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Space Science

Bill Clinton Backs 100 Year Starship 299

Posted by Soulskill
from the enthused-about-green-women dept.
astroengine writes "The light-years between the stars is vast — a seemingly insurmountable quarantine that cuts our solar system off from the rest of the galaxy. But to a growing number of interstellar enthusiasts who will meet in Houston, Texas, for the 100YSS Public Symposium next week, interstellar distances may not be as insurmountable as they seem. What's more, they even have the support of former U.S. President Bill Clinton."
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Bill Clinton Backs 100 Year Starship

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @04:56PM (#41239301)

    The scales you're talking about with interstellar travel are almost humanly unimaginable. The fastest probe we've ever launched would take over 100,000 years to reach even the closest solar system (and that's a *MERE* 4.2 light years away). We'll be lucky to get a man on Mars in the next 100 years, much less a vehicle that could travel at a significant percentage of the speed of light (an absolute "must have" for an interstellar probe).

    And even if you could reach Einstein's speed limit (and you would probably have to consume most of Earth's energy resources to do it), all you've got in the end is a ship that would still be laughably slow in the big scheme of things. Puttering along at near-light-speed in a universe 14 billion light years across would only remind you of how isolated we really are.

    Shit, I don't even think we have the MATH to travel those kind of distances. The accuracy and tolerances for a trajectory that could get anywhere close to another body over light-year scale distances are all-but-impossible. It would be harder than throwing a dart in the U.S. and hitting a bullseye on a dartboard in China.

    Anyone selling interstellar travel is selling snake oil...period. For all intents and purposes, and barring someone radically overturning Einstein, we're all alone.

    • by Radres (776901) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @04:59PM (#41239345)

      Yes, but Bill Clinton supports it!

      • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:01PM (#41239379)

        Bill Clinton supports it

        I stand corrected.

        • I'm with Clinton Earth is so screwed that the only option is to get some people out of here.

    • Also, we do not even have the experience of building something that can stay 10 years in space without constant support from Earth...

      It just makes for some headlines, for a long time.

      • by Merls the Sneaky (1031058) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:05PM (#41239431)

        Also, we do not even have the experience of building something that can stay 10 years in space without constant support from Earth...

        It just makes for some headlines, for a long time.

        Voyager one and two would like to say hello.

        • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:09PM (#41239485)

          Voyager I. Thirty-five years and you know how far it is from earth? Seventeen light *hours*. And it's about to run out of juice at even that paltry distance.

          Now go build something to travel at least 4.2 light *years*.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Because Voyager 1 & 2 are somewhat old technology. If we built two new spacecraft they would have better propulsion systems and more efficient energy sources. Just read about the Martian Rovers, they are some impressive machines.

            • by regularstranger (1074000) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @06:26PM (#41240495)
              I'm sorry, but most of the difference between Voyagers and modern space probes is electronics - a technology that was just beginning to be developed in the 60s and 70s, and is only just now reaching maturity. They use pretty much the same propulsion sources and power sources. There might be a 20% difference, or even a factor of two or three, but that won't make a dent in the problems that need addressed. The energy sources in both are pretty much exactly the same, and the plutonium energy source used in both is very short-lived (40 years or so) on the order of interstellar travel. If you like, compare New Horizons with Voyager. Voyager still has the upper hand in velocity leaving the solar system - although most of that was aquired through interation with large planets.

              The technology of chemical propulsion and RTG power sources has pretty much played out, so don't expect much improvement in these areas. The only reasonable power source for an interstellar trip is fission or fusion, and space portable units that can do this is the only thing on the map that has any hope of revolutionizing space travel to beyond the solar system. The multiple order of magnitude changes we see in the development of electronics is the exception with regards to technology. We don't see jet engines a million times more powerful than the first generation jet engines, nor do we see internal combustion engines a million times more powerful than the first generation. Using the technological development rate in electronics to justify that newer propulsion or more efficient energy sources will solve all of our interstellar travel problems at some future date is rather proposterous.
              • by ppanon (16583)
                Laser-launched solar sails have an old history. While Robert Forward probably explored the concept [wikipedia.org] more deeply than anyone, he wasn't the first. I'm pretty sure I remember a Niven story in the 70s (perhaps one of the Draco's Tavern stories in Convergent Series?) where alien traders drop by our solar system, trade lots of science, technology, and art with humans in exchange for us building laser launchers to send them on their way to their next stop. Now powering those laser launchers would be a big challeng
          • by Isaac-1 (233099) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:29PM (#41239755)

            The reason it is about to run out of juce as you put it, is that the material in the thermocouples have degraded, the Plutonium in the RTG's is still very hot, it is just the part that converts this heat to electricity is breaking down. In a manned ship it would be a relatively simple matter of pulling out the worn out thermocouple and inserting a fresh one. (of course a manned ship would likely need a much larger power source than an RTG could ever provide) This of course brings up the point of limited space for spare parts and needing to design everything with universal plug in modules and have onboard micro fabrication facilities.

            • Well, after about 400 years (~4 half-lives) that plutonium power source is going to be a completely cold and useless lump of U-234, regardless of thermocouples. That, coupled with the meager source of power the RTG represents, makes RTGs pretty much completely useless for interstellar travel. Portable fission / fusion units are pretty much the only hope, and even then, carrying enough nuclear fuel for an interstellar trip will be no easy task.
          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            Don't be stupid. They haven't traveled far because they have no engines, and are powered with crappy little RTGs. Nuclear engines would change things completely.

        • Ships with life support. And, IIRC, even using just a minuscule power, soon the power source will be unable to provide it.

        • Pioneer 6 which was transmitting signal for 35 years (until 2000)
          Pioneer 7 last known contact 29 years from launch (until 1995)
          Pioneer 8 last known contact 29 years after launch (until 1996)
          Pioneer 9 lasted 15 years

          Pioneer 10 1972-2002 (although a weak signal was received in 2003)
          Pioneer 11 1973-1995

    • by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:03PM (#41239405)
      Yeah, how do people get from a building in one city to a building in another? The precision required for this trajectory is well beyond what most could do . . . unless they had some kind of mysterious mechanism to continually alter their course during their travels. But such is obviously beyond our best engineers.
      • by crazyjj (2598719) *

        unless they had some kind of mysterious mechanism to continually alter their course during their travels.

        And with enough fuel to last 100,000 years.

        • by postbigbang (761081) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:43PM (#41239951)

          Clean coal, man. People keep telling me it's the right stuff.

        • As I understand thermodynamics once up to speed you don't slow down in space there being little to no resistance, so once you reach cruising speed you simply need fuel for maneuvering and stopping. Now the life support and on board systems would also need fuel, but much of that could be minimized if we perfect cryogenics, once your frozen it doesn't matter how cold you get.

          • by Dekker3D (989692)

            You need the energy to grow plants for food and possibly air, for light (people don't like being in the dark for millenia, I'd guess), and that sort of thing. And if you want to get there in any semi-decent time at all, you'll keep accelerating until you get halfway, and then start decellerating. Something like it. So yeah. LOTS of fuel.

    • by JeffAtl (1737988) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:07PM (#41239467)

      I agree completely with your overall point, but with constant 1g acceleration, the passengers in a ship could arrive somewhere within 100 years due to time dilation,

      Of course, the energy required and the engineering challenges are immese, but theoritically the nearest star could be reached in less than 40 years (passenger time).

      • by jamstar7 (694492)
        Um, a constant 1G accelleration would get you there in about two years subjective, a bit over 5 actual. You accellerate for a year at 1G, you're almost at lightspeed. You're half a lightyear out. Coast 3.5 light-years, 3.5 years actual (about 12 days subjective), decellerate for a year at 1G, you're there. The formula are simple. d=(1/2)*a*t*t for the runup distance (d equals one-half a-t-squared), time dialation factor is your tau, 1 - (% of c divided by 100)
      • by EllisDees (268037)

        Hell, at 1g acceleration, you could get literally anywhere in the reachable universe in a typical lifetime.

      • The problem with constant acceleration is energy. It doesn't really matter how long or how hard you're accelerating, with 100% matter to energy conversion and a photon drive (100% energy to thrust), you would only be able to reach 0.6c by converting half your ship's mass. A constant 1g trip to anywhere interesting would take unimaginable amounts of energy.

        This requirement can be slightly reduced via external acceleration (eg. laser boosting), but then you're talking planetary-scale focusing mirrors if
        • by zwede (1478355)

          The problem with constant acceleration is energy. It doesn't really matter how long or how hard you're accelerating, with 100% matter to energy conversion and a photon drive (100% energy to thrust), you would only be able to reach 0.6c by converting half your ship's mass. A constant 1g trip to anywhere interesting would take unimaginable amounts of energy.

          Why ignore interstellar space? It's not empty by far. Use a ram-scoop and feed the hydrogen into your (fusion) reactor. At 0.9x c your ram-scoop will collect quite a lot of hydrogen.

    • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:11PM (#41239513) Journal

      ...barring someone radically overturning Einstein...

      The idea of FTL is not 'out for the count' by a long shot, despite Einstein... In the same fashion we pressurize our airplanes and remain quite oblivious to the outside conditions, we have to find a way to encapsulate a piece of space time in our little ship while it zips along at warp 9... Now cue the naysayers to tell me how crazy I am for even thinking it. Radical, yes, but no crazier than the idea of man on the moon, or human flight. Faster than sound? I should be locked up for thinking up such insanity!

      • by turgid (580780)

        Now cue the naysayers to tell me how crazy I am for even thinking it.

        So, do you know how to make negative mass or negative energy? Is there something you want to tell us? Perhaps you have a magnetic monopole tucked away somewhere for a rainy day as well.

        • IANAPhysicist, but I have a wild and crazy idea simply based on what I have read in various books and wikipedia pages. I would love if someone with actual theoretical physics chops would tell me exactly why this won't work.

          According to the wikipedia page on the Alcubierre drive, phenomena such as the Casimir effect constitute negative energy simply by having a lower amount of vacuum energy virtual particles between the plates. Stephen Hawking's theory of Hawking radiation suggests that macroscopic phenomena

      • If I've read this [wikipedia.org] article correctly, the math shows that it's possible. The downside being the energy required to generate the field in the first place.
        • It's nice to have the math on your side, but that's not sufficient. You also need to have physics on your side. Based on Newton's equations the math showed it was possible to go faster then the speed of light if we just kept adding more energy to a particle. Turns out the physics was incomplete and now we know we can't do that.

          As far as we currently know, there is no exotic matter with negative mass in existence and there is no evidence that it could ever be created. Maybe it can, but at this point there's

          • by JeffAtl (1737988)

            It's nice to have the math on your side, but that's not sufficient. You also need to have physics on your side. Based on Newton's equations the math showed it was possible to go faster then the speed of light if we just kept adding more energy to a particle. Turns out the physics was incomplete and now we know we can't do that.

            The hope for those that desire FTL travel is that Relativity is incomplete as well.

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:43PM (#41239953) Homepage

        The idea of FTL is not 'out for the count' by a long shot, despite Einstein...

        Er, well, to be clear... FTL is out for the count because of Einstein, so for FTL to be possible means a up-ending of one of the fundamental assumptions of Relativity. It is hypothetically possible that this is the case, but it is not to be presumed lightly (unless you're writing a sci-fi story.)

        We would all like for it to be true. Believe me, a huge number of people were hoping that despite the odds the "FTL neutrinos" would turn out to be real rather than an equipment failure.

        In the same fashion we pressurize our airplanes and remain quite oblivious to the outside conditions, we have to find a way to encapsulate a piece of space time in our little ship while it zips along at warp 9...

        But in the same fashion where, despite your comfort within, the airplane itself still must obey the rules of aerodynamics so too must this hypothetical spacecraft deal with the rest of the universe while violating the rules of said universe. And it's not the environment of space that prevents FTL, it's causality. The only way to "encapsulate" something against causality is for it to never interact with the rest of the universe again.

        Now cue the naysayers to tell me how crazy I am for even thinking it. Radical, yes, but no crazier than the idea of man on the moon, or human flight. Faster than sound? I should be locked up for thinking up such insanity!

        It's not crazy to think of it. It is crazy to act like it's a realistic possibility based on what we know of the universe, or that it is any way comparable to the other things you mention. The physical principles that would allow flight, supersonic flight, or traveling to the moon were well-known for a long, long time. It was, in essence, an engineering problem of how to work the well-known laws of nature such that you could fly, or rocket off the face of the earth.

        Whereas FTL violates the known physical principles of nature.

        So, once again, it could be possible, and damn I hope it is, but it's not at all like those other things.

    • I don't know about interstellar travel just yet, but I would support deep space probes on multi decade robotic missions to other stars, using every angle they can in order to reach as high a velocity as possible, which is pretty fast, even today.

    • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:13PM (#41239533)

      The scales you're talking about with interstellar travel are almost humanly unimaginable. The fastest probe we've ever launched would take over 100,000 years to reach even the closest solar system

      Eh who cares. The proper model isn't a moon landing visit and return stunt but more like the national highway and railway network. It would take 100 years for me to visit every road in the US road network but I really don't care, as long as I can travel around my local area. So the proper solution is to take 10 million years to set up 10 million space stations each about a year apart. Much like the original ancient silk road, no one would ever travel the length of it, but you'd live along it and adsorb the benefits of it.

      Its like arguing its stupid for boats and sea travel to exist because no human being or individual boat could possibly last long enough to sail every route on the map or visit every port... "eh". None the less, sailing is fun.

    • "We'll be lucky to get a man on Mars in the next 100 years, much less a vehicle that could travel at a significant percentage of the speed of light (an absolute "must have" for an interstellar probe). The fastest probe we've ever launched would take over 100,000 years to reach even the closest solar system (and that's a *MERE* 4.2 light years away)."

      If we could travel at 25% of light speed we could do it in about 17 years, and I didn't even have to invent any math to figure that out! That alone proves tha

      • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:40PM (#41239903) Homepage Journal
        The problem is that 0.25c is unimaginably fast by human standards, and would require a truly mind boggling amount of energy to achieve for any vessel with enough mass to support people onboard. Even 0.025c is insanely fast (27 million kph), and would require a generational ship or some sort of stasis (and rotating crew) to make the journey. This assumes you solve the problem of what to do about invisible space junk (micrometeorites for instance) colliding with your ship at an equivalent energy much larger than the largest nuclear explosion ever detonated by man.

        We're not traveling between the stars without a major revolution in physics.
        • I wasn't saying there aren't problems. I'm pretty sure that the forming of the 100YSS is a direct acknowledgement that there are problems. The point I was making is that we don't need to achieve light speed or invent new mathematics to calculate the perfect launch trajectory in order to solve them.

          "We're not traveling between the stars without a major revolution in physics."

          I'm pretty sure they know that too.

      • Using 1 G acceleration, it would take about 90 days to reach 25% of C, which is a whole lot of energy. .5 G acceleration would require 180 days to reach that speed. And at .25 G, it would take a year. And that basically adds between 1 and two years to the journey (you have to turn around and slow down).

        Basically, we are not going out of our solar system anytime soon.

        • OMFG!!! If it was 17 years we could do it, but if it is 19 years we should just forget it! Also, I'm pretty sure the 100 year timeframe is a direct acknowledgement that we won't be doing it soon, or in the lifetime of anyone who starts on the project for that matter.
      • "We'll be lucky to get a man on Mars in the next 100 years, much less a vehicle that could travel at a significant percentage of the speed of light (an absolute "must have" for an interstellar probe). The fastest probe we've ever launched would take over 100,000 years to reach even the closest solar system (and that's a *MERE* 4.2 light years away)."

        If we could travel at 25% of light speed we could do it in about 17 years, and I didn't even have to invent any math to figure that out! That alone proves that speed of light travel is not a must have.

        He didn't say "speed of light travel," he said "significant percentage of the speed of light." 25% of the speed of light is certainly a significant percentage.

        According to what I can find online, the fastest man-made vehicle so far has been Pioneer 11, which reached a max speed of about 170000 kph. That works out to about 0.016% of the speed of light -- and that was achieved mostly by utilizing Jupiter's gravity. Getting up to 25% is a difference of three orders of magnitude.

        • "He didn't say "speed of light travel,"

          Really. Do you want to re-read his post and rethink your position? From the OP:

          "And even if you could reach Einstein's speed limit "

          It is true that he uses the weasel phrase "significant percentage" earlier in the post, but if you were paying attention then this statement makes it clear that he means 99.9% not 25%.

          "Getting up to 25% is a difference of three orders of magnitude."

          So you're saying it is very doable then ;-)

    • The one nice shortcut with the math is that most of the things humans are interested in are (comparatively) large gravity wells.

      That still leaves you with the somewhat hairy problem of not falling in to the biggest star in the area when your millenia ship fires up its ancient engines as it approaches the target; but at least the dartboard in China is a powerful magnet, so there is a small envelope for near misses.

      Personally, I'd be worried about the limits(both in terms of 'with our present technology' and

    • by Pausanias (681077)

      Puttering along at near-light-speed in a universe 14 billion light years across would only remind you of how isolated we really are.

      The closer you travel to light speed, the more that distance will shrink for you, so that given sufficient energy you will be able to make the trip in an arbitrarily small amount of time as viewed by yourself.

      This message brought to you by special relativity. It's the LAW

    • by twotacocombo (1529393) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:18PM (#41239599)
      I bet this is what people said 100 years ago about putting a man on the moon. Think of all the incredible things that have been done or discovered in the last century. Or, would you rather we not put the time and resources into an idea this grand and incredible, and say to hell with all the amazing things we may discover along the way, regardless of its outcome? My country's successes weren't accomplished by the naysayers; step aside, sir.
      • by CRCulver (715279)

        I bet this is what people said 100 years ago about putting a man on the moon. Think of all the incredible things that have been done or discovered in the last century...

        Assuming technology were still accelerating at the same pace it did in the 20th century, it's probably less likely that we'll travel to the stars. If the human race ultimately merges with machines, we may decided to move into a virtual reality, with the infrastructure located deep underground where nothing will bother us for many millions o

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Araes (1177047)
          Relevant XKCD - http://xkcd.com/893/ [xkcd.com] "The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space--each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision."
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jdavidb (449077)

        My country's successes weren't accomplished by the naysayers; step aside, sir.

        I would love to step aside, but people keep trying to forcibly involve my money in such projects. I will gladly step aside, and to you I say, Go For It! Just do it on the dimes of people like you, and be principled and leave the naysayers out of it. Then you won't have to hear from us so much.

        • I would love to step aside, but people keep trying to forcibly involve my money in such projects.

          When you pay taxes, it becomes 'our' money. You have no say in where it goes, so why do you assume 'your' money only goes to fund things you don't like? It's people like you that loudly protest something like this, but then happily and quietly reap the rewards that result from it. Do you have any idea the amazing things that were discovered via the space program over the last 50+ years? How about the incredible advances in technology that WWII brought us? Neither of those things were cheap or easy, but soci

          • You have no say in where it goes, so why do you assume 'your' money only goes to fund things you don't like?

            If only we could all individually choose where our tax monies are spent. I certainly (as an American) wouldn't have funded the Iraq war, and I would continue to not fund farm subsidies paid out to corporations or the so-called drug war (which is basically corporate subsidies of a different nature). I would probably pay most of it to NASA and the (now-defunct) Superconducting Super Collider because they're cool. <sigh>

            As the parent said, "When you pay taxes, it becomes 'our' money." Democratic gove

      • by rroman (2627559)
        Well, I'd love to be false prophet, but with interstellar travel I don't see the future very bright. There are physical boundaries that almost disallow such things. If we even forget about theory of relativity, we know that e = mv^2/2 and e=mc^2. So we know that to be able to make something move fast enough to reach any star in our neighbourhood and return, we need to provide it with energy, which is roughly to energy stored in matter and antimatter of the same mass (or one order down) as the vehicle. Produ
      • Yes, we put a man on the moon. A couple times. For a few days. A long time ago.

        There is a huge Difference between that, and going to Mars, or Interstellar. Let me know when we land on the moon, build a station there, and have permanent residents. Or when we start mining Asteroids, or similarly useful to 7 Billion people back on 3rd Rock.

    • by Isaac-1 (233099) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:22PM (#41239647)

      The problem is we still think technology as a whole is advancing at the same rate it did in the 20th century where we went from the first powered flight to landing men on the moon in under 70 years, and today we have the U.S. Air Force still flying planes that first flew 60 years ago (B-52's) . The truth of the matter is some fields like computers and even microscale engineering do continue to advance, but many important fields for such a project have barely changed in the last half century.

      • by sinij (911942)
        Diminishing returns.

        Technology is actually advancing at the accelerated rate, but to advance any given established area would take exponentially more effort, with each consecutive breakthrough taking more time. On top of that many innovations are limited by available energy sources, that is with denser and more available energy we will be able to do more at the existing level of technology. Unfortunately we are nowhere near close to matching, less beating, energy density of oil-derived products.

        Some fie
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The B52s of today are NOT the same as those flown 60 years ago. Engines, Airframes, Electronics. I think even the bolts that hold it together are not the same. It resembles the plane from 60 years ago, that is about all.

    • by sinij (911942) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:26PM (#41239697) Journal
      Because of the time scales mentioned above, space ship capable traveling to nearest start would be incapable of supporting life. That is it will have to reconstruct life on the arrival and travel completely dormant.

      As a civilization we do have enough time before estimated heat death of our universe to visit even most distant corner of the galaxy. With that said, every trip will be one-way, by the time "we" (whatever form it takes) arrive anywhere original civilization will be long since gone.

      As a result multi-star civilization is extremely unlikely, you could have a civilization existing on multiple stars, just not at the same time. With this realization humanity's energy should be directed toward a) fully utilizing our system b) fully utilizing energy of the sun c) fully utilizing matter in our system. Only after all of this is achieved does it make sense to fire one-way, never-heard-back-from seeds at the stars.
    • universe 14 billion light years across

      Current models indicates that the universe defies terminology like "across", being more of a big "loop" much like the globe is "big loop", that if you traveled in a straight line, you'd eventually end up right where you started. Time/Space is bendy, and any hope of interstellar travel will require our ability to "fold" it.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Not to mention appreciating the scale of behavior that has "Backing" on one end with actual MONEY and volunteering to "chair" a high profile position in order to prostitute ones cult of personality.

        fig A.
                    $BACKING...|...Attention whoring

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Um, no, there are problems, perhaps insurmountable, but navigation isn't one of them, and the vastness of the universe also isn't one of them, depending on one's goals.

      Yes, "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space." Got it.

      But we're not talking about sending a colony to Messier 82, or even the large megellanic cloud. Wiki shows 12 stars within 10 lig

    • I thought you just said "Warp Factor 9, Engage, Make it so, Earl Grey Tea, Hot, etc." and it worked.

      Or Georgi had to modulate the frequency of the phase array of the trans warp coil tachyon pulse... technobabble... problem solved.

      It should be that easy, right?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Grishnakh (216268)

      The fastest probe we've ever launched would take over 100,000 years to reach even the closest solar system (and that's a *MERE* 4.2 light years away).

      Totally irrelevant. The fastest probe we've ever launched was slow as shit because it doesn't have any decent engines, and IIRC doesn't have any engines at all, it's just carried by momentum from its initial launch and from some hydrazine thrusters to make small course corrections and take advantage of gravitational slingshots around the planets.

      If we build

    • by Khashishi (775369)

      One interesting idea of long term interstellar travel was envisioned in an old video game Phantasy Star III, which had an interesting setting. Perhaps due to constant warfare, society had regressed to a feudal system where the idea of space travel was all but unknown. The player travels between villages battling bio-engineered monsters and robots which hint at advanced technology, and gradually explores the lands. Eventually, the game reveals that the lands they live in are all inside a huge (country sized?

    • by meerling (1487879)
      People have been thinking about it for a long time now, and they even know the distances involved to some very accurate numbers, even though they keep changing. (The entire universe is in motion all the time.) It's not even close to unimaginable, unless you are lacking in imagination, or want to bicycle there or something equally absurd.

      The politics and economics is a much greater barrier than the engineering. They have several ideas for ships that will be accelerated to speeds far far greater than anything
    • by ObiWanKenblowme (718510) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:48PM (#41240015)

      Well, if someone on slashdot says it can't be done, then that's enough for me...

      Call it off, boys!

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      There are many interesting scientific discoveries to be made by visiting other solar systems, other than pursuing the scifi dream of intelligent life. Even visiting Alpha Centauri could provide us with lots of information. Only by observing other systems can we determine what features of our system are general and what are unique. Yes, the distances between stars are huge, which is why we have to learn to be patient and launch probes that only future generations will see the results of.

      As for calculating th

    • Don't be such a dick. Not everything in the various space programs is strictly for the various space programs.

      "This important effort helps advance the knowledge and technologies required to explore space, all while generating the necessary tools that enhance our quality of life on earth."

      You're falling into one of the pitfalls of religion/faith: it is not possible for us to comprehend/achieve such lofty goals, therefore don't attempt to. New technologies and science breakthroughs will not only enlighten our lives on Earth but also have potential to greatly expand our travel potential if ideas like quantum entanglement can prove fruitful.

      But you're right... its snake oil... fuck all

    • by Moofie (22272) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @07:51PM (#41241463) Homepage

      New York Times, October 9, 1903:

      "The ridiculous fiasco which attended the attempt at aerial navigation in the Langley flying machine was not unexpected⦠it might be assumed that the flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years"

      Orville Wright's diary, October 9, 1903:

      "We began assembly today."

      Your perspective is limited.

  • Ah, The B-Ark... (Score:4, Informative)

    by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @04:58PM (#41239329)

    As long as Bill is on this ship it would be fine.
    Still, a horrible thing to inflict upon whatever world it lands on. [wikia.com]

    • The good news is that as a phone sanitizer, I get to go first!

    • by TexNex (513254)

      Put both Clinton and Shatner on the ship and see who can score the most green chicks / moon maidens / Venusian Princesses. We might not be able to conquer the aliens through force but, we can out breed them with the above tag team. Of course wars then might be fought over who has the best hair.

  • At realistically attainable speeds, 100 years isn't going to cut it.

  • Someone missed a few fine points when the read the Cliffs Notes for Greek Myth.
  • To construct a starship over the next 100 years? Or to build a starship that will travel (to another star system) over a period of 100 years?

    I think that we (terran civilisation) could construct a multigenerational; slow starship in about a century - but it would take millenea to get anywhere.

    If we work on things a bit longer we might come up with a bussard ramjet that could get pretty close to the speed of light, and get some relativity advantage

    But for usable interstellar travel we need some way of going

    • by kenaaker (774785)
      I think there are two projects, the 100 year starship project, and the Icarus Interstellar project. From what I've read, they have similar concerns, but are different organizations. The 100 year starship project objective is to think about how to build a starship that can travel for 100 years, reach another star and return data to earth. Icarus is interested in interstellar travel too, but seems to have a more nebulous goal, mostly about the research needed to build an interstellar ship.
  • Send frozen eggs, sperm and a robotic womb into space....
    • by Dr. Spork (142693)

      I agree. Scientists are getting good at keeping a human zygote growing outside of a womb, and we're getting good at designing incubators for very premature babies. At some point, these two technologies will converge and we really will have our artificial womb. I think this is likely to happen before the end of the century, and will have important terrestrial applications as well (like the near obsolescence of abortion). Even more technologically interesting would be to design AI parents that can do a decent

  • this could be like a modern day cathedral, or a pyramid type project.

    something that takes generations to build....

    why not start

  • by TuringCheck (1989202) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:41PM (#41239915)
    Such a ship can be loaded with politicians and lawyers and send to colonize the cold, hard vacuum.
    Hopefully a post-singularity entity will lob a black hole after the ship. Or two, just to be sure.
  • Skip the humans and then we can send it even faster and not bust the bank. Target a known extra-solar planet within 10 LY that looks interesting, design a relatively simple, light probe, and have it do a flyby. If we can get it to about 0.25c average, then it could get there in about 40 years, and the signal would take 10 years to arrive back to Earth.

  • but I bet his reasoning has something to do with the idea of female crew members in short skirts
  • He just wants to get all the geniuses with the foresight to plan properly off of the planet. That way when Lord Xeno from Omicron III arrives there will be little resistance both now and in the future.

    (sarcasm)

  • by k6mfw (1182893) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @07:35PM (#41241309)

    This was one of panel discussions at SETIcon II earlier this year. This DARPA study also funds people doing research to ask what kinds of people need to be selected for the trip? How will they get along? What is the minimum number? They will have to breed, researchers looking into how many people did it take to originally populate north american continent (answer was about 70). What kind of culture(s) of people, other studies show people will bring their own culture with them. Also have to grown own food, how much top soil needs to be packed? Other ways to grow food? how do you keep the soil healthy? It seems when we research and plan for a 100 year starship, we are actually looking back at ourselves. How do we keep our current "spaceship" functional. Really, a common expression of earth itself in the early 1970s per the new ecology movement.

    There was a lot of other subjects raised in this discussion, go buy the video of what was presented at http://seticon.com/products/#category=saturday [seticon.com]
    All Aboard the 100 Year Starship (Panel Discussion) Price: $10.00 Featuring Mae Jemison, Richard Rhodes, Dana Backman, Bill Nye. Moderated by Adrian Brown.

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