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Bill Clinton Backs 100 Year Starship

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the enthused-about-green-women dept.

Space 299

astroengine writes "The light-years between the stars is vast — a seemingly insurmountable quarantine that cuts our solar system off from the rest of the galaxy. But to a growing number of interstellar enthusiasts who will meet in Houston, Texas, for the 100YSS Public Symposium next week, interstellar distances may not be as insurmountable as they seem. What's more, they even have the support of former U.S. President Bill Clinton."

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299 comments

Methinks people don't appreciate the scales here (4, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239301)

The scales you're talking about with interstellar travel are almost humanly unimaginable. The fastest probe we've ever launched would take over 100,000 years to reach even the closest solar system (and that's a *MERE* 4.2 light years away). We'll be lucky to get a man on Mars in the next 100 years, much less a vehicle that could travel at a significant percentage of the speed of light (an absolute "must have" for an interstellar probe).

And even if you could reach Einstein's speed limit (and you would probably have to consume most of Earth's energy resources to do it), all you've got in the end is a ship that would still be laughably slow in the big scheme of things. Puttering along at near-light-speed in a universe 14 billion light years across would only remind you of how isolated we really are.

Shit, I don't even think we have the MATH to travel those kind of distances. The accuracy and tolerances for a trajectory that could get anywhere close to another body over light-year scale distances are all-but-impossible. It would be harder than throwing a dart in the U.S. and hitting a bullseye on a dartboard in China.

Anyone selling interstellar travel is selling snake oil...period. For all intents and purposes, and barring someone radically overturning Einstein, we're all alone.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (5, Funny)

Radres (776901) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239345)

Yes, but Bill Clinton supports it!

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239403)

Also, we do not even have the experience of building something that can stay 10 years in space without constant support from Earth...

It just makes for some headlines, for a long time.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239429)

In fact, that's what we should. We should launch something in to orbit for 100 years, with no support, and see how it does. Can they make it 100 years? Will the kids born there be able to return to Earth?

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Insightful)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239431)

Also, we do not even have the experience of building something that can stay 10 years in space without constant support from Earth...

It just makes for some headlines, for a long time.

Voyager one and two would like to say hello.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (3, Interesting)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239485)

Voyager I. Thirty-five years and you know how far it is from earth? Seventeen light *hours*. And it's about to run out of juice at even that paltry distance.

Now go build something to travel at least 4.2 light *years*.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239633)

Because Voyager 1 & 2 are somewhat old technology. If we built two new spacecraft they would have better propulsion systems and more efficient energy sources. Just read about the Martian Rovers, they are some impressive machines.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Informative)

Isaac-1 (233099) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239755)

The reason it is about to run out of juce as you put it, is that the material in the thermocouples have degraded, the Plutonium in the RTG's is still very hot, it is just the part that converts this heat to electricity is breaking down. In a manned ship it would be a relatively simple matter of pulling out the worn out thermocouple and inserting a fresh one. (of course a manned ship would likely need a much larger power source than an RTG could ever provide) This of course brings up the point of limited space for spare parts and needing to design everything with universal plug in modules and have onboard micro fabrication facilities.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239821)

Voyager wasn't built for the same purpose. Thus it will perform differently. Learn a bit about engineering. Or at least pull your head from your ass.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239963)

Don't be stupid. They haven't traveled far because they have no engines, and are powered with crappy little RTGs. Nuclear engines would change things completely.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239521)

Ships with life support. And, IIRC, even using just a minuscule power, soon the power source will be unable to provide it.

Not to mention (1)

voss (52565) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240115)

Pioneer 6 which was transmitting signal for 35 years (until 2000)
Pioneer 7 last known contact 29 years from launch (until 1995)
Pioneer 8 last known contact 29 years after launch (until 1996)
Pioneer 9 lasted 15 years

Pioneer 10 1972-2002 (although a weak signal was received in 2003)
Pioneer 11 1973-1995

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239507)

Also, we do not even have the experience of building something that can stay 10 years in space without constant support from Earth...

True. But hasn't the biosphere project helped move us in the right direction to make this plausible?

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Insightful)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239405)

Yeah, how do people get from a building in one city to a building in another? The precision required for this trajectory is well beyond what most could do . . . unless they had some kind of mysterious mechanism to continually alter their course during their travels. But such is obviously beyond our best engineers.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239423)

unless they had some kind of mysterious mechanism to continually alter their course during their travels.

And with enough fuel to last 100,000 years.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Funny)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239951)

Clean coal, man. People keep telling me it's the right stuff.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240209)

As I understand thermodynamics once up to speed you don't slow down in space there being little to no resistance, so once you reach cruising speed you simply need fuel for maneuvering and stopping. Now the life support and on board systems would also need fuel, but much of that could be minimized if we perfect cryogenics, once your frozen it doesn't matter how cold you get.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239413)

The guidance programs arent far off, with the system in Cassini you could shoot a gun in NY and hit a dime in LA. and that was built 6 years ago.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239445)

you don't have to be insanely accurate if you can correct your course enroute

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Interesting)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239467)

I agree completely with your overall point, but with constant 1g acceleration, the passengers in a ship could arrive somewhere within 100 years due to time dilation,

Of course, the energy required and the engineering challenges are immese, but theoritically the nearest star could be reached in less than 40 years (passenger time).

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239531)

Does that take into account the time required to decelerate at say 1G?

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239935)

No, but God help anything that lives on that planet when we impact it at .99c.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (3, Informative)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239999)

Yes. A ship accelerating at 1g and then decelerating at 1g halfway there, could reach the Andromeda galaxy in less than 50 years (passenger time). The nearest star could be reached in less than 5 years.

Again, the engery and engineering requirements for this is way beyond anything we have today, but it is theoretically possible.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240107)

Um, a constant 1G accelleration would get you there in about two years subjective, a bit over 5 actual. You accellerate for a year at 1G, you're almost at lightspeed. You're half a lightyear out. Coast 3.5 light-years, 3.5 years actual (about 12 days subjective), decellerate for a year at 1G, you're there. The formula are simple. d=(1/2)*a*t*t for the runup distance (d equals one-half a-t-squared), time dialation factor is your tau, 1 - (% of c divided by 100)

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240217)

Agreed - I was significantly rounding up to try to account for difficulties of maintaining a 1G acceleration when approaching higher percentages of c.

The trip would really only take you 3.6 (passenger time) if the 1G acceleration could be maintained for 50% of the distance.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (5, Funny)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239513)

...barring someone radically overturning Einstein...

The idea of FTL is not 'out for the count' by a long shot, despite Einstein... In the same fashion we pressurize our airplanes and remain quite oblivious to the outside conditions, we have to find a way to encapsulate a piece of space time in our little ship while it zips along at warp 9... Now cue the naysayers to tell me how crazy I am for even thinking it. Radical, yes, but no crazier than the idea of man on the moon, or human flight. Faster than sound? I should be locked up for thinking up such insanity!

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

turgid (580780) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239673)

Now cue the naysayers to tell me how crazy I am for even thinking it.

So, do you know how to make negative mass or negative energy? Is there something you want to tell us? Perhaps you have a magnetic monopole tucked away somewhere for a rainy day as well.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2)

lightBearer (2692183) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239853)

If I've read this [wikipedia.org] article correctly, the math shows that it's possible. The downside being the energy required to generate the field in the first place.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239953)

The idea of FTL is not 'out for the count' by a long shot, despite Einstein...

Er, well, to be clear... FTL is out for the count because of Einstein, so for FTL to be possible means a up-ending of one of the fundamental assumptions of Relativity. It is hypothetically possible that this is the case, but it is not to be presumed lightly (unless you're writing a sci-fi story.)

We would all like for it to be true. Believe me, a huge number of people were hoping that despite the odds the "FTL neutrinos" would turn out to be real rather than an equipment failure.

In the same fashion we pressurize our airplanes and remain quite oblivious to the outside conditions, we have to find a way to encapsulate a piece of space time in our little ship while it zips along at warp 9...

But in the same fashion where, despite your comfort within, the airplane itself still must obey the rules of aerodynamics so too must this hypothetical spacecraft deal with the rest of the universe while violating the rules of said universe. And it's not the environment of space that prevents FTL, it's causality. The only way to "encapsulate" something against causality is for it to never interact with the rest of the universe again.

Now cue the naysayers to tell me how crazy I am for even thinking it. Radical, yes, but no crazier than the idea of man on the moon, or human flight. Faster than sound? I should be locked up for thinking up such insanity!

It's not crazy to think of it. It is crazy to act like it's a realistic possibility based on what we know of the universe, or that it is any way comparable to the other things you mention. The physical principles that would allow flight, supersonic flight, or traveling to the moon were well-known for a long, long time. It was, in essence, an engineering problem of how to work the well-known laws of nature such that you could fly, or rocket off the face of the earth.

Whereas FTL violates the known physical principles of nature.

So, once again, it could be possible, and damn I hope it is, but it's not at all like those other things.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240133)

Er, well, to be clear... FTL is out for the count because of Einstein, so for FTL to be possible means a up-ending of one of the fundamental assumptions of Relativity. It is hypothetically possible that this is the case, but it is not to be presumed lightly (unless you're writing a sci-fi story.)

We would all like for it to be true. Believe me, a huge number of people were hoping that despite the odds the "FTL neutrinos" would turn out to be real rather than an equipment failure.

The faster than light neutrinos wouldn't have overturned relativity though - it would have mostly just redifined the value of c. The calculations that were previously working despite using an incorrect value of c would need to be looked at, but it would be similar to what happened to Newtonian calculations after relativity.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239523)

I don't know about interstellar travel just yet, but I would support deep space probes on multi decade robotic missions to other stars, using every angle they can in order to reach as high a velocity as possible, which is pretty fast, even today.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239533)

The scales you're talking about with interstellar travel are almost humanly unimaginable. The fastest probe we've ever launched would take over 100,000 years to reach even the closest solar system

Eh who cares. The proper model isn't a moon landing visit and return stunt but more like the national highway and railway network. It would take 100 years for me to visit every road in the US road network but I really don't care, as long as I can travel around my local area. So the proper solution is to take 10 million years to set up 10 million space stations each about a year apart. Much like the original ancient silk road, no one would ever travel the length of it, but you'd live along it and adsorb the benefits of it.

Its like arguing its stupid for boats and sea travel to exist because no human being or individual boat could possibly last long enough to sail every route on the map or visit every port... "eh". None the less, sailing is fun.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239555)

"We'll be lucky to get a man on Mars in the next 100 years, much less a vehicle that could travel at a significant percentage of the speed of light (an absolute "must have" for an interstellar probe). The fastest probe we've ever launched would take over 100,000 years to reach even the closest solar system (and that's a *MERE* 4.2 light years away)."

If we could travel at 25% of light speed we could do it in about 17 years, and I didn't even have to invent any math to figure that out! That alone proves that speed of light travel is not a must have.

"Shit, I don't even think we have the MATH to travel those kind of distances. The accuracy and tolerances for a trajectory that could get anywhere close to another body over light-year scale distances are all-but-impossible."

I know that we currently launch airplanes on a trajectory with the accuracy needed to arrive at an exact runway thousands of miles away, but I concede that we tax our current knowledge of mathematics to achieve that goal. Still, given a hundred years to work on it, maybe they could come up with some kind of method of in flight course correction! It is a crazy idea, I know.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239903)

The problem is that 0.25c is unimaginably fast by human standards, and would require a truly mind boggling amount of energy to achieve for any vessel with enough mass to support people onboard. Even 0.025c is insanely fast (27 million kph), and would require a generational ship or some sort of stasis (and rotating crew) to make the journey. This assumes you solve the problem of what to do about invisible space junk (micrometeorites for instance) colliding with your ship at an equivalent energy much larger than the largest nuclear explosion ever detonated by man.

We're not traveling between the stars without a major revolution in physics.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240191)

I wasn't saying there aren't problems. I'm pretty sure that the forming of the 100YSS is a direct acknowledgement that there are problems. The point I was making is that we don't need to achieve light speed or invent new mathematics to calculate the perfect launch trajectory in order to solve them.

"We're not traveling between the stars without a major revolution in physics."

I'm pretty sure they know that too.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240167)

Using 1 G acceleration, it would take about 90 days to reach 25% of C, which is a whole lot of energy. .5 G acceleration would require 180 days to reach that speed. And at .25 G, it would take a year. And that basically adds between 1 and two years to the journey (you have to turn around and slow down).

Basically, we are not going out of our solar system anytime soon.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239561)

The one nice shortcut with the math is that most of the things humans are interested in are (comparatively) large gravity wells.

That still leaves you with the somewhat hairy problem of not falling in to the biggest star in the area when your millenia ship fires up its ancient engines as it approaches the target; but at least the dartboard in China is a powerful magnet, so there is a small envelope for near misses.

Personally, I'd be worried about the limits(both in terms of 'with our present technology' and in terms of fundamental thermodynamics) of materials science.

Even if kept very cold, complex chemical structures degrade over time(with a little help from any radiation zipping around in the endless void, naturally). Building machines, or preserving biological samples, such that they will be viable in 100,000 years or more, when the ship finally drifts to its target, could be a bit tricky...

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239565)

Uh... the entire point is to improve our technology and find workarounds, so mentioning current technology is useless. It may well be impossible, but no one can say what the future holds, and we won't accomplish anything unless we try. It may not even be necessary to 'overturn Einstein'; as I said, we can't predict the future.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

Pausanias (681077) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239595)

Puttering along at near-light-speed in a universe 14 billion light years across would only remind you of how isolated we really are.

The closer you travel to light speed, the more that distance will shrink for you, so that given sufficient energy you will be able to make the trip in an arbitrarily small amount of time as viewed by yourself.

This message brought to you by special relativity. It's the LAW

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Insightful)

twotacocombo (1529393) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239599)

I bet this is what people said 100 years ago about putting a man on the moon. Think of all the incredible things that have been done or discovered in the last century. Or, would you rather we not put the time and resources into an idea this grand and incredible, and say to hell with all the amazing things we may discover along the way, regardless of its outcome? My country's successes weren't accomplished by the naysayers; step aside, sir.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239827)

I bet this is what people said 100 years ago about putting a man on the moon. Think of all the incredible things that have been done or discovered in the last century...

Assuming technology were still accelerating at the same pace it did in the 20th century, it's probably less likely that we'll travel to the stars. If the human race ultimately merges with machines, we may decided to move into a virtual reality, with the infrastructure located deep underground where nothing will bother us for many millions of years. See Vernor Vinge's classic novel Marooned in Realtime [amazon.com] for some musings on this possibility.

And even if we did launch such a mission to the stars, that first mission would likely be overtaken by missions that, while launched much later, are capable of travelling faster. Vast spaces missions are not worth bothering with in the short term.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

SuperSlacker64 (1918650) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240005)

If short term space missions are not worth bothering, the question becomes, when have we reached the long term? If we don't try anything new now, then there might not be any significantly different technology in a hundred years. I agree that this particular project sounds a bit too grand for our current level of technology, but I hope that doesn't stop us from continuing to travel further and further from home (Mars, Titan, etc.).

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1, Insightful)

jdavidb (449077) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239913)

My country's successes weren't accomplished by the naysayers; step aside, sir.

I would love to step aside, but people keep trying to forcibly involve my money in such projects. I will gladly step aside, and to you I say, Go For It! Just do it on the dimes of people like you, and be principled and leave the naysayers out of it. Then you won't have to hear from us so much.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41240041)

>I bet this is what people said 100 years ago about putting a man on the moon.

Educated people said 100 years ago that squaring the circle was impossible too. Guess what? It's still impossible today. Reality has nothing to do with popular opinion.

As intelligent arguments go, yours falls on the same level as plugging your ears and shouting "I can't hear you!"

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2)

rroman (2627559) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240085)

Well, I'd love to be false prophet, but with interstellar travel I don't see the future very bright. There are physical boundaries that almost disallow such things. If we even forget about theory of relativity, we know that e = mv^2/2 and e=mc^2. So we know that to be able to make something move fast enough to reach any star in our neighbourhood and return, we need to provide it with energy, which is roughly to energy stored in matter and antimatter of the same mass (or one order down) as the vehicle. Production of such fuel doesn't seem to be conceivable with the resources we have even in the foreseeable future.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240229)

Yes, we put a man on the moon. A couple times. For a few days. A long time ago.

There is a huge Difference between that, and going to Mars, or Interstellar. Let me know when we land on the moon, build a station there, and have permanent residents. Or when we start mining Asteroids, or similarly useful to 7 Billion people back on 3rd Rock.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Insightful)

Isaac-1 (233099) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239647)

The problem is we still think technology as a whole is advancing at the same rate it did in the 20th century where we went from the first powered flight to landing men on the moon in under 70 years, and today we have the U.S. Air Force still flying planes that first flew 60 years ago (B-52's) . The truth of the matter is some fields like computers and even microscale engineering do continue to advance, but many important fields for such a project have barely changed in the last half century.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2)

sinij (911942) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239839)

Diminishing returns.

Technology is actually advancing at the accelerated rate, but to advance any given established area would take exponentially more effort, with each consecutive breakthrough taking more time. On top of that many innovations are limited by available energy sources, that is with denser and more available energy we will be able to do more at the existing level of technology. Unfortunately we are nowhere near close to matching, less beating, energy density of oil-derived products.

Some fields will appear to advance more quickly, but that is because they are newer fields with still enough low-hanging fruit.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (4, Interesting)

sinij (911942) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239697)

Because of the time scales mentioned above, space ship capable traveling to nearest start would be incapable of supporting life. That is it will have to reconstruct life on the arrival and travel completely dormant.

As a civilization we do have enough time before estimated heat death of our universe to visit even most distant corner of the galaxy. With that said, every trip will be one-way, by the time "we" (whatever form it takes) arrive anywhere original civilization will be long since gone.

As a result multi-star civilization is extremely unlikely, you could have a civilization existing on multiple stars, just not at the same time. With this realization humanity's energy should be directed toward a) fully utilizing our system b) fully utilizing energy of the sun c) fully utilizing matter in our system. Only after all of this is achieved does it make sense to fire one-way, never-heard-back-from seeds at the stars.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239795)

> The fastest probe we've ever launched would take over 100,000 years to reach even the closest solar
> system (and that's a *MERE* 4.2 light years away).

> And even if you could reach Einstein's speed limit, all you've got in the end is a ship that would still be laughably
> slow in the big scheme of things. Puttering along at near-light-speed in a universe 14 billion light years across
> would only remind you of how isolated we really are.

No, it would NOT be laughably slow if you were aboard the ship making the journey at near light speed. That 4.2 light year distance would be greatly reduced by length contraction in your new reference frame. You could make the journey as "fast" as you wanted if you had enough energy to approach light speed. With your new velocity, you'd no longer be in Earth's inertial reference frame. E.g., you could travel that 4.2 light years in, say, a month, but unfortunately the people left on Earth would still see you taking over 4.2 light years to reach your destination.

Length contraction and time dilation must be considered as you approach light speed. The "distances" to various objects in the universe are relative to our present inertial reference frame. Changing your frame of reference (by speeding up) would change all the distances.

That's why people who don't understand Physics look dumb when they talk about going "faster" than light. Light speed effectively is an infinite velocity and traveling near light speed takes you (personally) anywhere in the universe as quickly as you want. But it also means never going home to the "time" you left.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239829)

universe 14 billion light years across

Current models indicates that the universe defies terminology like "across", being more of a big "loop" much like the globe is "big loop", that if you traveled in a straight line, you'd eventually end up right where you started. Time/Space is bendy, and any hope of interstellar travel will require our ability to "fold" it.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

flyneye (84093) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239837)

Not to mention appreciating the scale of behavior that has "Backing" on one end with actual MONEY and volunteering to "chair" a high profile position in order to prostitute ones cult of personality.

  fig A.
              $BACKING...|...Attention whoring

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239889)

Um, no, there are problems, perhaps insurmountable, but navigation isn't one of them, and the vastness of the universe also isn't one of them, depending on one's goals.

Yes, "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space." Got it.

But we're not talking about sending a colony to Messier 82, or even the large megellanic cloud. Wiki shows 12 stars within 10 light years of Earth. 10 light years is still a mind boggling distance, but it's a whole bunch of orders of magnitude less than the current width of the universe.

It's always possible to set a goal so high that it could never be attained. I don't think that was the intention.

As to navigation, there is probably some distortion of constellations in 4 to 10 light years, but not so much that they, or the location of known pulsars, couldn't still be used for navigation. Launching a spacecraft is not like "from the earth to the moon", where there's a big BOOM at the start and then the projectile glides millions of miles to a precise destination. All spacecraft require mid-voyage corrections. Interstellar craft as well. It's a known science.

How to keep people alive for 100 years, (use unmanned probes?) practical long-haul propulsion systems, longevity issues, those are all valid concerns. But we've got the navigation thing down, and the nearest stars aren't *that* far away.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239905)

I thought you just said "Warp Factor 9, Engage, Make it so, Earl Grey Tea, Hot, etc." and it worked.

Or Georgi had to modulate the frequency of the phase array of the trans warp coil tachyon pulse... technobabble... problem solved.

It should be that easy, right?

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41240111)

It's apparently hard enough that you couldn't spell Geordi's name correctly

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (1, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239939)

The fastest probe we've ever launched would take over 100,000 years to reach even the closest solar system (and that's a *MERE* 4.2 light years away).

Totally irrelevant. The fastest probe we've ever launched was slow as shit because it doesn't have any decent engines, and IIRC doesn't have any engines at all, it's just carried by momentum from its initial launch and from some hydrazine thrusters to make small course corrections and take advantage of gravitational slingshots around the planets.

If we build a starship, it'd have to have real engines, using nuclear power, something like NERVA or Project Orion. It'd still be slow, so it'd have to be a generation ship or use cryogenics or something to achieve suspended animation, but the idea that we're limited to the speed of some slow-ass probes made in the 70s and powered with RTGs is just ridiculous.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2)

Khashishi (775369) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239947)

One interesting idea of long term interstellar travel was envisioned in an old video game Phantasy Star III, which had an interesting setting. Perhaps due to constant warfare, society had regressed to a feudal system where the idea of space travel was all but unknown. The player travels between villages battling bio-engineered monsters and robots which hint at advanced technology, and gradually explores the lands. Eventually, the game reveals that the lands they live in are all inside a huge (country sized?) spaceship that has been traveling through space for thousands of years. With many generations of humans passing, they've forgotten that they were on a spaceship.

Probably unrealistic, but it's interesting to think of how society will evolve aboard a spaceship over thousands of years.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239967)

Just need to discover starburst technology & then later wormholes. Although the ancients don't want people to have wormhole technology as it could be weaponized to destroy entire systems.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (2)

meerling (1487879) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239975)

People have been thinking about it for a long time now, and they even know the distances involved to some very accurate numbers, even though they keep changing. (The entire universe is in motion all the time.) It's not even close to unimaginable, unless you are lacking in imagination, or want to bicycle there or something equally absurd.

The politics and economics is a much greater barrier than the engineering. They have several ideas for ships that will be accelerated to speeds far far greater than anything we've launched up to now. The budget of an interstellar mission would be something that would make the Voyager budget look like a broken shoestring.

Sure, those systems they are talking about won't travel at a large percentage of C, but it would be enough to make it within a human lifetime, after all, you'd be target the nearby stars, not another galaxy. Also, there is no need to worry about Einstein or timewarps or anything else from a sci-fi movie of the week.

The math? We've had that for a long time. Besides that, an interstellar vessel would have to be able to respond to local navigational issues, so it can do course corrections. Nothing more embarrassing than sending a ship several light years only to have it crash into a previously undetected dwarf planet or asteroid because you forgot a maneuvering system. So it's not so much like throwing a dart at China as it is launching a cruise missile with a navigation upgrade.

Interstellar travel is possible, but we don't have it yet. If the investment was made, you could probably watch the launch of one with your grandchildren. As to overturning Einstein, this has nothing to do with that, unless you want a convenient FTL. Of course, science is full of overturned paradigms, and nobody is immune to having their pet theories revised, invalidated, or replaced, not even good old one-mug himself.

Of course, if someone is trying to sell you tickets for a flight to Beta Centauri, they are either delusional, or a rather unskilled con-artist.

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (3, Funny)

ObiWanKenblowme (718510) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240015)

Well, if someone on slashdot says it can't be done, then that's enough for me...

Call it off, boys!

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41240029)

This is why we need to focus all our efforts on stabilizing the Earth and forget about the space traveling for a while. We ain't gonna reach the stars unless someone stops by and gives us a lift. Unless of course we are already there right now. (Ancient astronaut theory)

Re:Methinks people don't appreciate the scales her (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41240117)

Einstein gets overturned about every other month or so. Nobody said accelerating to close the speed of light is the way to go, most likely this will require a "hack" like warping space, moving through other dimensions and the like. Some fish jump out of their aquarium. Try to think beyond the fishbowl.

Let's Hope... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239355)

he and his wife get on it.

Has to be said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239919)

(Let's Hope..) he and his wife get on it.

Amen to that.
And let's hope they invite Pelosi, Schumer, Reid, Boxer and Feinstein too.
Also just for giggles, Al Franken.

Put him on one (2, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239487)

Former President Bill Clinton has even stepped in to serve as the symposium's Honorary Chair. In a statement, Clinton said: "This important effort helps advance the knowledge and technologies required to explore space, all while generating the necessary tools that enhance our quality of life on earth."

- now there is a bunch of political nonsense, if you want to add some to your collection. Who exactly is going to benefit from this and how is this going to be paid for? Certainly if you spend billions or trillions you can 'invent' things, you can come up with certain technologies, but that's a side show, the main point is to send a hunk of metal out of this solar system somewhere else.

If somebody wanted to spend a bunch of money researching materials and technologies actually to 'enhance our quality of life on earth', they don't need to have it wrapped in an ultra-expensive 'send a tube to another star' project. It sounds wonderful and it may be a great project to work on for people who'll get those jobs, but unless this is done privately (and it's not, it's DARPA), then it's more taxes, borrowing and inflation.

Ok, if you want to spend a bunch of money employing a bunch of scientists just for the shit of it, hoping for some return on that investment, at least have them do something that is useful in THIS freaking solar system. How about mining asteroids? Mining the Solar system for fresh water? For whatever. Sending a tube into space so that 100 years later (hundred years) it can enter a foreign star system. If you want that as a goal, first stop all other government spending. Stop the wars, stop the retirement and health care ponzi scams (which they are, all the money is spent and bonds have to be sold, which means they have to be bought back with interest, which means taxes have to be collected again to pay back for the bonds, which means it's double taxation for the purposes of paying out the later entries into the pyramid scams, because the first batch of taxes was stolen already), stop all the other nonsense spending, then you can pretend that you can 'enhance our quality of life on earth' by sending a tube into another star system.

By the way, balls on that guy and stupidity of people who listen to him, pay him to listen to him. The guy put USA on a short term adjustable rate mortgage and thus allowed the deficits and debts to be so much bigger. The guy had the Fed chairman who was known for his 'Greenspan put', that's how much money they printed. Presided over the huge stock market bubble, which was created with all that cheap, fake money. Now most people think he was the best president, what a joke.

Socialists love to build pyramids... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239489)

From the Soviet space program to empty skyscrapers in Pyongyang, politicians love high-visibility mega-projects that make for good propaganda - even if the populace is starving. Only free market capitalism, which includes both for-profit and voluntarily-funded non-profit ventures, can remain rooted in economic reality and allocate a civilization's resources wisely.

Space efforts should probably focus on near-term economic needs like: asteroid mining, space-based solar energy, and eventually space-based manufacturing. Those are the things that will solve all our environmental problems, provide cheap energy, revolutionize agriculture, lower living costs, and lift billions out of poverty! But other star systems are not realistic for the time being...

(Signed: Alex Libman's sockpuppet.)

Re:Socialists love to build pyramids... (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239537)

How are socialists relevant to the discussion at hand?

Surely you don't think President Clinton is a socialist. Perhaps a corporatist, but if you think he is a socialist you have a lot to learn.

North Korea not run by socialists either, but much of europe is run by democratic socialists.

Re:Socialists love to build pyramids... (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240245)

Capitalists build them also: they just have slot-machines in them

And what happened to Icarus? (1)

bandy (99800) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239503)

Someone missed a few fine points when the read the Cliffs Notes for Greek Myth.

Re:And what happened to Icarus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239559)

Someone missed a few fine points when the read the Cliffs Notes for Greek Myth.

If this spaceship is made of wax, then they deserve whatever the fates weave for them.

Re:And what happened to Icarus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239981)

we'd be flying AWAY from the sun here, melting isn't really a concern.

also, in stargate universe they flew through a star without a problem.

100 years fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239613)

Here's a crazy idea instead of trying to spend a hundred years going to another solar system, how about we just spend the next hundred years actually getting our asses off the couch and explore our solar system?

In Space... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239629)

Nobody can hear Lewinsky scream.

Bill, why do you flip flop on science? (0)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239639)

I can't complain that you are on board with science.... But you did the world a horrible disservice by cancelling the Texas Super Collider... You spent like 6 billion, then spent 3 billion to scrap it, when the total cost for construction was 12 billion.

Re:Bill, why do you flip flop on science? (1)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239835)

I looked this up because I wanted to start a political flame war, but he did "express regret" when he signed the bill cancelling it. So I guess it's okay.

Re:Bill, why do you flip flop on science? (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240221)

I can't complain that you are on board with science.... But you did the world a horrible disservice by cancelling the Texas Super Collider... You spent like 6 billion, then spent 3 billion to scrap it, when the total cost for construction was 12 billion.

Yeah, he kinda screwed the pooch on that one. For another 3 billion over what was finally spent (donut money & coffee money to the Pentagon), he coulda finished it up. Course, he was up to his ass in impeachment hearings at the time...

"What? No wait..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239659)

"I thought you were asking if I approved Star's back end. I do by the way." -Bill Clinton

So is this project (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239719)

To construct a starship over the next 100 years? Or to build a starship that will travel (to another star system) over a period of 100 years?

I think that we (terran civilisation) could construct a multigenerational; slow starship in about a century - but it would take millenea to get anywhere.

If we work on things a bit longer we might come up with a bussard ramjet that could get pretty close to the speed of light, and get some relativity advantage

But for usable interstellar travel we need some way of going faster than light (warp drive,or hyperspace or warp points/jump gates)
Who knows how long that will take to invent/find

Re:So is this project (1)

kenaaker (774785) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239955)

I think there are two projects, the 100 year starship project, and the Icarus Interstellar project. From what I've read, they have similar concerns, but are different organizations. The 100 year starship project objective is to think about how to build a starship that can travel for 100 years, reach another star and return data to earth. Icarus is interested in interstellar travel too, but seems to have a more nebulous goal, mostly about the research needed to build an interstellar ship.

Great idea! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239751)

I've even got a list of people you can put on it...

lets start now (1)

lemur3 (997863) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239815)

this could be like a modern day cathedral, or a pyramid type project.

something that takes generations to build....

why not start

Excellent idea! (3, Funny)

TuringCheck (1989202) | about a year and a half ago | (#41239915)

Such a ship can be loaded with politicians and lawyers and send to colonize the cold, hard vacuum.
Hopefully a post-singularity entity will lob a black hole after the ship. Or two, just to be sure.

But is our astronauts learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239925)

"The light-years between the stars is vast..."

Yes, they certainly is.

Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41239969)

We can't even get back to the moon, but Whoopee! Let's build a starship.

Interstellar travel, substellar grammar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41240113)

The light-years between the stars is vast.

Yes, it spans light-years! The life-years of humans is too small for this light-years.

Unmanned (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year and a half ago | (#41240173)

Skip the humans and then we can send it even faster and not bust the bank. Target a known extra-solar planet within 10 LY that looks interesting, design a relatively simple, light probe, and have it do a flyby. If we can get it to about 0.25c average, then it could get there in about 40 years, and the signal would take 10 years to arrive back to Earth.

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