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NASA Reveals Hundred Year Starship Program 351

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 )
    So we're just 999 million dollars short?
    • Re:yikes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Splab ( 574204 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:01AM (#33959762)

      A billion here and a billion there, who's counting?

      What one really should notice about this is they can get someone on Mars for $10 billion; why the fuck haven't they started yet? 20 billion dollars poured into the US economy, into research and development and finally into production would probably have done a heck of a lot more than the trillions wasted on trying to save a few fat cats.

      • Re:yikes (Score:5, Interesting)

        by shrykk ( 747039 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:23AM (#33959962)
        In 1996 Robert Zubrin and others proposed a $55 billion programme for a series of Mars missions, Mars Direct [wikipedia.org]. You can read about it in a very interesting book called 'The Case for Mars'.

        The key points of the mission were

        • staying on Mars for 6 months between launch windows rather than a few days (digging in for radiation protection).
        • taking a seed stock of 12 tonnes of hydrogen and using a series of chemical reactions with various elements found on Mars to produce rocket fuel for the way back.
        • sending repeat missions including an initial unmanned mission, so that each mission makes the return fuel for the next one, giving a margin of safety. There would be multiple missions and a colony established.

        This still seems to me to be the most sensible and effective way to put people on Mars. Preliminary back-and-forth trips to the moon not needed. Establishes a genuine human presence instead of just planting a flag. And at a cost which in the light of numbers being thrown around during the financial crisis which looks like a bargain.

        • by sznupi ( 719324 )

          Hydrogen isn't the type of fuel that lends itself well to long storage and bringing it down on some planetary surface. In fact, it's probably close to most problematic in those regards.

          • by Nitage ( 1010087 )
            Transportation and long term storage of hydrogen is problematic *on Earth* because of the presence of oxygen in our atmosphere - that's not a problem in space or on Mars.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by sznupi ( 719324 )

              Flammability is the least of problems. Bigger issue is how it is "very" cryogenic and of low density (necessitating large structures, especially problematic when trying to perform an atmospheric entry) - there are good practical reason why no booster needing to remain viable in space for more than a few days (or even hours?) used LH2.

          • by shrykk ( 747039 )
            Please note, the hydrogen seedstock is the alternative to taking a hundred tonnes of rocket fuel to fuel the whole trip back (and hence having a vastly bigger ship out, hence having to assemble the ship piecewise in orbit instead of launching it from Earth. Sooo many more problems). Landing hydrogen on Mars is really not the sticking point with this plan.
            • by sznupi ( 719324 )

              Or a few tons of reaction mass for some sort of nuclear powered ion engine (for example), which never has to deal with landing on the surface, at most aerobraking gently.

        • Re:yikes (Score:5, Insightful)

          by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:51AM (#33960302)
          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.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            The issue really seems to be the lack of a space race. So how do why drive the Russian and Chinese to compete in space and forget this competing militarily crap. Perhaps the meme driven over and over again, he who dominates in space dominates the world, driven over and over again might work.

            You know, the first country with a manned expedition to Mars get to keep it along with the idea that Terra forming Mars would not be all that difficult.

          • 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.

            Get some convincing shots of a "global killer" that's "20 years out" and lots of geeks saying it's a "99% guarantee to hit the planet" and you'd get your funding real quick. Then, when it "misses" (because it wasn't there) and the geeks say "oh, this was an imperial unit asteroid, we were doing the calcs in metric. Our bad. But look, we got cool space ships!"

            Sounds like a plan to me. Call Spielberg, we need a consultant.

            Tell me this - how different is this hoax scenario than "Too big to fail" as far a

          • Jobs.
          • All the spending items you mention have some clear immediate need they are addressing. Sending people to Mars does not have a clear immediate need.

        • It's still not unreasonable to establish a permanent base on the moon, on the other side where the planet will shield a potential observatory to be built there from various types of signal pollution from Earth. We could learn about building and maintaining bases for low-G, low-pressure environments before we go to Mars and deal with entire additional categories of problem like windblown fines. On the other hand, sightseeing trips to the moon are totally worthless at this point.

        • Before heading all the way to Mars like this, let's use this idea to return to the Moon. Escape velocity for the Moon is a lot lower than it is for the Earth (2.4 km/s versus 11.2 km/s according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]) so it would require less fuel to launch the longer mission from there. While there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of hydrogen in moon rocks, there is plenty of oxygen.
          • Mars Direct (or Semi-Direct) plan can't be used for the Moon on account that Moon has no atmosphere.
            Which would be the source of the fuel for the trip back home.

            Also, most things that were a part of the Mars Direct plan were there because they are an issue if you are going to MARS. Not Moon.
            Prolonged exposure to 0-gravity, fuel, launch window every 1.5 years etc.
            Take a break and watch the documentary [youtube.com] about it for more info.

          • Also we haven't really explored the moon. Frozen water likely exists in craters which are continually in shadow. Water = oxygen & hydrogen.

            If Columbus had explored as much as we have explored the moon he would have landed, collected few seashells, walked around on the beech a little bit, took some sketches of the inland areas then returned home and never came back.

        • I'd like to see the settlement and methods for refueling a return rocket all done with robots. Once the mission has been successfully completed robotically, then start sending people in the next launch window.
        • It would be a great accomplishment to go to Mars, but that is all it would be - just a feather in our cap. The talk of colonizing is just spin to gloss over the fact that the when we to the Moon just for the accomplishment of it, that the space program kind of went into the toilet afterward.

          A serious space program, if it were truly interested in colonization, would focus on the moon. The moon comes first if space colonization is really a goal. The moon comes first for mining and commerce.

          There is no reason

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AJWM ( 19027 )

        they can get someone on Mars for $10 billion; why the fuck haven't they started yet?

        They also said that was the price tag for a one way trip. While I have no doubt that you could find many volunteers for that, even if they had no hope of survival past the point of the canned air running out, politicians don't have the guts. Remember the second part of Kennedy's moon goal, "and return him safely to the Earth". It would take a real change in our culture before the majority would support politicians who sup

  • by Dystopian Rebel ( 714995 ) * on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:04AM (#33959788) Journal

    In other news: Google To Expand Outsourcing

  • by PmanAce ( 1679902 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:06AM (#33959806) Homepage
    $10 billion to $1-2 billion? What corners are they going to cut I wonder...

    "Ok astronauts, we had some budget cuts so you will have to hold your breath once you get out of our atmosphere..."
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Combatso ( 1793216 )
      they can start with the 8-billion slated to hire a consulting firm to lower costs in the NASA cafeteria
    • Hey cheer up Mr. Smith you will be the first man on mars. The bad news is you will die on impact when your capsule crashes into the planet at 40 times the speed of sound. Budgets cuts and all that we can't afford to slow you down, or bring the supplies needed for you to survive and return. Nobody every said making history was going to be easy.

  • by Dark Stranger ( 547626 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:07AM (#33959820)
    .. oh, you mean ALIVE?
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:14AM (#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.

    • It's not the trip itself, but the science that's important. Learning how to send a small group of people to a distant location with limited supplies and not having them all starve/kill each other/go crazy is important, not just for traveling to Mars, but for life on the ISS, or in the Antarctic, or at the bottom of the oceans.

    • by aug24 ( 38229 )

      This is, unless I misunderstand, 1.1 mill to establish if there is a feasible way to get the costs down.

      Not to actually build it, or ACTUALLY make the tech cheaper - just to see if it is feasible.

    • I know DARPA and NASA are just fulfilling their primary missions here (i.e., dazzling the press with PR)

      NASA maybe but DARPA? For every gee wiz DARPA project that you hear about there's 5 boring ones that no one cares about, the media doesn't exactly care about things like a smaller form factor for a military radio or a system for improved telemetry during test flights, regardless of how much they advance the state of the art.

    • by anUnhandledException ( 1900222 ) <davis@gerald.gmail@com> on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:04AM (#33961214)

      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 elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:20AM (#33961420)
        A project that they had so little faith in that they abandoned it in 1975 to pump money into projects with greater potential, like developing telepathic spies (wish I were making that up).
        • by anUnhandledException ( 1900222 ) <davis@gerald.gmail@com> on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @12:26PM (#33962288)

          DARPA deals with cutting edge technology. Like the first packet switching network, telepathic spies, and cars that can drive themselves.

          By 1975 ARPANET was no longer cutting edge pure R&D but rather a growing production system. As such control & funding of ARPANET was transfered to the Defense Communication Agency. No matter how massively sucessful ARPANET was (or could have been) DARPA was never going to fund it forever. That isn't how DARPA works. It is a incubator for technology. Those technologies are either abandoned (like telepathic spies) or move on to production systems (like APRANET).

          Similarly today DARPA is doing research into autonomous vehicles. However someday when those vehicles are in production DARPA will move on to other projects.

          I grant you research into telepathic spies wasn't the most productive but is a misnomer to say DARPA abandoned ARPANET.

          ARPANET remained functional until 1990 (although by 1983 the military nodes had broken away to form the isolated MilNET).

          It was the first, and being first, was best,
          but now we lay it down to ever rest.
          Now pause with me a moment, shed some tears.
          For auld lang syne, for love, for years and years
          of faithful service, duty done, I weep.
          Lay down thy packet, now, O friend, and sleep.

            -- Requiem of the ARPANET

  • NASA and the rest of the industry would be unable to do it. The entire industry is oriented around project based operations with a defined start and end. Where is the "end" of a one way colonization ship? If an accident wipes them all out? Its incompatible with the whole corporate structure and mindset. Example, after the project ends, you get evaluated and perhaps promoted, on a project that never ends, that means you never get promoted, I'm sure they'll love that.

    That's also why the cost concept is p

    • The AC responder makes a good point, but also missed something. You're confusing a "project" with a "program". Programs have lots of projects and milestones which you could be working on and get promoted for accomplishing. A project is a component task, assisting goal, or tangible feature.

      An example of the difference: Military recruiting is a program that never ends (just like the one way colonization ship) but there are many projects that people work on that do end like this year's USMC recruitment TV comm
    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      Average members of our specie had lots of practice in abandoning friends and family; we can cope with that. And in this case even a decent communication would be possible, if a bit far from realtime.

      Too bad the financing in the style of New World colonists probably can't work, there'll be probably nothing which could repay the debt in a reasonable amount of time. At least there's always place for "spiritual" reasons, I guess - which faith is willing to claim the Mars for itself with a first temple/etc.? ;p

    • No method has yet been created (as in, put into practice) to enable human bodies to withstand prolonged microgravity. Physiologically we're just not built for it. Our bodies have grown in earth's gravity, our blood vessels below the chest have grown to return blood against gravity back to the heart. As yet, there's no viable method for keeping a human able to do what they need to do in microgravity for a very long period and enable them to function properly once they reach the surface (and gravity environme

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:20AM (#33959926) Homepage

    Then offer $2 billion to put someone on Mars. The Chinese probably won't take your money for political reasons, but I'm damn sure India will, probably buying Chinese rocket parts off the shelf.

    Oh, wait - you meant, how can we give $2 billion to Americans to do it? Well, forget it - you need to spend that much just on the Oversight Steering Committee Review Board's annual team building retreat to Aspen.

  • I was expecting to read some radical plan for getting to the Gliese 581 star system with some kind of Orion nuclear pulse starship built from a moonbase. Instead I read about interplanetary travel and even airships. Interstellar travel is exactly what we should be planning. We've already mostly explored our own system with robotic probes. Time to move on. I picture large scale uranium [popsci.com] mining on the moon similar to the mining operations in the film Moon, and a huge spaceship manufacturing base. Something lik

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:31AM (#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.

      • by TheoMurpse ( 729043 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @10:20AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ledow ( 319597 )

          Your first assumption is wrong. Because there is a point of diminishing gains at which it can ONLY be worthwhile to go then. That's *not* now. Give it a few generations (more if the US wants to dismantle more of it's space budgets).

          Second, those benefits will be few. Because, for a start, interstellar communication will be incredibly lagged and slow and unlikely to yield enough useful data. If it was useful, a probe would be much better. How are the best probes we've ever sent into the deepest part of

          • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @11:33AM (#33961560)

            In a perfect world, you would be right. We would just wait until we are ready.

            The problem is that is not how it works. First, you need to not only build up competency, you also need to build confidence that we can do things like this. No one will want to launch an interstellar craft without having tried something that goes some substantial fraction of the way. There are practical reasons for this, but also morale reasons. No one is going to feel confident in going interplanetary to interstellar in one single program even if the theory is solid. Considering that we know absolutely nothing about interstellar space first-hand, it is not an unreasonable attitude to take.

            Second, even if we accept that approach and are willing to wait until the theory tells us we are ready, we are making assumptions about the rate of scientific and engineering advances that may not be justifiable. I know people love that we are in an age of increasing, even accelerating scientific and technological achievement, but there is absolutely no reason that such a rate of change has to continue. For one thing, the simple fact of the energy crisis is a clear and present limiting factor to advancement. Without almost exponentially increasing amounts of available energy and resources, we are unlikely to be able to sustain forward momentum at the present rate, let alone at an ever increasing rate. Beyond that, I hope I don't have to explain the effect of any one of the developing global conflicts on the possibility of a slow down, or even a dark age in our future. It is entirely possible that any ship that can be launched *will* be the one that arrives first.

            Any interstellar journey that has a reasonable chance of success is going to be the most important thing mankind has ever accomplished to that date. Any reasonable level of success means that humanity's eventual extinction ceases to be an absolute certainty. I can't see why we wouldn't want to launch as soon as possible, even if after 20 years or so, one of our later designs drops out of warp in front of the ship and picks up the crew before they have even gotten a tenth of the way there. And no one can tell me that twenty years of studying interstellar space itself is not worth the effort even if it is not the primary mission.

      • 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).

        So when do you decide it's good enough?

        I mean... We launch now and in 100 years we could easily overtake them.

        So we launch in 100 years... And 100 years after that we could overtaken them...

        So we wait 200 years to launch... But 100 years later we can overtake them...

        So we wait 300 years...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MozeeToby ( 1163751 )

        There's always the idea of planning for your current ship being overtaken by the next wave of the fleet [wikipedia.org]. That way, each ship would only have to be completely self sufficient for 20 years, and the first ships wouldn't have to be inhabited at all, they could just be loaded up with a huge amount of some important resource (water, nuclear fuel, whatever you're going to need). And if propulsion really improves as fast as you seem to think it will, the ships could easily request what resources they will need;

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by brinic ( 938562 )
        There are a number of reasons to send missions sooner. First, going through the design process sooner will lead to more discoveries that might speed up research in space travel technologies or lead to other discoveries that might be useful here on Earth. Also, we are not guaranteed of producing a better space craft simply by waiting. The best way to improve our technological capabilities in terms of space travel is through actually traveling in space. The other advantage of sending a mission sooner is t
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sznupi ( 719324 )

        That ignores how many interesting targets beyond outer planets are well within 100 years of probe travel with current capabilities. How speed of Voyagers was determined by their mission and budget, not only technical limitations (a Saturn V with NERVA upper stage and on the probe, borrowed from the Soviets, ion xenon thruster with nuclear reactor could all give a much higher speed, and nothing worse from what we can do few decades later; but it would actually limit their usefulness, limit flyby times during

      • Eheh (Score:3, Interesting)

        So you would tell the wright bothers not to bother, because someone is sure to come along with a better design soon, a better design based on... oh wait.

        I don't think you got how science works. For the next generation X, you need the current generation. This ain't a game of Civ were you can cheat your way from the stone age to the exodus.

  • by SengirV ( 203400 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:23AM (#33959968)

    Why have we not started a project based on a scaled up(more fuel) ion-propulsion engine to send something out of the solar system? We have our ears craning to the sky to hear a 1/2 watt voyager signal, but we could be sending something else deeper, faster, more powerful and with a lot more scientific instruments on it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

      • Voyager won't see anything more for 300,000 years, even at 100x speed a new craft won't see anything for 3000 years.

        Ion engines don't have this constant velocity problem. I'm unqualified to revise the math, though (somebody please do so).

        There's also the unsolved problem of the lack of deflector dishes so a spec of dust doesn't obliterate the probe 200 years from now.

        • Ion engines don't have this constant velocity problem.

          I don't know what you're talking about. If you have an unimpeded path through vacuum you're going to have a constant velocity.

          Any self-propulsion system has exactly the same problems due to the limits imposed by the rocket equation [wikipedia.org]. Basically, an ion engine can reach a higher velocity only because its exhaust velocity is much higher, but it's still far from practical for interstellar travel. For that you need to get your rocket to about 0.1c, which
    • To go where? "Out of the solar system" is pretty vague. At over 113 AU from the Sun, the Voyager 1 probe could be considered outside the solar system right now, but that's not a terribly interesting place if you ask me. Now if we're talking another star then that's about 268,000 AU - quite a different scale.
    • by VShael ( 62735 )

      Serious answer, which will probably sound partisan...

      The political will to spend that sort of money on this sort of mission, isn't there.

      Republicans, especially classic Republicans who tend to favour small government, would see such a program as a needless waste of money. It's not like the 60's, when the Space Race could be linked in the mindset to defence, security, and anti-communism, three things that will invariably be supported by Republicans.

      While the Democrats tend to have less problem funding big ex

    • Didn't Voyager enjoy conditions that made it really easy to quickly slingshot it towards the outer planets and out of the solar system? Your new extrasolar probe will probably require a longer time to get out there than Voyager 1 and 2 (cf. New Horizons).

      Plus, we already have more than one mission examining the edge of the solar system; missions inside the solar system might produce more useful data in less time on a smaller budget.
  • nuclear accelerator (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aashenfe ( 558026 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:24AM (#33959970) Journal
    So how about a nuclear accelerator ring as a propulsion device. Instead of the two proton beams colliding, they would be projected from each edge of the accelerator ring. The ring should be lighter than an earth based one because a vacuum is already present. A nuclear power plant would be required to power the ring, and a tank of hydrogen would be required as a proton source (Unless hydrogen or protons can be harvested from the solar wind).

    The perfect engine would generate 1G of acceleration over a multiple year period.

    With this engine, a trip to Mars should be a rather shorter endeavour.

    Anybody have any idea what it would take to build such a thing, Or how fast such a thing could get to Mars at it's closest approach assuming 1G of acceleration?
  • Find out if you are going to be on the "A" ship, the "B" ship, or the "C" ship.
  • To beam energy to a vessel, you have to cross the atmosphere. Methinks you're not just going to only heat up the vessel.

  • $1,100,000 is hardly enough money to get the stationery and logos printed up. It hardly constitutes the "funding" of a program.

    I think it's sad how the US government can print up trillions of dollars to reward select banks and companies like GM by taking away the consequences of screwing up, and yet they keep NASA worse than starving by giving them these paltry amounts. Either shut it down, or fund it properly. These halfway measures are just an utter waste of money.

  • You have 100 years? (Score:4, Informative)

    by rcastro0 ( 241450 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:49AM (#33960272) Homepage

    Turning US$ 2 Billion into US$ 100 Billion in 100 years is no big deal. One just needs a 4% return above inflation. That is trivial for a good asset manager with a long term outlook.

    In fact, make it into the "120 year starship program" and we will have US$ 220 Billion to play (don't you love compound interest rates?).

  • “Anybody that watches the [Star Trek] Enterprise, you know you don’t see huge plumes of fire. Within a few years we will see the first true prototype of a spaceship that will take us between worlds.”

    So we are to assume that Gene Roddenberry had more insight on space travel and engineering than actual NASA engineers? :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rakuen ( 1230808 )
      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 gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:59AM (#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?

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

    by Plekto ( 1018050 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @10:03AM (#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 dmomo ( 256005 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @10:20AM (#33960702)

    If the maximum distance from the Earth to Mars is 401.3 million km, then the statuses that they read on Facebook or Twitter will be no newer than 22 minutes. This does not include the initial HTTP request.

    With the time and money that NASA puts into researching issues as minor as "how are astronauts supposed to poop in space without gravity", I'm sure that this "gotcha" has not been overlooked.

    If they are still considering investing in sending someone to Mars knowing full well about this hang-up, It is reasonable to conclude that somewhere, someone, has successfully developed an ansible, and that they are keeping this technology from us.

  • $1 million will last about a week on a program like this.

    It will also buy 1/6th of a bionic man.

There are running jobs. Why don't you go chase them?