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Starships In a Century?

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the away-to-the-stars dept.

Space 314

An anonymous reader writes "In the New York Times, Kenneth Chang writes about the 100-year starship conference, where 'an eclectic mix of engineers, scientists, science fiction fans, students and dreamers' discussed ideas for how to travel across interstellar space, including 'how to organize and finance a century-long project; whether civilization would survive, because an engine to propel a starship could also be used for a weapon to obliterate the planet; and whether people need to go along for the trip.' Some of the proposals were pretty far out, such as Joseph Breeden's concept for an engine-less starship (propelled using a gravity slingshot on a near-sun trajectory). Others were a little less forward thinking, although still futuristic by current standards of space exploration: nuclear rockets, fusion, lightsails, and so forth. So, can we go to the stars? Wait a hundred years, and we'll see!"

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In other words... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766146)

Sci Fi convention regurgitates things they've seen on TV so far.

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766852)

If I was on that first ship, I wouldn't be surprised to find people already on whatever planet I was headed to.
(think about how fast technology evolves and how long it would take to get to a planet outside our solar system)
That's assuming the first ship in question isn't able to evolve along the journey.

Re:In other words... (2, Insightful)

lpp (115405) | about 2 years ago | (#37767176)

Why do we always assume "they" advance more quickly than we do or started earlier or are any more civilized. Sad as it may seem, we may be the most civilized/advanced species in the universe.

Re:In other words... (2)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about 2 years ago | (#37767212)

The AC is suggesting that in the time it takes the first ship to reach a distant planet, we'd develop technology back on Earth that will get us there way faster so we'd be able to get there and set up a base before the first ship arrived.

Re:In other words... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37767230)

When I said people, I meant it in the literal sense. Technology on Earth will advance as the starship makes its journey, so it's possible that they (the people of Earth) will come up with something much more advanced before the first starship even reaches its destination. Also possible a second starship will make it to the destination before the first.

Sign me up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37767182)

I'll happily zip on over there in my 1985 fusion-powered flying car [wikipedia.org] .

Re:In other words... (5, Informative)

Dammital (220641) | about 2 years ago | (#37767610)

No.

It was 600 smart people all in one place: engineers, technical managers, educators, academics, NASA representatives from Ames and Glenn and MSFC, and everyman types like me, all of whom understood the magnitude of the challenge.

It was a gathering where you could dare to use the word "starship" in a sentence and nobody would crack a smile.

There were tracks on propulsion (light sails, nuclear thermal and hybrid nuclear technologies), habitat creation (bioengineering, microgravity challenges, plasma shields), education (there were lots of educators in the audience), organization, ethics. One university type - I forget his name - boldly asserted that there would be useful violations of the second law of thermodynamics in a couple of years. (I didn't quite believe that, so I did a little reading when I returned; it seems that the second "law" is more like a statistical assertion, so maybe he's got something. IANAPhysicist.)

There was a track on fringe technologies too, those FTL and warp drives you laugh about. I didn't attend that one; at the conference wrap-up the track moderator only said politely that there "was no concensus".

A double handful of SF authors were there and a couple of Hollywood types too, all conducting their own research.

Nobody came here expecting to be beamed up. Nobody was thinking Flash Gordon or Jean Luc Picard. Everyone fully appreciated the immensity of the project, the audacity of such a thing, the difficulty of the undertaking. It was inspiring to be in the company of people who had thought seriously about some of the issues, and who dared to dream big. All brainstorming is like this.

An underlying theme, mentioned several times during the conference, is that Earth "is a single point of failure".

Per the organizers: "The Journal of the British Interplanetary Society will be publishing a select number of papers in a special issue. Date of the special issue has not yet been announced."

Bussard ramjets (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 2 years ago | (#37766148)

plus general products hull

A good website for info on this. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 2 years ago | (#37766334)

http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/ [projectrho.com]
Beware - extreme nerdism and math.
Make sure you click on the "show topic list" in the upper right of the page.

Confused editor? (1)

Scutter (18425) | about 2 years ago | (#37766170)

I can't read the paywalled article, but is the reporter confusing a "100-year starship" (i.e. a starship that makes a 100-year trip) with "100 years of stellar propulsion development"?

Re:Confused editor? (2)

luckymutt (996573) | about 2 years ago | (#37766298)

I believe this is the site for the project. [100yss.org]

Re:Confused editor? (1)

ThorGod (456163) | about 2 years ago | (#37766622)

From the "about" for the project:

The 100 Year Starship Study is an effort seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible.

The article didn't make it sound that official, but if it wasn't referring to your link, it should have been.

What they're going to talk about next time they're together: http://www.100yss.org/agenda.html

Mirrored versions (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766424)

I can't read the paywalled article

Seems to be mirrored here:
www.bendbulletin.com/article/20111018/NEWS0107/110180407 [bendbulletin.com] ,
aerospaceblog.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/not-such-a-stretch-to-reach-for-the-stars/ [wordpress.com]
or
www.bbcwordblog.com/not-such-a-stretch-to-reach-for-the-stars.html [bbcwordblog.com]

is the reporter confusing a "100-year starship" (i.e. a starship that makes a 100-year trip) with "100 years of stellar propulsion development"?

The symposium premise was that it would take a hundred years of development to be ready to launch a starship.

Re:Confused editor? (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 2 years ago | (#37766828)

A 100-year trip would end with the travelers arriving in a star system already visited by people that left later than they themselves did.

Re:Confused editor? (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about 2 years ago | (#37767192)

An interesting conundrum, explored by many SF writers back in the day. For me the answer might well be, "That's OK, because if you hadn't taken that first step we wouldn't have made the progress that allowed us to get where we are now." One additional idea that has been explored is for the newer, faster ship to overtake the original and re-power it to go fast the rest of the way. Assuming that any interstellar ship would have been built in space in the first place, there's not much difference (other than the distance to a full-fledged shipbuilding facility, tools, etc.) between a ship traveling at (say) 300,000 km/hour (about 0.00028 lightspeed) and one in orbit around a planet. So within some limits reconstructing the power system in flight wouldn't be that big a deal, if it's possible to bring the parts with you. Of course, at that speed it will take 5*3600=18000 years to get to a nearby star. :P I think interstellar travel, even of probes, is going to wait until we can get some kind of vehicle above 0.01 lightspeed. If we can get to a significant fraction of lightspeed, say 0.1 to 0.25, then we can actually ponder sending living people there on a one-way trip. By then I expect we will have built interferometers big enough to image the target exoplanet in some detail, and have a very good idea about the prospects for existing life and for colonization.

Article text (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766190)

Does anyone have a copy of the article's text? From here I only get a "You need to log in to read this article" screen.

The Queller Drive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766230)

The Queller Drive, invented by Ernst Queller.

Probably Not (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 2 years ago | (#37766232)

Unless we can harness the energy of the atom much better, and design propulsion systems around Fusion Explosions with enough power to hyper accelerate us at higher than gravitational effect of earth, star travel is going to be very unlikely. And nobody knows the effect of 2G acceleration over long term (probably worse than weightlessness) because we can't simulate it for more than very brief periods.

We'll need something like Warp Fields that distort Space/Time in order to avoid the limitations of our earth bound bodies.

Alternatively (2)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#37766466)

We need only perfect cryogenic technology; once we can preserve our bodies for hundreds of years on end, it won't really matter how long it takes to get to the next star. Indeed, it is more likely that a human designed AI piloted craft/probe will reach the next star before our biological selves. Of course, one hundred years from now, humans will most likely be very different than we are now (genetic, nono-machine enhancements ect...)

Re:Alternatively (1)

Alyred (667815) | about 2 years ago | (#37766516)

Well, jeez... we should just freeze them now, ship them off, and when they get to the star, we'll have perfected a way to unfreeze/revive them and cure all their various ailments!

...wait. :)

Re:Probably Not (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#37766870)

Unless we can harness the energy of the atom much better, and design propulsion systems around Fusion Explosions with enough power to hyper accelerate us at higher than gravitational effect of earth, star travel is going to be very unlikely.

Unnecessary. I'll never visit Fiji but humans DO have airline service to Fiji.

How long can you stand to travel as opposed to being "home", lets say a year. Build a station, send it out one years distance, however far away that is. Build the next station, send it out two years distance. Keep pushing stuff on the train and you'll eventually hit the next star.

Your argument is we "need" for some unspecified reason, to have all this high tech junk so there's only about 4 of these stations between us and the next star. My argument is who cares if there's 4 or 400 or 4 million stations between here and the next star, it'll all work just as well as a colonization / space travel policy. Much as I like the idea of air service to Fiji, I frankly don't care if I need to make 15 connections stops and transfers were I to try it. Even if my body could never reach Fiji, we still technically as a species have flight service to Fiji.

The majority of the human population might therefore eventually live "enroute" on various stations. OK, so what?

And nobody knows the effect of 2G acceleration over long term (probably worse than weightlessness) because we can't simulate it for more than very brief periods.

Sure we can. Take a large (to get lots of data) melting-pot of a nation (to remove racial effects) and have their corporate owned government propagandize them to eat grains and corn syrup and other carbs until their weight doubles. Wait a lifetime, analyze the results. Hmm, I wonder where we could run this experiment? It would seem that a lifetime is not so good, a year or so is frankly no big deal.

Re:Probably Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37767114)

Build a station, send it out one years distance, however far away that is.

Let's leave aside the fact that, like so many others in this forum, you're glossing over all of the technological difficulties. You propose to send out a station and what? Leave it there? Command it to "stay"?

You fail at orbital mechanics.

Re:Probably Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37767622)

Your post made me think of the Dr. Who episode where all the people were trapped underground on the "highway" for decades (generations?), not knowing that they were basically just going in a big circle and eventually being eaten.

Re:Probably Not (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | about 2 years ago | (#37767218)

Why does it have to be 2G acceleration? At the distances and rates you're talking about, the acceleration phase is a small fraction of the actual time to travel, unless you have some magical device that can accelerate you near some limit of C.

Re:Probably Not (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 2 years ago | (#37767558)

Or we need to advance technology enough to be able to generate gravity. I remember some theory a guy proposed that allowed for conversion between Electromagnetism and Gravity but I can't for the life of me remember who the hell it was. He even designed a hypothetical device that could do the job.

Awesome example of timeline shift (4, Insightful)

Scareduck (177470) | about 2 years ago | (#37766252)

The standard razor for any vaporware tech is,

"Five years away" = "we have the general physical principles down but there are a lot of implementation details unresolved".
"Ten years away" = "we're not really sure about the physics, and/or the economic feasibility has yet to be established".
"Twenty years away" = "some guy wrote about this in a journal and a few people in the field may believe it could work".
Now, "100 years away" = "Not. Happening. In Your Lifetime, or anyone else's".

Re:Awesome example of timeline shift (1)

Rerracoon (955669) | about 2 years ago | (#37767038)

Except that now the Human Lifespan is reaching 100 years. So maybe it means "you may live to see it, but just barely."

Re:Awesome example of timeline shift (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 2 years ago | (#37767102)

I was going to say why don't you just link to the relevant XKCD but I can't find it.

Re:Awesome example of timeline shift (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about 2 years ago | (#37767234)

Here you go: http://xkcd.com/678/ [xkcd.com]

Re:Awesome example of timeline shift (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#37767472)

I think it can be stated much simpler than that, actually. The only accurate predictions of future technology that can be made are those for technology that we can build at this very moment. So, the US Navy can make reasonable estimates to when rail-gun technology will be in use on their ships because they have working rail-guns, but no one can say when fusion power will be deployed. This is simply because science cannot predict it's own discoveries. And if it requires something we haven't discovered yet, than no accurate estimate whatsoever can be made. A guess, sure, but that is all.

This problem was solved in 1958 (3, Informative)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 2 years ago | (#37766268)

Project Orion [wikipedia.org]

The biggest design above is the "super" Orion design; at 8 million tonnes, it could easily be a city.[7] In interviews, the designers contemplated the large ship as a possible interstellar ark. This extreme design could be built with materials and techniques that could be obtained in 1958 or were anticipated to be available shortly after. The practical upper limit is likely to be higher with modern materials.

I find all the BS that gets thrown around about how technology from the middle of the last century like space travel or fourth generation nuclear power is "only X decades away" rather annoying. It makes me feel like we're living in decline portrayed in the Foundation novels.

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#37766444)

A nuclear pulse rocket has one significant problem: it uses nuclear pulses.

You could get away with blowing up nuclear weapons willy nilly during the 50s and even into the 70s...
But today? Forget about it.

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 2 years ago | (#37766606)

I can't imagine any kind of propulsion system for interplanetary, let alone interstellar trips not using some sort of nuclear reaction at it's core.

What kind of Ion engine could you drive with a 500 megawatt reactor?
What kind of magnetic fields could you generate with that much electricity?
Would it be enough to shield the ship from radiation in the same manner that the Earth's field shields us?

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 2 years ago | (#37767388)

I can't imagine any kind of propulsion system for interplanetary, let alone interstellar trips not using some sort of nuclear reaction at it's core.

What kind of Ion engine could you drive with a 500 megawatt reactor?
What kind of magnetic fields could you generate with that much electricity?
Would it be enough to shield the ship from radiation in the same manner that the Earth's field shields us?

Enough for a manned mission to the outer solar system but still several orders of magnitude too low for a one-way trip to Alpha Centauri. For interstellar travel to our nearest neighbor within a human lifetime, you would need something like 1000 times the energy produced by the world for the mission.

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 2 years ago | (#37766692)

That should be irrelevant. We've got assloads of warheads just lying around, and a conventional rocket could provide the first leg propulsion so that no radioactive material concentrations fall back to earth. Space is already full of ionizing radiation. What do people think powers the sun? Unicorn farts?

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (2)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 2 years ago | (#37766820)

What do people think powers the sun? Unicorn farts?

No, Pegasus' farts. The wings are mainly for show; it's actually a horse-shaped dirigible.

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about 2 years ago | (#37766882)

Don't forget that facts and the general population don't mix. In popular opinion, "nukes = evil", and no amount of explanation will stop them from voting against you.

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#37767448)

Luckily, not all countries have to worry about the general population voting. Those countries are more likely to achieve a lot of technology that the democratic people all say is "impossible".

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about 2 years ago | (#37767014)

The nukes would only start exploding once the whole thing is well clear of Earth. Don't forget that space is radioactive as fuck. A couple of thousand nukes will make exactly zero difference. The (already radioactive) solar wind will quickly sweep that stuff into interstellar space.

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (3, Informative)

Rei (128717) | about 2 years ago | (#37766618)

Orion is such an obsolete concept, I don't know why people keep citing it. At least cite something like Medusa [harvard.edu] . It's superior to Orion in every way -- captures more energy, weighs less, exposes the crew to less radiation, has a gentler pusher stroke, scales down better, etc. Basically, you invert the paradigm; the explosions occur *ahead* of the spacecraft, which is *towed*, not pushed, by a large "parachute" that catches the explosive force.

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37767082)

Orion was capable of surface launch.
Medusa isn't, from what I see in the abstract.

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about 2 years ago | (#37767204)

Thanks for the link. I agree, it's a much better configuration than Orion.

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766638)

It makes me feel like we're living in decline portrayed in the Foundation novels.

We are in decline.

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#37766924)

It makes me feel like we're living in decline portrayed in the Foundation novels.

We are in decline.

Its not just a motto, but even specific details about the foundation series apply. Big suffocating govt/culture/society holding back technology, corruption and class stratification holding back the populace, hero worship replacing admiration of equals, religion strengthening and taking over from science...

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (2)

garyebickford (222422) | about 2 years ago | (#37767260)

Actually we're in de Klein, looking for the spout. :P

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766898)

Did you read that link?

Project Orion was a study of a spacecraft intended to be directly propelled by a series of explosions of atomic bombs behind the craft (Nuclear pulse propulsion). Early versions of this vehicle were proposed to have taken off from the ground with significant associated nuclear fallout

Hmm... I wonder why that idea didn't go anywhere...

Re:This problem was solved in 1958 (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#37767420)

find all the BS that gets thrown around about how technology from the middle of the last century like space travel or fourth generation nuclear power is "only X decades away" rather annoying. It makes me feel like we're living in decline portrayed in the Foundation novels.

Um, that's because we ARE living in decline. You don't need to read a SF book to read about what's going on here, just pick up a book on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

Nice work, editors! (3, Informative)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#37766290)

Who let an article through with a paywalled source?

SAMZENPUS!!!!

Re:Nice work, editors! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766554)

You can get in for free. It's annoying but not too bad. Just give them a fake email address (I used nobody123@example.com), enter a simple password like 123456, and register. There's no email verification. There used to be referrer tricks you could do, but they don't seem to work any more.

Re:Nice work, editors! (3, Funny)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 2 years ago | (#37766746)

I've noticed that most email field verification just looks for an '@' so I prefer to use haha@your.mom

Re:Nice work, editors! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37767366)

Who let an article through with a paywalled source?

SAMZENPUS!!!!

If you can't figure out how to read the article (hint, it takes one mouse click and two key presses), you shouldn't be on slashdot.

Why, when the Singularity is near? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#37766306)

I recently read Vernor Vinge's Marooned in Realtime [amazon.com] and my head is still abuzz with speculation over the coming technological singularity. Consequently, I can't help but see these attempts at predicting the tech of a century hence as the equivalent of ancient Romans speculating on how many could fly. Just as we now laugh at the beliefs of the ancients (or even folks in the 19th century) for their belief that flight would be accomplished by flapping wings, surely these conceptions of spaceflight will seem naive in a few decades or a century. Sure, maybe AI and limitless energy won't arrive so soon, so one feels a need to do such engineering now, but it may all prove superfluous.

Re:Why, when the Singularity is near? (1)

ThorGod (456163) | about 2 years ago | (#37766684)

it may all prove superfluous

You say that after reading a "far out there" prediction...so ironic!

Re:Why, when the Singularity is near? (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about 2 years ago | (#37766750)

I recently read Vernor Vinge's Marooned in Realtime [amazon.com] and my head is still abuzz with speculation over the coming technological singularity. Consequently, I can't help but see these attempts at predicting the tech of a century hence as the equivalent of ancient Romans speculating on how many could fly. Just as we now laugh at the beliefs of the ancients (or even folks in the 19th century) for their belief that flight would be accomplished by flapping wings, surely these conceptions of spaceflight will seem naive in a few decades or a century. Sure, maybe AI and limitless energy won't arrive so soon, so one feels a need to do such engineering now, but it may all prove superfluous.

Ornithopters are possible and have been built, even a few manned versions. With a bit more development, with new materials and new technology they probably could be made more efficient but we've found better ways of achieving flight using the technology that we had in the 20th century, hence that is where most of the development has gone and that type of technology is more advanced.

I wouldn't be too hard on old sci-fi predictions, some got it right as well. Didn't Jules Verne envision a future Paris full of people getting around the streets in powered vehicles with easy-to-use controls? Didn't he predict the submarine? Didn't he predict a mysterious power source that could keep a vessel in motion for years at a time without refueling long before nuclear physics were understood? Didn't Star Trek predict the handheld communication device that responds to voice commands, and the handheld computing device with a touch-sensitive screen? Didn't Things To Come predict the devastating effect of aerial bombing on civilians from large fixed wing aircraft?

It's okay to dream. Sci Fi is exciting because it's possible, and it inspires people to become engineers and try to make things happen.

Re:Why, when the Singularity is near? (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | about 2 years ago | (#37767122)

I read something (I think it may have been on /. actually) stating that the handheld communication device came about BECAUSE it was featured on star trek. Dunno how accurate that is but it's an interesting thought.

"Starship conference?" (3, Funny)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 2 years ago | (#37766370)

Does this mean if we settle on a planet going round some other star the city there will be built... on rock and roll?

If so, I suspect that radio communication may prove a problem due to interference from some guy called Marconi playing the mamba. Personally, I don't care who goes to that type of place though.

Somke'm if ya got'm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766394)

Someone's been somke'n that intergalactic wacky tobaccy

What happened in the past 100 years? (2)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#37766412)

We went from the Wright Brother's primitive wooden airplane that carried two passengers and could fly for about a minute; fast forward to where we have an Airbus A380 that can carry around 900 passengers, fly 15,000kms at a speed of 900km/hour. That is progress.

Re:What happened in the past 100 years? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766992)

No, fast forward to the SR-71 Blackbird built 50 years ago that flew faster than Mach 3. Everything since then has not been on fast forward.

Re:What happened in the past 100 years? (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#37767548)

As the other responder said, there hasn't been any significant progress in aviation for 50 years. The A380 is just a slightly improved version of something like the 747, which came out in the 60s IIRC. The only advances in that time have been some small improvements in fuel economy, and some big improvements in navigation (thanks to GPS), plus some big changes in avionics (thanks to flat-panel screens and computer). But overall, a passenger jet now isn't much different from a passenger jet from before I was born. The field is largely stagnant, unlike during the 40s and 50s.

That Airbus A380 can't even travel at supersonic speeds, but we had supersonic passenger planes back in the 70s (and now we don't).

I've got an easy way (0)

kilodelta (843627) | about 2 years ago | (#37766454)

Cut military budge per year in HALF. Take the money and dump it into a starship program. We'll be on Alpha Centauri in five years.

Alternatively (1)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#37766558)

Keep the military budget the same and militarize space, via guise of competing with the rising superpower of China. Nothing spurs innovation like a nice cold war.

Re:I've got an easy way (1)

syousef (465911) | about 2 years ago | (#37766594)

Cut military budge per year in HALF. Take the money and dump it into a starship program. We'll be on Alpha Centauri in five years.

Unfortunately we're living in an age where the word "economic crisis" is the norm and we're seeing old iconic scientific installations closed for lack of funding. I was at an astronomy club meeting last night and have it on good authority that here in Australia the Parkes Radio Telescope is likely to be shut down in the immediate future. Unfathomable. You might as well be suggesting that we fund this by every geek winning the lotto.

This is definitely a society in decline.

No we won't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766634)

If we do that a foreign military will wipe us off the map in one year.

Re:No we won't (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about 2 years ago | (#37766914)

US military spending: $685bln. Chinese military spending: $91bln. It can safely handle halving and more.

Re:No we won't (2)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 2 years ago | (#37767478)

The difference is that out military budget is mostly wasted on profits for corporations, as well as dead-end research projects. The cost of research, engineering and manufacturing is much higher here. Plus we have extremely expensive and intricate hardware we strap into our machines that is ridiculously expensive to replace. We also have a higher cost of living, so our soldiers are more expensive. We also have a significant disadvantage when it comes to population, and the Chinese don't care if their population doesn't want to get drafted. Any war with the Chinese would be a pretty fair match if it didn't result in a full nuclear exchange (even then I guess its technically a fair match).

Re:I've got an easy way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766664)

So, you think they can build a close-to-lightspeed starship in 7.5 months?

Sending them out... (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#37766464)

We have the ability to send craft out of the solar system now.

We could probably send a manned craft out of the solar system too... ... getting them back [and alive] may be a little bit more of a challenge however.

Re:Sending them out... (1)

Scutter (18425) | about 2 years ago | (#37766602)

We could probably send a manned craft out of the solar system too... ... getting them back [and alive] may be a little bit more of a challenge however.

I think that's sort of the point of a 100-year starship. It's meant to be a colony ship, not a round-trip.

ARGH Paywalled (1)

sir lox elroy (735636) | about 2 years ago | (#37766524)

Well that was an uninteresting article, all it said was it wanted my money.

Robots are our evolution (1)

Pro923 (1447307) | about 2 years ago | (#37766574)

Does that make any sense? What if the robots that we create are, in some sense, our evolutionary ancestors? We send them out into space and tens of thousands of years from now they begin to self-replicate and send information back to the motherland, as they spread themselves out to viable planets in the galaxy. I know that doesn't appeal to my own sense that some day I'd be able to see, touch and feel the universe with my own body, but the reality of the vastness of space and the physical limits that appear to be in play - seemingly make that impossible. Perhaps these robots would tote along human embryos in stasis, such that if another earthlike planet were ever found they could be 'grown' and educated.

What happened to the sea? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766656)

Wouldn't it be cheaper to colonize the ocean first? A great deal of resources are under the ocean floor, and finding a way to live and produce under the ocean seems to be more beneficial than trying to make our way out to the stars before we are ready to do so. The pressure difference under water would give us more tech to use in space, and be a bit cheaper.

It would be nice... (1)

imric (6240) | about 2 years ago | (#37766662)

(don't know what they are saying, paywalls suck and leading me to one is irritating) ...to get off this rock - but I don't see us leaving the Solar system until long after we've spread out through the solar system itself - and that's going to be challenge enough for our species. The energy costs are prohibitive for any kind of 'commuting' from any planetary gravity well as it is, so we'll have to be so adept at space travel that we don't need to a) use any raw materials coming from planets and b) we'll have to have a population that is born, lives, and reproduces outside of orbit. It would help if we make advances towards true longevity, too. Any interstellar trips are going to take a LONG time - and the investment in such a thing can't be huge; it's the problem with planetary gravity wells writ large and we're not going to be sending anything but information back and forth from our interplanetary 'conquests'.

I just don't see that happening in 100 years, as much as I'd like to. Maybe 1000, if we can keep civilization going that long. It's a huge problem, the energy costs are orders of magnitude higher than getting off of the Earth (and we have enough trouble with that) and the logistics are worse - where do we get volatiles along the way? How do we survive such a trip anyway? We can't even choose rational destinations at this point in our technology!

Having said that, I'd like to believe that we'll get there. Eventually.

In 90 years... (1)

dmitrybrant (1219820) | about 2 years ago | (#37766680)

war will be beginning. I don't think we'll make it to 100 years.

You will need an engine (2)

rickb928 (945187) | about 2 years ago | (#37766700)

"propelled using a gravity slingshot on a near-sun trajectory"

Nice idea, but Space is non-empty. there is enough dust and whatnot out there to slow such a ship and leave it slower and slower. Not good.

And then, when you get where you're going (as if you're choosing where you go), you get to decelerate. Unless orbiting a star was the intention all along. In which case, we got this star right here, plenty of orbital slots available.

No, we'll be using engines.

Re:You will need an engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37766884)

You could decelerate by entering a planet's atmosphere and then hitting its surface. No engine required.

Re:You will need an engine (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about 2 years ago | (#37767298)

Coming in at a significant fraction of lightspeed and hitting the atmosphere? That would be exciting - somewhat like a thousand-ton cosmic ray.

Re:You will need an engine (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#37767586)

You could decelerate by entering a planet's atmosphere and then hitting its surface. No engine required.

If your ship doesn't have any engines, then you better have made some ultra-accurate maneuvers around the first star you slingshotted around so that you can enter the atmosphere of a planet in a different star system several light-years away. I find this rather unlikely.

Re:You will need an engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37767160)

And then, when you get where you're going (as if you're choosing where you go), you get to decelerate.

Hmmmm

Space is non-empty. there is enough dust and whatnot out there to slow such a ship and leave it slower and slower.

If you read your post backwards it almost sounds like you're offering a proposal to this group.

Re:You will need an engine (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 2 years ago | (#37767198)

Traveling fast, far & for a long future time span means your real chances of space ship surface collision, erosion & even catastrophic failure in contact with small rocky or icy objects only tens of grams in size are extremely high.

The chance of "seeing" a small object that weighs a pound when you are travelling at 1000-10,000 km/hr is remote and even more remote that you would have the energy or the strength of the vessel to rapidly change its direction in time to miss the object.

Surviving and then repairing all such encounters routinely is going to be a monumental task.

I give it my PITS ranking: Pie in the Sky

Re:You will need an engine (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#37767330)

Traveling fast, far & for a long future time span means your real chances of space ship surface collision, erosion & even catastrophic failure in contact with small rocky or icy objects only tens of grams in size are extremely high.

As far as we can tell, there seem to be very few objects that are tens of grams in size in interstellar space. And space is really, really big so the odds of hitting one when travelling at really high speed are really small.

I give it my PITS ranking: Pie in the Sky

Wrong, but thanks for playing.

Re:You will need an engine (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 2 years ago | (#37767490)

Electrostatic shielding? Another hundred years...

Undiscussed problem areas (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#37766712)

Undiscussed problem areas:

1) It seems a stable biosphere is bigger than "biosphere II" which was pretty freaking big for just a couple people.

2) It seems humanity needs something a bit bigger than West Virginia to not screw up genetically. Too much kissing cousins is not so good. I did date a total hottie from WV in the 90s who made jokes about her home states genetic issues, its not that they're ALL messed up, just a high (and growing?) proportion, which is worrisome. On the other hand, "tropical islands" seem to have turned out OK.

3) Who goes? The "Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy" implied all the Nobel prize winners might be a winning combination, for them, but I'm thinking maybe all the politicians, mbas, and illegals might be a winner, for us. Also see HHGTTG.

Re:Undiscussed problem areas (1)

Mobius Ring (1346871) | about 2 years ago | (#37767016)

I say... if it is the first experimental ship: definitely send the politicians, MBAs, lawyers, movie/sports stars. Let's just avoid sending the phone sanitizers so as to avoid the tragedy noted in HHGTTG.

Re:Undiscussed problem areas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37767124)

Does the biosphere need to be bigger or simply more complete?

Re:Undiscussed problem areas (2)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 2 years ago | (#37767222)

The problems with 'inbreeding' in a population are solved within a finite number of generations, that's why island and remote jungle populations can exist in isolation with relatively low numbers. Fact is, cold though it may be, most of the harmful genetic traits that are exaggerated by the first few generations of a small population die off with relative swiftness. The challenge that modern man would face in such a scenario would be letting that happen, since we have a habit of trying to save everybody regardless of whether they can tie their own shoes. If we wanted the natural reproduction of a small population to work we would at a minimum have to mandate sterilization of those persons with exaggerated negative traits.

The other solution is dump natural reproduction entirely. Do all the fertilization in a lab (you could even use a library of donated semen without taking up too much space) and carefully monitor the results, implanting only those blastocysts which are known to have genomes within normal parameters. Boom! Inbreeding problem solved.

MrFusion (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#37766832)

In 1985 was tought that we would have by now in every home fusion reactors, antigrav vehicles, and even fax machines under each tv set. And internet was somewhat absent. To have starships in 100 years not just must be practical (like in "not requiring the energy output of our entire planet for a year to get to other star") but also the culture (as in "is profitable to build and investigate with that goal") should go in the same direction.

Shorter term goals, like developing self-sustained colonies in space (not city sized, but for a somewhat small crew to do somewhat interesting space tasks like investigation, asteroid mining or moving, space labs/factories, etc) are more feasible and could make enough profit to have in 100 years something in the middle scale up there

Oh cool (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | about 2 years ago | (#37766854)

When's the 100 year butler robots and 100 year flying cars convention coming?

Concentrate on the Solar system first (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#37766900)

Some of the proposals were pretty far out, such as Joseph Breeden's concept for an engine-less starship (propelled using a gravity slingshot on a near-sun trajectory).

Our current interstellar ships all used a slingshot. In fact, we couldn't leave the Solar system with just engines.

But my opninion is that we should make interplanetary travel more efficient before we even think of interstellar. Our own star system still has many interesting things.

Engineless ship (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | about 2 years ago | (#37767002)

First, please don't link an article from behind a paywall. I'm sure it's been said before but it's quite annoying.

Some of the proposals were pretty far out, such as Joseph Breeden's concept for an engine-less starship (propelled using a gravity slingshot on a near-sun trajectory)

Since the actual site was scarce on details I'm wondering how this guy expects to get to the sun (much less escape earths' atmosphere) without an engine. This is a great idea but I still think it's better to figure out how to make a permanent space station in earth's orbit. We are so far behind a starship right now that we (usa) can't even get to our own space station without someone else helping us. In general I think the human race has quite a while before we are mature enough to start exploring the galaxy.

next 100 years (1)

confused one (671304) | about 2 years ago | (#37767142)

I'll be happy if we have something that lets us mere Humans putter about in the inner solar system (Jupiter and sunward) within the next 100 years. Interstellar is just wishfull thinking...

The Real Question-How do you build 1000 starships (1)

Tim12s (209786) | about 2 years ago | (#37767210)

I believe they've missed the point of the conference.

The real question is "How do you build 1000 starships". Building one starship is like building one disposable rocket. We need to look at the entire economics and ecosystem required to manufacture this en-mass on a repeatable sustainable basis otherwise we are looking at a one-off moon mission that is not sustainable in the longterm.

When the zerg rock up, 1 starship is not gonna be enough.

In 100 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37767216)

In 100 years, oil will be a thing of the past. That's a big roadblock, considering that globally, fossil fuels are used almost exclusively as our power source. Developing and implementing technology that can deliver the same amount of power we use now, even if it does happen in time, will discourage large non-vital uses of energy for awhile. Assuming that it is accomplished, I think it will be far more than 100 years from an energy viewpoint alone.

Nice try. (2)

Caerdwyn (829058) | about 2 years ago | (#37767226)

We will have interstellar travel when we decide that interstellar travel is more important than bread-and-circuses, that personal responsibility is more rewarding than entitlements, and that "long term investing" involves a time period greater than one fiscal quarter.

...yeah. I'll get back to you on that.

Need That Life Extending Serum First (1)

MoldySpore (1280634) | about 2 years ago | (#37767336)

Before we start talking about space flight and getting us all excited, lets get that whole living to 150 years old [theage.com.au] thing figured out first so we can all enjoy the awesomeness of space travel before we die of over population!

too soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37767474)

fuck me i was born too soon

We don't need to go that fast... (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about 2 years ago | (#37767510)

I would really like us to start working (conceptually for the first few decades) on a colonization ship that we would send, ASAP, to the nearest habitable extrasolar planet we find. Yes, it would be slow, and if all goes well, ships launched later will beat it to the destination, perhaps by centuries. But not all might go well, and if it doesn't, I'd like the comfort of knowing that there's a place far away where humanity (and other life) got a clean start.

Of course, a ship that we could power with this century's technology (nuclear explosions) would be slow. It would take centuries to reach its destination. Obviously, it couldn't have people on board. But it could have all the genetic material to make people, as well as things like wheat, ladybugs, gut bacteria and all the other flora and fauna we'd like to bring with us. It would all be in deep freeze during the journey, and hatched once the ship has arrived. The first humans would gestate in artificial wombs and be raised by robotic parents with advanced parenting AI. This is another technology which isn't available, but it's not a century away, either. All the stuff would have to be very heavily shielded, because centuries of exposure to cosmic rays can do a lot of damage. I would propose doing this with many layers of microscopically thin sheets of lead, which could be laser etched with machine readable pits to contain all the valuable data that our civilization has produced. There would be some redundancy so that damaged sections could be recovered based on what's read off from the intact sections.

I think the most serious technological challenge to pulling this off would be in the field of robotics. We would need more or less autonomous robots to scout the planet, land, harvest resources and build factories for their own replication, as well as a habitat suitable for the biologicals. This would be quite a challenge, but it's almost entirely a software (AI) problem, and I don't think it will go unsolved for all that long.

Re:We don't need to go that fast... (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 2 years ago | (#37767702)

Plans for Mars that involve sending robots to collect materials needed for a colony would be a good idea, same goes for other planets - we could maybe send an observation satellite that can send data back, that could always be used for a later ship to use en route to plan and adapt.

They have been promising fusion in 10-20 years (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 2 years ago | (#37767664)

Since I was a small child at Expo 63 and Expo 67, they have been promising fusion power and interstellar travel in 10-20 years ...

Let's get real and realize we're more likely to be able to use technologies we actually have patents for now, not pipe dreams that are always "in the future".

Robots we send off into space will do perfectly well, and then they can merge with alien civilizations and come back to destroy their makers.

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