-orbital flights for touristic purposes, which is a long way away from orbital flights for commercial purposes.

    • by kid_wonder (21480)

      You sir, are apparently unfamiliar with the newly discovered element unobtanium.

  • by demachina (71715) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @11:51AM (#38622286)

    $500,000 isn't exactly a lot of money by U.S. government standards, but for a country that currently can't even get to people in to LEO spending money on interstellar space travel is completely nuts.

    So, how about you get to Mars first, maybe then we can talk.

    There is pretty much zero chance anyone in the private sector is going to sink any money in to interstellar space travel unless there is a juicy cost plus government contract funding it. If you dangle one of those Lockheed and Boeing will be on it in a heart beat, especially if the contract runs for a 100 years before they have to deliver anything.

    This "foundation" will just be used by the DARPA haters in Congress, mostly Republicans and Tea Partiers, as further evidence of how far DARPA and the Obama administration has gone off the rails, and after reading this I can see their point.

    DARPA does some amazing things but they need to exert a little self restraint and focus on things that will payoff in less than a millenium. It will be unfortunate if the good R&D DARPA does gets cuts because they seem to have gone completely nuts on this. The U.S. doesn't do enough R&D as it is.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Agree.. to put in perspective, you can't even buy a house in San Diego for $500,000.

    • Pro: The best science isn't the huge dollar mega-projects, it's the slow steady bleeding edge science that gives long term huge results. If the government doesn't fund this then it won't get done, ever. Con: If your goal is to suck money out of the taxpayers and give it to your friends then this could be a workable plan. At least until your country goes bankrupt because your friends bled the country dry. Followed by a revolution where you and your friends are targets.
    • Interstellar Human travel is the only way to ensure survival of the human race beyond any one single cataclysmic event. If the Earth gets destroyed - or more likely, if WE destroy the Earth - this is the only true way we would be able to continue our existence. The important thing is finding a way to ensure that we don't land on some crappy planet without internet access - then it would certainly be a mistake.
      • by Nutria (679911)

        Interstellar Human travel is the only way to ensure survival of the human race beyond any one single cataclysmic event.

        A journey has to have a destination; there is only pie-in-the-sky hand waving crap in interstellar travel.

      • Well, this project may not build a colony on another world... but it might just build a city on rock 'n' roll!

    • There is pretty much zero chance anyone in the private sector is going to sink any money in to interstellar space travel

      There's a fair amount of private sector money flowing into space travel now (not specifically interstellar, but have you to walk before you can run). Bigelow Aerospace [bigelowaerospace.com] in Las Vegas is one example (although they've had some cutbacks recently thanks to what Bigelow refers to as the "Obama recession").

      It would be hard to argue that working towards private space flight/exploration won't have a vast effect on interstellar study. It would be equally hard to argue that focusing on interstellar travel (one of many

      • by demachina (71715)

        " It would be equally hard to argue that focusing on interstellar travel (one of many, many things DARPA is doing right now) won't have vast"

        Actualluy it would be EXTREMELY easy to argue that focusing on interstellar travel wont have vast, ongoing short-term effects on space flight.

        It will most probably be extremely counterproductive.
        In the current hyper critical budget environment in D.C. this will just be a dart board for all the politicians who want to kill off science and R&D funding.

    • by ModernGeek (601932) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @01:16PM (#38623060) Homepage
      We decided that we were going to go to the moon before we could put a man into orbit. Brains aren't the only thing to get you somewhere, you also have to have the balls to try.
    • by Dammital (220641) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @02:13PM (#38623724)

      ... damn, you should have gone to the symposium. These people were not nuts - they were capable engineers and sociologists and educators and authors and astronauts, who well understood the enormity of the challenge (which does in fact edge into astronomic scale).

      There were reviews of existing technologies, reports on current research, proposals ranging from modest to blue-sky, discussion about the science that would have to be done. Social engineering was also prominent - any future colony would be a microcosm of human society after all.

      Without the Dreamers, you wouldn't have the Planners. It was awe-inspiring to be among the Dreamers for a couple of days, and I begrudge not one dime of the money DARPA spent on it.

      The U.S. doesn't do enough R&D as it is.

      Right you are.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      DARPA does some amazing things but they need to exert a little self restraint and focus on things that will payoff in less than a millenium.

      Yeah, because Mars rocks will totally pay dividends that engineering won't.

      Maybe you need to exert a little not whining to your betters about what they should and shouldn't be doing.

    • by aztektum (170569)

      DARPA does some amazing things but they need to exert a little self restraint and focus on things that will payoff in less than a millenium.

      You don't feel the research and development would create anything useful in the short term? The space program of the 60's didn't achieve anything for us in the last 30 years?

      Let's just keep focusing on our own short-term gain. That seems to be working out well.

  • "Jemison ... is a professionally trained dancer".

    Spider Robinson must be thrilled.

  • I voted for George Clinton! [wikipedia.org]

  • The only way to get capitalism to work is to shift the tax base from economic activity to the liquidation value of assets, and set the tax rate to the interest rate used to calculate liquidation value.

    But no one with wealth wants that to happen even though just about everyone who has high incomes would want it to happen.

    So, due to political economic considerations, capitalism cannot be made to work.

    This is not to say that socialism can be made to work, since in order to do so it would require that the

  • It might be cheaper to send our garbage to other star systems rather than keep using expensive land to bury it!
  • Now DARPA has provided $500,000 in seed money to help jumpstart the effort

    "All you have to do is deposit one penny in a savings account in your own era, and when you arrive at the End of Time the operation of compound interest means that the fabulous cost of your meal has been paid for."

    G.

  • by Araes (1177047) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @03:27PM (#38624382) Homepage
    I deeply enjoyed attending the 100 YSS symposium, and actually presented in the economic track that Jemison headed. However, awarding the final seed money to one of the track chairs and program organizers makes the whole process seem like collusion. Note the Education, Social, Economic and Legal Considerations track in the 100 YSS Symposium Agenda [100yss.org]. Having worked program allocation, this is the kind of stuff that could spark lawsuits if it weren't for such a small sum (in gov't terms). Also depends on whether she was funded by DARPA in her track chair duties. (Note: I did not submit a proposal to the RFP)

    Hopefully the money is put to good use, as it looks like she partnered with Icarus, who are at least motivated and active.
  • 1. Interstellar missions require thousands of nuclear bombs.
    2. Governments are the only ones how have nuclear bombs.
    3. Governments are required for interstellar missions.

    Until we rewrite the laws of physics the only practical interstellar propulsion is going to be Freeman Dyson's Orion pulsed nuke system. IOW interstellar travel is all about nuclear bombs.

    Here are the steps:
    1. Start a small permanent lunar base (Moonbase Alpha) whose immediate goal is to set up mining/smelting operations while seeing if lon

  • by arisvega (1414195) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @05:16PM (#38625220)

    Slightly off-topic, but since TFS mentions it, am I the only one that finds the designation "African-American" stupid? I have heard of Native Americans, yes. But no "European-Americans", or "Caucasian-Americans". And somehow, Asians are just Asians.

    This for a point: http://snarkyintuition.blogspot.com/2011/11/p-p-p-pass-mic-yo.html [blogspot.com]

    It used to be simple, now I have no idea what the frak is going on.

  • A lot of people are commenting about how asinine it is to spend money on other things besides NASA, which I generally agree on, and the general mindset in the US is that everything should be done by private sectors, which I don't agree with.

    Has anyone thought about what would happen if we seeded an extremely profitable business to outer space for private companies to suck the life out of? The government is paying for the groundwork and they're paying to get people interested, why are they even doing that in
  • "Jemison Starship" just doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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