Since the very dawn of the space age, NASA has led the world in space travel innovation – the first manned moon landing, the first deep space probes, and the first reusable space shuttle. Still, there is a vague, yet nagging sense among many that MORE should be done; that somehow NASA has fallen behind in technological innovation.
“I am a child of the 70's,” said Francine Jameson, an astronomer based in Los Angeles. “We grew up thinking – hey – if they've already put a man on the moon, that means we'll have bases on Mars and probably starships by the time I'm out of college.”
Last year there was a glimmer of hope. NASA partnered with DARPA and announced a joint study on the feasibility of a “100-Year Starship”. Specifically, the study was to find a way to assemble a ship and crew for a 100 year ride to another habitable planet.
“I said - Yes! Sign me up,” said Jameson.
Alas, the study results (released today) turned out to be somewhat less exciting. Yes, NASA and DARPA want to see deep space explored and settled, but they want someone else to do it.
“For generations, people have been excited and inspired by exploration,” said Dave Neyland, Director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “This study hopes to inspire research of interstellar space travel, something with a very long time horizon. Through it, we hope to excite and encourage a younger generation that was not yet born when man first walked on the moon.”
The stated goal of the “100-Year Starship” is to now to just announce the project and ask private industry to step up to the plate and deliver. The list of private companies with the financial and technological resources to produce a manned starship is pretty short; such a project would even strain the financial resources of a company the size of Microsoft.
“And who wants to be a billion miles away from Earth,” said Jameson “when your main computer system crashes with a blue screen of death, anyway?”