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Space Science Idle Technology

Engineer Thinks We Could Build a Real Starship Enterprise In 20 Years 589

Nancy_A writes "An engineer has proposed — and outlined in meticulous detail — building a full-sized, ion-powered version of the starship Enterprise. The ship would be based on current technology, and would take about 20 years to construct, at a cost of roughly $1 trillion. 'We have the technological reach to build the first generation of the spaceship known as the USS Enterprise – so let's do it,' writes the curator of the Build The Enterprise website, who goes by the name of BTE-Dan."
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Engineer Thinks We Could Build a Real Starship Enterprise In 20 Years

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2012 @11:30AM (#39979011)

    Robotic mission with humans grown near the destination.

  • by Twinbee ( 767046 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @11:37AM (#39979069) Homepage
    If that's where we're going to be eventually - in space. We'll get there a lot quicker by building 'useless' projects like this. Plus it's exciting. More exciting than say, oh I don't know, spending 1 trillion on blowing up the world or something.
  • This is nothing like the Enterprise except in shape -- and it would be pointless to duplicate the shape.

    And besides, in the Enterprise world, dilithium crystals (with antimatter in there somewhere) were the power source of "reality", and "ion power" was what made Scottie get all wide-eyed.

    With current technology, we'd end up with a generational sublight ship. Keeping in with the Star Trek theme, this would be closer to the SS Botany Bay [] which according to Star Trek canon was launched only 18 years ago. Of course, that turned out horribly wrong, so maybe it's not the mission to emulate.

    Joking aside, making such a ship would be very neat. But the guy needs to stop pretending that it has anything to do with Star Trek or it's Enterprise. We could call it Enterprise if we wanted, but picking that shape would be silly -- there are much more practical shapes to be had. And considering just how expensive this would be, we should be trying to make it practical rather than novel.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2012 @12:12PM (#39979319)
    I wouldn't say no purpose. We're going to need a fast ship if we're going to travel to another Earth-like planet and colonize it. And building a slow ship would give us more experience to build a faster ship. Still, you're right, there are other priorities, especially considering how limited our space technology is.
  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @12:19PM (#39979365)

    I think if I were an engineer, looking to built large megastructures in space, with sufficient shielding for human occupants, I think I would look at a sphere first. Minimum surface area to enclose a given volume. Build from the inside out. Controllable rotational gravity; outer compartments are filled with water and storage; further in, put people and living space; further in still, put a radiation storm shelter (humans can cope with microgravity for short periods with no ill effects). Besides, if you were building a spacecraft not designed for reentry, there would be no need to make it aerodynamic.

    Perhaps we should be taking our inspiration from the Death Star, not the Starship Enterprise.

  • by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @12:54PM (#39979649)

    Actually it could be built for a lot less in my opinion. Much of the cost of these things is just lifting stuff up there, but once the technology of the Star Tram is rolled out that cost will be gone. I wouldn't start out building giant spacecraft, more like -> increased orbital presence -> asteroid mining -> orbital refineries and manufacturing -> nice spaceships -> comfy seats spaceships, taking about 30 years to complete the arc.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @01:04PM (#39979721)

    An "Enterprise-type" starship is a misnomer at best. An ion drive to get to even the closest star would have to be a "generation" ship. It would take generations of people, born, liviing, dying, to reach the nearest stars.

    The alternative would be some sort of 2001-type hibernation, which also would not be anything like the Enterprise.

    "Beam me up Scottie, there's no intelligent life in this article."

    Thanks to time-dilation as you approach the speed of light, if you can maintain 1G of acceleration, it doesn't take many generations of people to go to very far-flung places. You can travel 1500 light-years to the Orion Nebula in only 30 years of ship time. []. Of course 3000 years would have passed on earth by the time you get there. In just 60 years, you can travel 2 million light years. (which an observer on earth would see as 5 million years)

    A 1G ship can also be thought of as a (one-way) time-machine. Step inside the ship for a big circular voyage and when you step out 30 years later, 3000 years will have passed on Earth.

  • by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @01:50PM (#39980115)
    Pacifism loses out, but the bar isn't "a large military capable of projecting power globally,", it's "annoying enough to not bother taking over." The US population has enough guns already without the military for that, particularly since there's not all that much worth taking in the first place.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2012 @02:37PM (#39980479)
    The adult volunteers for the mission might be fine, but all subsequent generations would be condemned to a form of slavery, having no say in the matter of whether they *want* to be interstellar explorers for us. what if they decide to turn around? What if they decide to hell with earth, we're not gonna send them any frackin data? What would we have the right to force them to do?
  • I will defend the Saturn rockets, as designed by Werner Von Braun, as some of the best rockets that any nation could have come up with and were superior to anything ever built before and arguably even since.

    For myself, I think it is a crying shame that production on the Saturn rockets didn't continue. I'll even go out on a limb and suggest that for the money dumped on the Space Shuttle program alone, that if the same money had been spent on the Saturn rocket family (Saturn I and Saturn V) America would have sent more astronauts into space, would have built structures far more impressive than the International Space Station (Skylab was about half the volume of the ISS.... and that was sent up in one launch), and we would today have the capability of being able to return to the Moon whenever we felt like it.... and there never would have been a "spaceflight gap" like exists today.

    In other words, the whole Space Shuttle program is to me a total waste, where I can't think of a single thing that the Space Shuttle accomplished that the Saturn + Apollo vehicles could not have done except for bringing large object from space down to the Earth. Even that could have been done quite a bit cheaper with a purpose-designed vehicle made to fit on top of the Saturn V vehicle stack and didn't require a whole new launcher to be built. Continued production of the Saturn rocket could have included changes in metallurgy and electronics where I'm sure you would find the AGC replaced by much more modern computers and even an "Apollo" glass cockpit like the Shuttle finally ended up with, but that the changes would have been evolutionary.

    The test stand to build the F1 engines is now being used by SpaceX.... to make the Falcon 9 rockets. I'm glad that somebody is using that infrastructure for something positive.

  • Re:What a dumb idea (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2012 @05:56PM (#39981619)

    WOW you really drank the cool aid. Our nation is nowhere near the density that you describe, and there is already enough food to go around. At least in america. Poor people's from Africa discover civilization? What are you from the fucking sixteenth century? Have you ever heard of the resource curse? I suggest you research the portuguese discovery of Zanzibar to educate yourself on what happened to african civilization. Or perhaps the effect of the loss of trade between Timbuctu and Tunisia due to the coastal trade atlantic trade routes. "Poor peoples from Africa are magically going to discover civilization" has to go down as one of the stupidest, ignorant sentences I have heard in a while. You should be embarrassed to show your total lack of knowledge of world affairs, history, and Africa so openly on the internet.

    Point: The renaissance in europe was made possible because society became efficient enough that not everybody had to work so they were able to do other things, like art, music, and dare I say READING.
        So let's state this important fact. "THE ENTIRE FUCKING PURPOSE OF CIVILIZATION IS TO MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR PEOPLE TO BE BUMS." You need to GROK that statement. As we progress technologically there will be less and less need for people to work. 'THAT IS THE GOAL!!! Stupid, brainwashed people like you are standing in the way of this. If you are not willing to pay taxes to make this happen go live on some fucking god forsaken island in northern canada on your own and stop voting for corporate shills like romney and fucking up my country.

    The fact that your stupidity was voted up as insightful is truly frightening.

  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @12:46AM (#39983329) Journal

    Songs of Distant Earth had hibernation for the last ship to leave Earth, but otherwise yeah, good call.

    To expand for the pseudo-geeks out there, the early colony ships would take along cryogenic-frozen sperm and eggs, then would use in-vitro fertilization and artificial wombs to make babies. Robots would do the education and rearing, while other robots began building everything else.

    Assuming that the components would remain viable that whole time, and that the machinery held up and did what it was supposed to? Seems like the only feasible way to get people from here to another star system using what we know now, technology-wise.

Overload -- core meltdown sequence initiated.