DARPA Wants To Send Humans To The Stars

Mitra (Alpha Centauri)Is this a good way to spend the money we’re borrowing from Chinese investors in U.S. Government debt? The New York Times‘ Dennis Overbye reports on DARPA’s bold step:

Alpha Centauri or bust.

The government agency that helped invent the Internet now wants to do the same for travel to the stars.

In what is perhaps the ultimate startup opportunity, Darpa, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, plans to award some lucky, ambitious and star-struck organization roughly $500,000 in seed money to begin studying what it would take — organizationally, technically, sociologically and ethically — to send humans to another star, a challenge of such magnitude that the study alone could take a hundred years.

The awarding of that grant, on Nov. 11 — 11/11/11 — is planned as the culmination of a yearlong Darpa-NASA effort called the 100-Year Starship Study, which started quietly last winter and will include a three-day public symposium in Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 30 on the whys and wherefores of interstellar travel. The agenda ranges far beyond rocket technology to include such topics as legal, social and economic considerations of interstellar migration, philosophical and religious concerns, where to go and — perhaps most important — how to inspire the public to support this very expensive vision.

The Darpa plan has generated buzz as well as befuddlement in the labs, pubs, diners and Web sites that ring NASA centers both physically and virtually, where the dream of space travel has never died and where a few stubborn bands of scientists and engineers, fueled by science fiction dreams and prophecies, are designing spacecraft that could cross interstellar space, incubating a technology and preserving it for the day when it will be used.

“If you want to have a hobby, why can’t it be designing an interstellar spacecraft?” said Andreas Tziolas, who teaches at the University of Alaska and directs Project Icarus, a worldwide volunteer effort to design a spacecraft that could carry a scientific probe to a nearby star — perhaps Alpha Centauri, 4.4 light-years from here — in a trip that would take less than 100 years…

[continues in the New York Times]

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  • Yith

    As far as research spending goes, it’s a tiny sum of money — DARPA’s budget is a few billion dollars. 

    I don’t think that once we are ready to send people into interstellar space the spaceships and propulsion systems (and even us humans!) will be anything like what we currently imagine.  e.g. see the following excerpt from the novel Accelerando:

    ….

    Back on board the Field Circus, Donna the Journalist asks the crew
    members when they think the Singularity took place. “Four years ago,”
    Pierre suggests. Su Ang votes for 2016. But Boris, the jellyfish
    drinker, says the entire notion of a Singularity is silly. To him,
    there’s no such thing. Wait a minute, Su Ang responds. Here we are,
    traveling in a spaceship the size of a soda can. We’ve left our bodies
    behind to conserve space and energy so that the laser-sail-powered Field
    Circus can cruise faster. Our brains have been uploaded and are now
    running electronically within the tiny spaceship’s nanocomputers. The
    pub is “here,” along with other virtual environments, so that we don’t
    go into shock from sensory deprivation. “And you can tell me that the
    idea of a fundamental change in the human condition is nonsense?”

  • Yith

    As far as research spending goes, it’s a tiny sum of money — DARPA’s budget is a few billion dollars. 

    I don’t think that once we are ready to send people into interstellar space the spaceships and propulsion systems (and even us humans!) will be anything like what we currently imagine.  e.g. see the following excerpt from the novel Accelerando:

    ….

    Back on board the Field Circus, Donna the Journalist asks the crew
    members when they think the Singularity took place. “Four years ago,”
    Pierre suggests. Su Ang votes for 2016. But Boris, the jellyfish
    drinker, says the entire notion of a Singularity is silly. To him,
    there’s no such thing. Wait a minute, Su Ang responds. Here we are,
    traveling in a spaceship the size of a soda can. We’ve left our bodies
    behind to conserve space and energy so that the laser-sail-powered Field
    Circus can cruise faster. Our brains have been uploaded and are now
    running electronically within the tiny spaceship’s nanocomputers. The
    pub is “here,” along with other virtual environments, so that we don’t
    go into shock from sensory deprivation. “And you can tell me that the
    idea of a fundamental change in the human condition is nonsense?”

  • erikgrad

    Quite frankly, you could get scientists to brainstorm collectively on this just by creating an exclusive forum on a DARPA website.  We are buying the cow when we could get the milk for free, so this is actually a waste of money…they should put these funds towards JWST

  • Anonymous

    Quite frankly, you could get scientists to brainstorm collectively on this just by creating an exclusive forum on a DARPA website.  We are buying the cow when we could get the milk for free, so this is actually a waste of money…they should put these funds towards JWST

  • http://twitter.com/LIBIntOrg Libertarian

    Thanks for the article. For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see http://www.Libertarian-International.org ,  the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization 

  • aaroncynic

    $500,000K is literally nothing in the eyes of the defense department. That’s about 1/8th of the cost of a single predator drone. I’d gladly see ten times the amount of seed money poured into this over most of the stuff that DARPA and the rest of the DOD spends money on.

  • Anonymous

    $500,000K is literally nothing in the eyes of the defense department. That’s about 1/8th of the cost of a single predator drone. I’d gladly see ten times the amount of seed money poured into this over most of the stuff that DARPA and the rest of the DOD spends money on.

  • Spiderman

    I regret to inform you all that the DARPA Chief Died Of a Heart Attack this morning. 

    Best regards,

    Your Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman

  • Spiderman

    I regret to inform you all that the DARPA Chief Died Of a Heart Attack this morning. 

    Best regards,

    Your Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman

  • StillAtMyMoms

    Sounds like a diversion if you’d ask me.  I’m pretty certain their holographic drive, quantum mainframes have already exhausted all possibilities for galaxy travel.  Dismissing propulsion is simply an understatement.  Space travel is more than likely a paradox given relativity and other spatial and temporal aspects.  Hopefully there is a loophole, but you have to obliterate all conventional thought to get there.  And no government is going to consider that kind of thinking if it’s especially against the very system they represent.

  • StillAtMyMoms

    Sounds like a diversion if you’d ask me.  I’m pretty certain their holographic drive, quantum mainframes have already exhausted all possibilities for galaxy travel.  Dismissing propulsion is simply an understatement.  Space travel is more than likely a paradox given relativity and other spatial and temporal aspects.  Hopefully there is a loophole, but you have to obliterate all conventional thought to get there.  And no government is going to consider that kind of thinking if it’s especially against the very system they represent.

  • Curumim

    It’s crap, what they really want is to flee to another planet and leave the debt to be paid by someone else!!!! USA is not a restaurant that in the first sign you don’t have the money to pay you run away!!! Besides Brazil is like the 3rd placed country that owns US debts, if they run away to another planet its better they don’t go back cause we are going to be very angry!!!!!!!

  • Curumim

    It’s crap, what they really want is to flee to another planet and leave the debt to be paid by someone else!!!! USA is not a restaurant that in the first sign you don’t have the money to pay you run away!!! Besides Brazil is like the 3rd placed country that owns US debts, if they run away to another planet its better they don’t go back cause we are going to be very angry!!!!!!!

  • 5by5

    Actually, yes. It is well-spent money. We’re one species now tied to one planet would very easily could have a “dinosaur meteor moment” just like they did. Literally all our eggs are in one basket. Really dumb for the long term survival of the species. Throwing a mere $500k at this isn’t enough. This country is so wealthy, we should be spending more money on such”cathedral building”-type projects that take generations, rather than spending it on useless wars and tax breaks for billionaire hedge fund managers.

  • 5by5

    Actually, yes. It is well-spent money. We’re one species now tied to one planet would very easily could have a “dinosaur meteor moment” just like they did. Literally all our eggs are in one basket. Really dumb for the long term survival of the species. Throwing a mere $500k at this isn’t enough. This country is so wealthy, we should be spending more money on such”cathedral building”-type projects that take generations, rather than spending it on useless wars and tax breaks for billionaire hedge fund managers.

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