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DARPA To Sponsor R&D For Interstellar Travel

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the bring-lots-of-water dept.

Space 364

Apocryphos writes "The government agency that helped invent the Internet now wants to do the same for travel to the stars. In what is perhaps the ultimate startup opportunity, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, plans to award some lucky, ambitious and star-struck organization roughly $500,000 in seed money to begin studying what it would take — organizationally, technically, sociologically and ethically — to send humans to another star, a challenge of such magnitude that the study alone could take a hundred years."

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Right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37130962)

I wonder where the money is REALLY going...

Re:Right (2)

sgrover (1167171) | more than 3 years ago | (#37130996)

to a galaxy, far far away... ???

Re:Right (2)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131092)

Through a hole in Cheyenne Mountain.

Re:Right (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131708)

I believe that if DARPA were to place a manned observation post on the near, and far sides of the moon, their requirements could be handled in a 'far more',(pun intended) efficient manner.

Better links (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37130994)

News? (1)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131008)

This article showed up elsewhere over a month ago:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/06/nerds-darpa-wants-your-advice-on-interstellar-flight/ [wired.com]

WHERE ARE THE PRIVATE INVESTORS? (1, Interesting)

arcite (661011) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131350)

Where are the private investors? The billionaires with more money than they know what to do with? How come none of them are sponsoring anything related to space? Is it just too high risk? How much would $20 billion buy? Or even $10 billion, or $5 Billion?

Re:WHERE ARE THE PRIVATE INVESTORS? (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131462)

Space Exploration Technology SpaceX [spacex.com]

Re:WHERE ARE THE PRIVATE INVESTORS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131634)

It's the trickle down effect in action man!

WHERE IS YOUR CAPS-LOCK KEY? (5, Informative)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131648)

The private investors are investing in things like non-orbital launch systems (Virgin Galactic/Scaled Composites); orbital launch systems (SpaceX); and orbital space stations/hotels (Bigelow Aerospace). All of these private ventures would never have happened if it weren't for almost half a century of government funding of NASA and the Air Force before that.

There are whole classes of radical advancements that, simply, can't happen without significant initial investment without a guarantee of success. Examples of such things include space travel and the nuclear bomb. Historically, some of these kinds of discoveries have been made because an individual monarch was willing to take a gamble (ex. Queen Isabella funding Columbus) but modern business structures are designed to work against such things because they are often wastes of money (ex. the search for El Dorado and the fountain of youth).

When it comes to traveling to other stars, there are obvious advantages to be had to science as well as humanity as a whole. On the other hand, even if it works in the end, there are no obvious profits to be made on it with our current understanding of science. Any resources we find in a distant solar system would be so hard to transport back to Earth that it'd be cheaper to just manufacture it (atom by atom) in a particle accelerator (which we could do with present technology). In such cases, governmental spending is the ONLY way for it to get done.

Re:WHERE ARE THE PRIVATE INVESTORS? (3, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131674)

There are two basic problems with what we would call private investment today.

First, there is the question of returns. OK, so we are absolutely assured of there being something that is needed out in space - we just have to find it, figure out exactly how to exploit it, and get it back here. None of these are trivial problems but neither are the rewards. Let's talk about exactly how much a big chunk of asteroid that is 50% gold and 50% platinium would bring on the open market. Or, a big chunk of "rare earth metals".

But these returns are not really certain within a given time period. Nobody can say they are going to be able to bring back 100 billion dollars in gold in two years. However, it is a dead certainity that you would be able to have that 100 billion in gold in a vault in 100 years.

That brings us to the other problem. Today, the world pretty much runs on an annual basis if not quarterly. The government talks about saving 400 billion dollars over 10 years - with the assumption that nothing will change for 10 years. Companies are comparing last year's revenue to this year;s and that is about it. The best investment you can get is one where the investor is demanding a nearly certain return in five years at at least 10 to 1.

Nobody on the planet is making investments for ten years and we are talking about requiring investments on the order of 50 or 100 years. The thinking has been that only a government can think that far ahead and make plans that far out. Well, that may have been true in 1492 to some degree but even then they were looking for gold on the table within a few years.

Today it is doubtful that any democratic government could get away with making an investment that wouldn't pay off for 100 years. The people just wouldn't stand for it. Hugo Chavez might be able to, but even he doesn't think he will be in power in 100 years. No, I don't see the human race making any long term comittments or long term plans. Not at all.

Re:WHERE ARE THE PRIVATE INVESTORS? (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131690)

The billionaires aren't investing because they'll be long dead by the time they see any return. We're just now starting to see private, non-.gov-subsidized-megacorp investment into launch vehicle technology because there are finally short-term profits to be made doing so. No modern investor wants to make investments that even his/her grandchildren might not be around to collect.

You need to ask? (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131770)

Think about it. Launches are expensive. Spaceflight is expensive. Nobody has found a pure gold asteroid, and even if they did it would take more money to get any of the gold back to Earth than the gold would be worth. Communications satellites only exist because the phone companies can charge users a fortune in bills over decades.

Private investors don't give a shit about technology, and certainly certainly not for technology that has no possibility of a financial return.

Remember, billionaires got that way because they're damn stingy and only give in order to get more. Wannabe billionaires are even more that way. Where they donate, it is purely for tax reasons. (They can offset all the taxes from income and capital gains and still make a fortune.) It's not for charity and it's certainly not for the benefit of industrialists who could become rich if the technology pays off. This isn't even putting the billionaires down at all. This is simply the logic of economics and it is the logic of economics that create the uber-wealthy in the first place.

The ONLY people who have both the money AND the incentive to do this kind of work is government. That is why the US and USSR have space programs and Argentinia (which had no shortage of private individuals with know-how for sale after the war) does not. If private investors had any motivation to actually do something in space (as opposed to paying an agency to lob yet another radio/tv/bittorrent relay into orbit), it would have already happened. The closest we've seen yet are Virgin Galactic (which doesn't even reach orbit) and some guys launching small rockets from old oil rig platforms (who, incidentally, you don't hear much about these days).

As for half a million - it might sound a lot but it would pay for five mid-grade private sector researchers for a year. Not equipment, computers, space, or anything else, just the salaries of those five people. Public sector workers would be cheaper - you could get easily two or three times as many - but this is funding for a private effort so you're limited to five. This research is going to require pushing what we know about human hibernation to the absolute limits. It is going to require some amazing work on radiation shielding. In order for the people on board to develop normally, it is going to require some fantastic developments in materials science (you will need a vehicle 3/4 of a mile in diameter to be able to develop artificial gravity without inducing motion sickness - and then you will need to figure out how to put that vehicle in orbit).

And, yes, those are mid-grade researchers. Top-end researchers in the private sector would limit you to two or three people, which wouldn't even get you enough to have one specialist per major problem to be solved.

This is another reason the private sector is a Bad Choice for this kind of work. Public sector scientists are much much cheaper and, since they have access to shared regional or national computation resources, don't require as much money to get a project like this off the ground. The private sector is simply not cost-effective for this kind of work.

Obligatory (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131026)

1. Invent internet

2. Invest in travelling to other stars

3. Expand internet to said stars

4. ???

5. Profit!

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131104)

Its the only thing we can do to keep the economic porn bubble from bursting.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131172)

I think there are already a lot of little bursts from that bubble! I had a few yesterday, myself!

Re:Obligatory (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131110)

I think 3 and 4 are flipped. Interstellar latency is not really a connection. It's the pony express.

Re:Obligatory (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131392)

Would the pony freeze or explode when exposed to space?

Re:Obligatory (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131572)

You use space ponies. Duh.

Re:Obligatory (1)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131702)

Most likely freeze, but very slowly. Exploding and freezing instantly have both been, as far as I know, de-bunked as what would happen if a person was ejected into space. You wouldn't explode because your body would be able to contain the fluids it couldn't out gas and would out gas any it could. As for freezing, assuming you weren't so close to something hot (like a star) that you'd be roasted, there is no air to conduct your body heat into and away from your body.

Re:Obligatory (2)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131112)

4. ???

Sorry, here's one case where step 4 is not question marks. All you need is a good to trade at the destination and this handy future value formula. [wiley.com]

Re:Obligatory (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131292)

and this handy future value formula.

Hats off to You for this reference, Sir! Amazing that this is not a science fiction book. Should you, however, fancy extrapolations about a universe with trading speed limited by the speed of light and subjective time, may I counter-recommend Ken McLeod's "Engines of Light" [wikipedia.org] trilogy.

Re:Obligatory (1)

xevioso (598654) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131644)

Possibly the coolest study I've read in a long time. Very nice.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131142)

1. Invent internet

2. Invest in travelling to other stars

3. Expand internet to said stars

4. ???

5. Profit!

Great...now we'll run out of IPV6 when this happens.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131196)

I can see it now...

PING www.l.google.com (74.125.225.80) 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from 74.125.225.80: icmp_req=1 ttl=54 time=4.37 yr
64 bytes from 74.125.225.80: icmp_req=2 ttl=54 time=4.37 yr
64 bytes from 74.125.225.80: icmp_req=3 ttl=54 time=4.37 yr
64 bytes from 74.125.225.80: icmp_req=4 ttl=54 time=4.37 yr

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131312)

Is that the ping when you're midway to Alpha Centauri?

Re:Obligatory (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131742)

Nope, round trip. don't forget to account for time dilation on the packets themselves.

Re:Obligatory (1)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131314)

Have you read any of Timothy Ferris' books? In several (The Mind's Sky is the one I remember specifically, but he said it in others) he proposes that an inter/intragalactic network of computers is probably going to be set up by someone (or possibly already has been set up, and we just haven't been contacted by it yet) which would be a data repository for information on other civilizations. That way you don't have to spend eleventy jillion years traveling somewhere to learn about it.

In other words, pretty much what you said.

FTFY (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131052)

DARPA To Flush More Taxpayer Money Down the Toilet

FTFY.

I have a crazy idea. Instead of flushing this money down the toilet, why don't we use it to pay the government's debt instead?

Re:FTFY (2)

Fned (43219) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131066)

"I owe the credit card company twelve thousand dollars, why don't I skip breakfast today?"

Re:FTFY (0)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131108)

No, more like: "I owe the credit card company twelve thousand dollars, why don't I skip buying that new MacBook Pro, iPad 2, the 50" plasma TV and the new PS3?"

Re:FTFY (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131168)

Yeah, please. Let's not spend any money on science. Science is clearly the equivalent to a plasma TV and a playstation. Is this the teabaggers' War Against Intellect taking fruit, or it just another symptom of a different underlying cause?

Re:FTFY (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131408)

When you can't pay your bills, yes, they should be cut.

We are 14.6 trillion dollars in debt with no way of paying it off other than letting our kids and grandkids pay for it somehow or devaluing the US dollar to nothingness (which is already happening).

Plus, whenever you have the government involved in giving out money left and right for research, without a clear, attainable goal, you end up with nothing but a request for... more money.

Re:FTFY (1, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131466)

Well, given your sig, I probably shouldn't even answer. First step to the light - realize that government debt is not analogous to household debt. Second step - realize that the research budget is negligible already. Third step - realize that when you spend (and we should like mad in this recession) spend for something that has a chance of giving you future profits. If you get this through your libertarian brainwashing, you might realize that the waste lies elsewhere.

Re:FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131746)

You're wasting your time. No matter how many times you correct these idiots, they continue to execute their brainwashed programming.

Re:FTFY (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131632)

This is half a million dollars we're talking about here, a drop in the bucket by government standards. It probably costs that much every time a fighter jet flies.

Re:FTFY (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131194)

Dude - those are necessities. Why don't we just agree to go 3-1/2 weeks between haircuts instead of 3, and call it good. And if, for some reason, I need to go sooner than 3-1/2 weeks, then I'll promise to skip my PPV that day.

Re:FTFY (1)

Fned (43219) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131198)

Methinks you need to check your sense of proportion. If you're even paying attention to a single $500k budget item during the current crisis, you might as well be bailing out the Titanic with a soup ladle.

Re:FTFY (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131232)

If you're even paying attention to a single $500k budget item during the current crisis, you might as well be bailing out the Titanic with a soup ladle.

Except for the fact that cutting many $500k items adds up to a significant amount of money? No, clearly these cuts are not additive at all. And the reason why you cut lots of things that are small first is because they are usually the most easy things to cut.

Re:FTFY (1)

Fwipp (1473271) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131418)

If the US government passed 10 of these every single day for the rest of eternity, and taxes were evenly divided among every man, woman and child in America, the resulting cost would still be less that 6 USD annually per capita.

Re:FTFY (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131654)

Yep, move a thousand soup ladels, enough to empty the water out of the bottom deck broom closet...

Re:FTFY (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131776)

When I need to find room on the server, I always find it best used of my time and effort to search out and remove a couple thousand 5kb files instead of the single 37gb file.

Re:FTFY (1)

fusiongyro (55524) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131206)

$500,000 << $14,000,000,000,000

I think a more appropriate analogy might be "I owe the credit card company 12 million dollars, why don't I skip that cup of coffee this morning." We're talking about 7-8 orders of magnitude here.

Re:FTFY (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131254)

Yes, because I claimed at all that cutting just this one thing will solve all budget problems. Oh wait, I didn't. But if you start cutting MANY of these things they *gasp* add up to a much larger chunk of money. Funny how addition works, right?

Re:FTFY (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131296)

And by cutting all that little things from the damn science budget that will ruin us all, you might even manage to keep another pointless war running. Teabagger heaven!

Re:FTFY (1)

Fwipp (1473271) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131332)

Right! All you have to do is find 28 million programs of this scale, and we'll be back on our feet!

Re:FTFY (4, Insightful)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131384)

Well, you did say it was flushing money down the toilet, which was a pretty unfounded claim considering you spouted it on an invention that was funded by DARPA.

The whole POINT of DARPA is to throw money at projects that aren't likely to succeed right away, because if DARPA doesn't do it, no one will and it will never get done.

The internet never would have happened if DARPA hadn't flushed money down the toilet for it, because when the internet/arpanet was first being assembled, no one saw any sort of profitability in large networks of computers - and in fact when the idea first started being looked at in 1968 no one saw profitability in consumer computers at all.

Re:FTFY (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131164)

Breakfast is immediately useful this is more like saying "why don't I skip putting pocket change into my great great grandchild's college fund?"

Re:FTFY (3, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131236)

DARPA To Flush More Taxpayer Money Down the Toilet

FTFY.

I have a crazy idea. Instead of flushing this money down the toilet, why don't we use it to pay the government's debt instead?

The time it would take for the water to swirl down is longer than it takes the federal government to rip through a lousy 500K. Here's a tip: the federal government's spending habits need drastic fixes, not penny ante items like this. No, it isn't a good start because it's so incredibly miniscule. 500K isn't even a rounding error. You trivialize government debt problems by commenting this amount of spare change should go towards fixing that problem.

Re:FTFY (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131540)

If the research is useful and worthwhile, it should be defended on its own merits, not on the principle of, "our government spends way more than that anyway, so comparatively, it's like, free." If you piss away 50 cents a day, every day, at the end of the year you've pissed away about 180 bucks. Doesn't sound like much, but when you start pissing away 50 cents a day, every day, on 50 different things... it adds up quick.

Budgeting & spending needs to be prioritized - the government isn't exempt from this exercise, though it tries really hard to be. This may be "really interesting science," but is it as valuable as funding... cancer research? obesity research? AIDS research? Renewable energy research? Battery & fuel cell research? If it's not more valuable... why are we spending the money on studies of interstellar travel, instead of funding someone's cancer research for another 6 months? If it is more valuable, then someone certainly should be able to provide arguments for that value (including what sort of returns on the investment we expect) besides, "it's barely any money."

When you're running out of money and borrowing to finance your lifestyle, something's got to give. In this case, I don't see much potential return from "studying interstellar travel," so I'm not sure I'd consider this a good use of our limited resources at this time. By all means, feel free to present your arguments for the merits of this study - just make sure they don't include the phrase, "and that's barely any money at all."

It has nothing to do with Anti-Intellectualism as some others have suggested, and everything to do with prioritizing the allocation of our limited resources into the most pressing & urgent needs. It may be "interesting science," but is it "important to us, as a society," over all other competing needs? I'd say no.

Re:FTFY (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131624)

If the research is useful and worthwhile, it should be defended on its own merits[...]

Ok, how about this. In order to even begin to think about starting to build an interstellar ship there are many, many problems that need to be solved. Each and every one of them has potential benefits to the people right down here on planet Earth.

Cheap transit to LEO.
Orbital mining for metals and volatiles.
Artificial intelligence and other computer science areas.
New energy storage and generation technologies.
Genetic engineering.
Advanced hydroponics.

Yep, nothing in there worth researching at all.

Re:FTFY (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131744)

If the research is useful and worthwhile, it should be defended on its own merits, not on the principle of, "our government spends way more than that anyway, so comparatively, it's like, free."

Yes indeed - I was addressing the usefulness of snidely commenting that the money is best spent towards debt payments, not the worth of any particular program this size. When the federal Department of Labor alone is pissing away $300,000,000,000 on nobody knows what (checked unemployment lately?) the Department of Agriculture is wasting 15,000,000,000 paying farmers not to grow crops and the Department of Education 100,000,000,000 on teaching to standardized tests, it's strikes me as silly to go on about $500,000 or even a hundred little projects at 500K each.

Re:FTFY (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131778)

drastic fixes = actually counting how much you are spending trivial or not

Re:FTFY (1)

JordanL (886154) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131606)

Taxes should theoretically be used for collective good. DARPA and NASA are from the Libertarian perspective (which I can only assume you lean towards) the best possible places to throw money. There is no real politics or vote buying involved in funding these agencies... it is just tax money you are investing in the collective understanding and capability of our citizenry.

So I have another crazy idea: how about people stop demanding the government stops funding any program they don't directly use. Not only is that not going to happen, and thus is a waste of time, it creates an intellectual dishonesty around the debate of debt and government finance, which is why the issue is not seriously addressed.

The bottom line is that if you are willing to point out our government is not living within its means, then be willing to yourself be without things you want. It doesn't make sense for any government to remove all of the parts that one group of people find irrelevant, if for no other reason than that the representation our government is supposedly dependent on requires us to not give in to the tyranny of the majority. Further, while the call for action is important, it is the call for free information upon which we can make decisions that should be most heeded. You have certainly identified a problem, but supposing you have identified solution is silly. You don't have the information to do that... neither do I. That's part of the game that our government plays. How are we supposed to express dissatisfaction if we don't have the information to demand alternatives?

Sci - Fi (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131076)

Maybe we'll get some good sci-fi stories out of the submissions.

Esp since the first [insert quantity here] submissions will be previous sci-fi story lines.

-AI

Re:Sci - Fi (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131492)

A lot of what they're looking for has already been extensively covered under the context of sci-fi.

Re:Sci - Fi (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131700)

No kidding. If I personally had to pick, I'd say a generation ship carved out of an asteroid a la Greg Bear's Eon. Though how you get something that large moving at an appreciable speed would be an interesting challange... I don't think even a thermonuclear powered Orion drive could manage to move a mass that large at anything approaching acceptable speeds (and for a generation ship, a thousand years transit time could be deemed 'acceptable')

cool (5, Insightful)

Froeschle (943753) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131096)

It's nice to see that there is still at least some ambition left in our society.

Re:cool (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131224)

As evidenced by half of the posts up to now whining about "waste of government money". *cough*

Re:cool (0)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131732)

Whining about the "waste" of the staggering half-million dollar budget of this program. When we put half the cost of a small helicopter into our interstellar travel plans, you know we mean business.

Re:cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131244)

I agree. The first step in not recovering from the hardships of the here and now is not having far-fetching ideas. I thing we should start thinking on what it would take to go to another start, but also start preparing the first serious attempts at extra-terrestrial settlement (starting with the moon, mars may be sexier, but it is also way farther out... debugging technological and social issues should be done closer to home). The fact is, the human species has outgrown earth's resources. It's either grow outside, or shrink here, or try to keep growing here and just all die.

Re:cool (1)

FhnuZoag (875558) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131446)

But what are the military applications? Because let's be honest, if DARPA is doing it, then isn't that what this is really about?

Re:cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131512)

http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2011/07/16

Re:cool (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131574)

What were the military applications of being able to build ships, stock and command them appropriately and send them to the New World?

Pretty dumb idea (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131138)

Until FTL travel becomes a possibility

Re:Pretty dumb idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131330)

Not at all. In about 30 years of Moore's law expansion, the computational ability of a PC-sized box will reach that of the human brain. At this point, you scan the state and connectivity of your astronaut's brain - dump it into neural net software running in the PC, then wake up your virtual astronaut who will have the full cognitive and intellectual capability of the original astronaut - hook up some sensors and you're done. The trip to proxima centauri will be a S-L-O-W one with present day Pioneer-probe rocket technology - but the clock rate of the PC can be slowed down enough to avoid boredom. For the return trip, you use radio or laser to slowly transmit the difference between the backed-up state of the virtual brain on launch against it's current state and upon arrival of this data back here on Earth, reconstruct the state of the virtual astronaut's mind and do a remote shut-down of the PC.

Re:Pretty dumb idea (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131422)

A small community might be willing to start the trip knowing they'll never make it in their lifetime. Through reproduction the community would eventually make it there, even though their ancestors are long gone.

Re:Pretty dumb idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131576)

FTL will never happen. It's just not possible and has been proven to be impossible.

Re:Pretty dumb idea (2)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131738)

And man will never fly..

You have predestined us to failure. You have insufficient data to make such an outrageous claim.

Re:Pretty dumb idea (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131754)

Direct flight FTL certainly has with our current understanding of relativity and c but last I checked we didn't have a complete understanding of the universe(s) so I won't rule out faster than the speed of light travel completely. I would put it in the same probability as politicians spontaneously evolving into humans or disease, war, and famine being eliminated within the next 100 years.

Re:Pretty dumb idea (1)

delt0r (999393) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131600)

The universe may not permit FTL. It certainly looks that way for now. Just because you can dream it does not mean it can be done.

However interstellar travel without FTL is plausible. It may not be you going, but there will not be any shortage of volunteers. Even if its a 30+ year journey.

Re:Pretty dumb idea (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131768)

Why?

Have we forgotten that time is relative? If you can get to a significant portion of the speed of light...but still under it... then the subjective time for the traveler can be under a decade to some of the more nearby stars.

Or as Wikipedia explains it: ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstellar_travel#How_far_can_one_travel_from_the_Earth.3F [wikipedia.org] )

One might conclude that a human can never travel further from the earth than 40 light years, if the traveler is active between the age of 20 and 60. So a traveler would never be able to reach more than the very few star systems which exist within the limit of 20–40 light years from the earth. But that would be a mistaken conclusion. Because of time dilation, he can travel thousands of light years during his 40 active years. If the spaceship accelerates at a constant 1G, he will after 10 years reach speeds close to the speed of light, and time dilation will increase his lifespan to thousands of years, seen from the reference system of the Solar System, but his subjective lifespan will not thereby change.

All without FTL.

Uh, no (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131150)

a challenge of such magnitude that the study alone could take a hundred years.

Uh, no. The research and infrastructure buildup necessary to actually carry out such a mission could easily take over a hundred years. But if the _study_ on what would be necessary to do it takes a hundred years, or even ten, then you're doin it rong.

Also, if the study takes over 100 years, the grant works out to $5000 a year. Although perhaps the kind of organization that operates on $5000 a year would take awhile to get things done...

Re:Uh, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131388)

But if the _study_ on what would be necessary to do it takes a hundred years, or even ten, then you're doin it rong.

Oh, the irony...

Re:Uh, no (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131734)

O HAI! I herd ur new [google.com] at teh internets. [speaklolspeak.com]

To reach Alpha Centauri (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131154)

3 SS Modules (1 habitation, 1 life support, 1 solar), 2 SS Components (1 fuel, 1 propulsion), and 8 SS Structural to put them together... of course, more points for more modules.

500k (2)

snarkh (118018) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131158)

Is a bit more than support for one graduate student for five years. Almost nothing, in other words.

Re:500k (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131706)

Really? Don't graduate students get paid like $35k a year or something? What happens to the rest?

100 years? (1)

phyr (586855) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131174)

$500k stretched over 100 years isn't going to do much research. $500k over 1 year will produce a paper that says we'll need a lot more money

Golga-frincham-tastic (1)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131176)

At last we will be able to get rid of all of those useless hairdressers, telephone sanitisers and middle management types.

Wow (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131180)

some lucky government contractor is going to get a half mil for coming up with some bullshit, we wont possibly be able to test anytime in the foreseeable future

your tax dollars at work, hey darpa, I hear Joplin could use some new schools for the future that is here and now ...

$5,000/yr? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131226)

I mean, if it's going to take 100 years, then that $500k seems like a good investment if we're going to be hiring a whole team of "researchers" full time. But I suspect that 500k isn't really going to be stretched that thin ;-)

hm... (1)

Iniamyen (2440798) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131284)

$500,000 for a hundred-year study? No wonder we aren't attracting people to science & engineering these days.

Stargate Universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131320)

It sounds like someone at DARPA is just *really* upset over Stargate Universe being cancelled.

I saw this.... (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131344)

Yeah, I saw this twilight zone episode. It didn't go too well for the guy's psyche.

Space Zombies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131358)

i know how you can get over the whole motivation issue, tell the crew on the ISS that zombies have overtaken the earth and everyone dead, well part from the person telling them, they quite clever i'm sure they can knock something up and be at Alpha Centuari in a jiffy, no flaws in this plan, just make sure it not an all male crew.

What a waste of resources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131372)

Don't they realize that faster than light travel has been proven to be impossible? I think that all the spaceship sci-fi crap has caused too many otherwise intelligent people to focus their efforts in such fruitless endeavors where they would otherwise be able to research things that really do help society as a whole.

Waste of money (2)

Tanuki64 (989726) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131414)

I rarely say this. I am always willing to spend money for basic research, where an immediate benefit is not obvious. But interstellar travel? Now? Ridiculous. Baby steps, please. Such a project for a permanent station on the dark side of the moon would already be very ambitious, but at least not totally scifi. Next step a permanent space station on Mars. If this can be accomplished and is more or less routine, it might start to make sense to think about interstellar travel. But certainly not earlier.

Re:Waste of money (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131498)

Actually, a permanent space station on Mars will not make interstellar travel any more feasible. We do not have any even semi-realistic propulsion system to get to the nearest stars in less than a few thousand years. Until such system exists, interstellar travel will remain sci fi.

On the other hand, developing and testing a system of interstellar propulsion will probably cost billions and trillions, while a lot of publicity can be obtained with a lousy $500k.

Re:Waste of money (1)

Tanuki64 (989726) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131762)

Actually, a permanent space station on Mars will not make interstellar travel any more feasible. We do not have any even semi-realistic propulsion system to get to the nearest stars in less than a few thousand years. Until such system exists, interstellar travel will remain sci fi.

I am well aware of that. At least what you said about propulsion systems. There is a good chance that ftl is generally impossible regardless of level of technology. Even travel close to light speed would be absolutely deadly for humans. However, I disagree with what you said about a permanent Mars station, that it will not make interstellar space travel any more feasible. A contradiction? Yes. But in case I am wrong and ftl is possible one way or the other, many things we would learn from a manned station on moon/mars would be applicable for interstellar travel, too. So why not use the synergies, strive for something feasible and useful now and not literally reach for the stars with uncertain outcome? Not only uncertain but most likely inherently damned for failure?

I am ready to go now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37131428)

How do I apply for the Seed Money?

I already have a British police call box in my garage. But there are some interior sizing issues.

Re:I am ready to go now. (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131682)

No, those things are bigger on the inside than on the outside.

Wait for the Singularity (1)

Morky (577776) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131444)

Once human consciousness can be stored in a machine, we can send relatively slow, machine-manned interstellar ships to explore the galaxy.

Re:Wait for the Singularity (1)

delt0r (999393) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131622)

Don't you mean if? Sure it may be possible. But then again while we don't really understand consciousness yet, its not a given.

Not a 100 year project (1)

mattpalmer1086 (707360) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131510)

The 100 year starship project is supposed to study what it will take to sustain private sector investment into a long range program of building a starship.

http://www.100yss.org/about.html [100yss.org]

It is not itself a 100 year project to build a starship, or a 100 year project to figure out how to sustain investment...

Also, if you're interested in interstellar research, check out Centauri Dreams:

http://www.centauri-dreams.org/ [centauri-dreams.org]

look (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131626)

if anyone wanted to spend any time with earthlings at all, well, they would have built an interstellar highway is all i'm sayin'....

Seperated feelings (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131656)

I wouldn't say I have mixed feelings, since some things don't mix well.

on one hand, I think investigation into interstellar travel is cool, and would be nice to see someone working on, even if just to see what comes out of the research. Long term, very cool projects.

On the other hand... I thought that foreign wars were stretching it for a "Defense Department". Interstellar travel? What exactly are they defending against?

Escape velocity is the biggest barrier. (2)

Dollyknot (216765) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131696)

The high cost to the human race's colonisation of space is caused by the complexity and danger of reaching and leaving escape velocity within the earth's atmosphere.

The Space Shuttle turned out to be an expensive and dangerous white elephant, the reason the Shuttle was so expensive is, because of its complexity with millions of different manufactured parts, and the need to cover it with the equivalent of bathroom tiles.

There is another route, we can reach the edge of space no problem Burt Rutan proved this with Space Ship one, when he won the 'X' prize by reaching over 100 km twice in one week.

Yes the Shuttle was 'reusable' but in name only. They could not have turned that around in a week.

What NASA should be doing is creating rocket fuel on the moon, there is lots of water on the moon, use solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, which when combined make very good rocket fuel, because of Newton's third law.

Use the rocket fuel to fuel a space tug, use the space tug to accelerate and decelerate Space Ship one, to and from escape velocity in the safe vacuum of space, no atmosphere = no friction = no heat = no bathroom tiles and no foam shielding on the external fuel tank.

Less bathroom tiles + insulation foam = less rocket fuel = less pollution in the Mexican Gulf.

Once we can accelerate and decelerate space craft with rocket fuel that is obtained from outside of the earth's gravity well, space travel becomes cheaper by many orders of magnitude, ok the capital cost would be very high, but once the systems are in place, the number of human beings, living in space increases exponentially.

A good example for the way very high capital cost projects work, is the Panama canal.

What if UFOs are real? (2)

Froeschle (943753) | more than 3 years ago | (#37131730)

If they can do it, why can't we? Maybe the government knows something that we don't. (Queue spooky music)
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