The same organization that brought you the Internet (contrary to popular belief, it was not Al Gore), DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) put forth a request for proposals for a 100 year starship program. The person or organization that puts forth the most viable proposal, will win $500,000 in seed money to get their program off the ground. Proposals were due July 8th, and a winner will be declared during the conference to be held in early September.
The goal of the 100 year starship plan is to reach the closest star within a hundred years. Some of the things DARPA is looking for in the proposals, and the conference will be focusing on, are the following:
- Time-Distance Solutions [propulsion, time/space manipulation and/or dilation, near speed of light navigation, faster than light navigation, observations and sensing at near speed of light or faster than light]
- Education, Social, Economic and Legal Considerations [education as a mission, who goes, who stays, to profit or not, economies in space, communications back to earth, political ramifications, round-trip legacy investments and assets left behind]
- Philosophical, and Religious Considerations [why go to the stars, moral and ethical issues, implications of finding habitable worlds, implications of finding life elsewhere, implications of being left behind]
- Biology and Space Medicine [physiology in space, psychology in space, human life suspension (e.g., cryogenic), medical facilities and capabilities in space, on-scene (end of journey) spawning from genetic material]
- Habitats and Environmental Science [to have gravity or not, space and radiation effects, environmental toxins, energy collection and use, agriculture, self-supporting environments, optimal habitat sizing]
- Destinations [criteria for destination selection, what do you take, how many destinations and missions, probes versus journeys of faith]
- Communication of the Vision [storytelling as a means of inspiration, linkage between incentives, payback and investment, use of movies, television and books to popularize long term research and long term journeys] (DARPA, 2011)
It’s kind of exciting to think that we are on our way to developing a program much like Starfleet. To create an organization that will bring people of all races and cultures together to work toward a common goal. Human beings in general are a species with innate curiosity and the need for exploration. We want to figure out the unknown.
This program could bring together an interdisciplinary team of astronomers, astrophysicists, engineers, biologists, etc to work toward this goal. In a way, by bringing people together with the common intrest of exploring the unknown, we could be creating our very own Starfleet, about a hundred years before it’s time. It will definately be interesting to see which proposal is deemed the best, and if were actually able to pull this off. By traveling to the next star, maybe we can put aside our international differences of race, religion, economics, all of the problems we deal with on a daily basis, because of our shared passion for discovering the unknown.
DARPA. 2011. DARPA Encourages Individuals and Organizations to Look to the Stars. Issues Call for Papers for 100 Year Starship Study Public Symposium. Accessed from http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2011/2011/06/15_DARPA_Encourages_Individuals_and_Organizations_to_Look_to_the_Stars.aspx