100 year Starship Project has a new leader

Jan 12, 2012 By Paul Scott Anderson, Universe Today
Mae Jemison. Credit: NASA

You may have heard by now about the 100 Year Starship project, a new research initiative to develop the technology required to send a manned mission to another star. The project is jointly sponsored by NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It will take that long just to make such a trip feasible, hence the name. So we’re a long ways off from naming any crew members or a starship captain, but the project itself does have a new leader, a former astronaut.

Mae Jemison, a former Space Shuttle astronaut, has been appointed the position by . She was also the first African-American woman to go into space, in 1992. Her own non-profit educational organization, the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence (in honor of her late mother) was chosen to work with DARPA, receiving a $500,000 contract. That funding is just seed money, to start the process of developing the framework needed for such an ambitious undertaking. The focus at this point is to create a foundation that can last long enough to research the technology required, rather than the actual government-funded building of the spacecraft.

As stated by the proposal, the goal is to ”develop a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel viable.”

From the project’s mission statement:

The 100 Year Starship (100YSS) 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 genesis of this study is to foster a rebirth of a sense of wonder among students, academia, industry, researchers and the general population to consider “why not” and to encourage them to tackle whole new classes of research and development related to all the issues surrounding long duration, long distance spaceflight.
DARPA contends that the useful, unanticipated consequences of such research will have benefit to the Department of Defense and to , as well as the private and commercial sector.

This endeavor will require an understanding of questions such as: how do organizations evolve and maintain focus and momentum for 100 years or more; what models have supported long-term technology development; what resources and financial structures have initiated and sustained prior settlements of “new worlds?”

With today’s technology, it would take about 100,000 years to reach just the nearest star, Alpha Centauri. That time would hopefully be reduced significantly with the development of new, faster propulsion methods.

The dream of travelling to the stars may still be a long ways off in the future before becoming reality, but we are getting closer. Ad astra!

More information about the 100 Year Starship project is here.

Explore further: Europe sat-nav launch glitch linked to frozen pipe

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User comments : 39

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Mayday
4.6 / 5 (11) Jan 12, 2012
Congratulations to Mae and her team! I attended the 100YSS Symposium in Orlando and hope that this initiative really takes hold and becomes an ongoing technology driver and inspiration. And I applaud DARPA for stepping out there and attempting something like this. I wish it great success. And I do hope that the 100YSS team are able to put on another symposium. Congrats.
arri_guy
5 / 5 (10) Jan 12, 2012
I met Mae Jemison at the 100YSS meetings in Orlando last year. She is a fine individual and will be a good spokesperson for the 100YSS effort. We found that we both grew up on the South side of Chicago (I preceeded her by 10-15 yrs). Back then, I thought I was the only one who dreamed of interstellar travel, however unlikely in my lifetime--BUT--a confluence of events has revealed a surprisingly wide interest in the possibility. (end of shuttle pgm, relying on Russia for manned flights, anger at congress and reduced funding for NASA while Wall Street rakes in billions, etc. ad nauseam). Because of sputnik, many of my generation went into the sciences and tech. We need to repeat this. Money spent on space exploration is spent right here in the USA, and not just at places like Lockheed, Intel, etc., but on small business that clean their offices, sell copy paper, etc. Let's create jobs, do something constructive, and begin the light-years long journey with the first steps.
Jonathan_Q
4.9 / 5 (7) Jan 12, 2012
How about a automated mining colony on the Moon for starters with an observatory, launch facilities, and green house? Lets make constant small steps instead of grandiose one time large events.
Xbw
1.5 / 5 (31) Jan 12, 2012
Until we find a way to alter space to allow FTL travel, maybe they should set a more attainable goal of sending humans to the outer planets, especially their moons like Titan and so on.
Deathclock
3.7 / 5 (21) Jan 12, 2012
Closest star is 4.2ly
1ly = 5,869,713,600,000 miles
Closest star is 24,652,797,120,000 miles away

To cover that distance in 100 years you would need an average velocity of 28,123,200 miles per hour, or 7,812 miles per second, which is about 4% light speed

The fastest speed we have achieved in space with an unmanned probe is about 157,000 mph. We would need to AVERAGE 180 times faster than that to make it to Proxima Centauri in 100 years. Given a long acceleration time our top speed would have to be much higher than that still.
Xbw
1.5 / 5 (33) Jan 12, 2012
What death said. Also, if we launched it, chances are, we would have technologically surpassed that 100 year ship to the point where we could actually catch up to them before their trip was complete :)

Also, FrankHerpes stop hiding in the shadows and voting everything I say down to 1. Come out and make a valid argument. Or you could always go plague an elementary school forum where your wit might match that of its users.
Sinister1811
1.9 / 5 (16) Jan 12, 2012
I presume the new starship leader has a longer-than-average Human lifespan of 1000 years. Unless they're planning to freeze him/her and awaken them upon the arrival at their destination.
Burnerjack
4.8 / 5 (5) Jan 12, 2012
While the tasks of achieving such speeds may be possible, one aspect I have yet to see addressed thus far is one of collision avoidance. At such speeds, inertia will make immediate course corrections all but impossible.
Avoiding a large body is one thing, knowing that a rogue comet, asteroid, etc. is quite another. At such speeds, I suspect ANY collision with ANY size body would be devistating. Let the robotic starships try it a few times just to "prove" the safety of such a journey. It may me more viable to hollow out the moon, populate it and push it along a near endless journey. seems like a waste of money, all things considered. If anything, head towards the more populated center of the galaxy. More possible realms to pick from once you get to the new neighborhood.
kaasinees
2 / 5 (12) Jan 12, 2012
I presume the new starship leader has a longer-than-average Human lifespan of 1000 years. Unless they're planning to freeze him/her and awaken them upon the arrival at their destination.

They are manbearpigs and have the skill of extreme hibernation.
Deathclock
1.9 / 5 (11) Jan 12, 2012
It may me more viable to hollow out the moon, populate it and push it along a near endless journey.


For some reason I don't think that would be any easier...
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.1 / 5 (14) Jan 12, 2012
maybe they should set a more attainable goal of sending humans to the outer planets, especially their moons like Titan and so on.
Or maybe we should look at both which is what we're doing? I know you just HAVE to comment, but perhaps you could take a minute and at least think about what you are going to say. Yes pirouette?

14 posts in 2 hours... typical
Xbw
1.5 / 5 (25) Jan 12, 2012
Ghost please keep your posts related to the topic. Flaming and inappropriate content will be deleted. I have no problem debating but the personal attacks are getting old.
Mayday
5 / 5 (6) Jan 12, 2012
One of Mae's first tasks will be to get people to stop erroniously thinking that this is about a manned starship journey that takes 100 years. It is not. The idea is to create an Earth-bound organization that can last 100 years (on Earth) that will inspire and promote the technologies that future deep space travel will require. The 100YSS symposium featured numerous talks on trips of various lengths as well as unmanned interstellar missions.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 12, 2012
Ghost please keep your posts related to the topic. Flaming and inappropriate content will be deleted. I have no problem debating but the personal attacks are getting old.
Flooding is against regs and has gotten many banned. Flooding with empty thoughtless posts is against human decency and I find them insulting.

Please think and research before you post or you will continue to be... suggestified.
Deathclock
2.3 / 5 (12) Jan 12, 2012
One of Mae's first tasks will be to get people to stop erroniously thinking that this is about a manned starship journey that takes 100 years. It is not.


Then they should consider changing their name... because "100 year starship" sounds an awful lot like a ship designed for a 100 year trip.
Jaeherys
3 / 5 (4) Jan 12, 2012
One of Mae's first tasks will be to get people to stop erroniously thinking that this is about a manned starship journey that takes 100 years. It is not.


Then they should consider changing their name... because "100 year starship" sounds an awful lot like a ship designed for a 100 year trip.


Or people could not make assumptions (I know, ridiculous right?) and get the facts before they build opinions based on those baseless assumptions.

Or even better yet,

the 100 Year Starship project, a new research initiative to develop the technology required to send a manned mission to another star.

Deathclock
1.2 / 5 (11) Jan 12, 2012
So tell me, what does the "100 year" part of the title refer to? The length of the project? That seems silly, they have no idea how long it will take since they are banking on technologies who's grandparents don't even exist yet. (yes, I am anthropomorphizing technology)
Jaeherys
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 12, 2012
It will take [100 years] just to make such a trip feasible, hence the name [100YSS][\q].
Isaacsname
not rated yet Jan 12, 2012
DC, your numbers for the travel, ~ that takes into account expanding space ?
Ober
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 12, 2012
The idea is to form a company (or alliance of companies) to research ALL THE TECHNOLOGY to make interstellar space travel viable AND for this work to be done by private business. They suspect this will take humanity 100 years to achieve all the relevant technologies. Some have mentioned some of the probs, like the speed needed to make a journey, and hazard/debris avoidance at such speeds. One of the initial research items is how to create a business that can be sustained through 100 years. This is about forward thinking, and setting up a SOLID research base so that in 100 years, we are ready to build an actual starship. Who knows how long the ship will take to build or it's flight duration, but the 100 year research program will hopefully clear all that up. If anything, this program may deliver better business models for companies to follow. (I reckon thats the hardest bit of this 100 year startship program. Keeping a business afloat for 100 years!!!!!!!!)
Deesky
5 / 5 (8) Jan 12, 2012
DC, your numbers for the travel, ~ that takes into account expanding space ?

No, because it's unnecessary. Spacetime within gravitationally bound systems like a galaxy and even galaxy clusters does not experience 'expansion'. Here gravity is too strong and keeps everything together.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (1) Jan 12, 2012
The idea is to form a company (or alliance of companies) to research ALL THE TECHNOLOGY to make interstellar space travel viable AND for this work to be done by private business.

that's a real poser, since travel to faraway stars is unlikely ever to have any economic benefits to a company here on Earth. I think she has her work cut out for her.

The only way I can see this working is if she triggers development in sectors profitable here on Earth that will create these technologies as a byproduct.
Mayday
1 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2012
It is my understanding that the "100 year" handle was inspired by the fact that the time from Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon" to the actual Moon landing was approximately 100 years. The idea being that it takes on the order of 100 years for an idea of this magnitude to become a technical reality.

Antialias, the technologies needed for interstellar flight would have enormous commercial value here on Earth. And they would also greatly benefit our future attempts to "colonize" the rest of our solar system.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jan 13, 2012
the technologies needed for interstellar flight would have enormous commercial value here on Earth

Like?

I completely agree that we need those technologies for colonization (though I think we will not colonize any other planet in the naive/Hollywood way everybody seems to be imagining). But for the development of such technologies by non government institutions there must be return on investment. And I don't see that with a scenario where we send off colonists which we will never be in direct contact with, ever, again.

Interstellar (or even interplanetary) trade is - at those distances and timeframes - a fantasy.
RoboGorb
1.8 / 5 (6) Jan 14, 2012
who's to say the technology that ends up getting developed is "actual" traveling? Most likely it will be some sort of beam me up scotty type of technology. We'll hone in on a drop zone, use some sort of matter arranger to make a little robot, who will make a lab, in the lab they will gather some matter from the planet and using some arrangment of dna they'll grow some humanoid forms, and teach them about us, and about the new planet colony project they are a part of. The real profiteering will come around with all the new wars they can make on all these new colonized planets.
Judgeking
5 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2012
Produce an engine that can produce a constant accelleration of 9.8m/s^2 and we can be there in less than 25 years (d=0.5 * at^2). Half the time accellerating there and the other half decelerating for arrival. This also creates gravity for the trip.
dbsi
1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2012
A very interesting question is to find out, what to fund and what should be developed. What could the generatio of Jules Verne hundred years ago have worked out for a mission to mars now? The good thing is, everything could qualify for funding. We certainly know very little about such a mission today. Maybe research on interstellar or intergalactic communication - a successor to SETI - would be a good start. So we could learn, if a VISA is required, before we are allowed to leave our solar system. To bring it to the point: How could we advance our civilisation to qualify for such a step? We are still a humanitarian challenged species.
(Oppression, torture and killing of humans - killing and abuse of primates and whales - destructive use of a planet and senseless extermination of species.)
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jan 14, 2012
A very interesting question is to find out, what to fund


I would draw your attention to the following part of the article:

As stated by the proposal, the goal is to: develop a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel viable


Notice the words 'non-government' and 'private-sector'.
Egleton
1 / 5 (3) Jan 15, 2012
I applaud any space initiative. The exponential function mandates that we build our homes in space.
Dr Gerard O'Neill and co made the business case in the late 70's. They would be a reality now if our leaders weren't quite so ape like.
Whoever uses the water and materials at the south pole of the moon as raw material to to colonise L4 and 5 will be to gate keepers to the cosmos.
Once we are out of the gravity well we will stay out. Journeys to other stars might be of consuming interest to future generations but living in space will be compulsory.
spaceagesoup
not rated yet Jan 15, 2012
How bout your READ before you COMMENT. The project is to establish a sustainable model for developing a starship in the next 100 years, not build a craft that will take 100 years to get there.
Mayday
1 / 5 (1) Jan 15, 2012
Antialias,
Like?! Materials science, rapid prototyping, 3D printing, energy storage, energy management, recycling and remanufacturing, radiation shielding(for data, IT and living things), structural engineering, long-term data storage, data compression, countless medical and pharma advancements, metallurgy, plastics, ceramics, food production, and food storage for off-the-top-of-my-head starters.
Then there are the areas on process management and team management. Plus countless psychology advancements.
And THEN, wow, the arts, humanities and philosophy. From my perspective, this list could dwarf the others. The potential for using this kind of far-reaching initiative to advance humanity is mind-blowing.
Oh, and I didn't even mention the interests of DARPA. They obviously anticipate a wealth of new technologies coming their way from this initiative.
gwrede
1 / 5 (3) Jan 15, 2012
The Voyagers have worked flawlessly for a few decades. But a ship carrying several human beings would have to be much more complex with all water and oxygen recirculation machinery and food generating systems. The ship will have so many parts, valves, pumps, gauges, and plumbing, that it is virtually impossible to make it last even a decade without serious breakdowns.

Since it will be hard to buy spare parts half-way, there either has to be some facilities to manufacture some kinds of parts, or there has to be built-in redundancy (that is, many systems that cover each other). But this will again add to the complexity.

We can't even build aeroplanes to last 5 years without a total overhaul where they're entirely ripped apart and rebuilt, replacing worn out parts. This is an appalling cost, and airlines would kill to buy planes that don't need this much maintenance.

I don't expect us to have an interstellar ship within the next hundred years.
Blakut
not rated yet Jan 15, 2012
It;s too long. Where's the motivation if it takes us 100 years to make it work? I'll be dead by then!
350
1 / 5 (1) Jan 15, 2012
All details and planning aside, space sex sounds loads of fun ;)
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jan 16, 2012
Where's the motivation if it takes us 100 years to make it work? I'll be dead by then!

Who cares about you?

There are people who care about more than themselves. Good thing, too.
sandler
1 / 5 (1) Jan 16, 2012
A research which takes 100 years is bound to produce an amazing archive of creative and invaluable ideas we can use for the next step. The longevity of the project is indicative how far off we are from the actual implementation and the scope at hand. Yet it will happen in its due time like everything else, because if it didn't it would be an awful waste of space (ref. Contact).
Deathclock
1 / 5 (3) Jan 16, 2012
Produce an engine that can produce a constant accelleration of 9.8m/s^2 and we can be there in less than 25 years (d=0.5 * at^2). Half the time accellerating there and the other half decelerating for arrival. This also creates gravity for the trip.


Using what as a source of energy? Surely not anything that's along for the ride...
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jan 16, 2012
Produce an engine that can produce a constant accelleration of 9.8m/s^2 and we can be there in less than 25 years (d=0.5 * at^2)

You are aware of this niggling detail called relativity?

Materials science, rapid prototyping, 3D printing, energy storage, energy management, recycling and remanufacturing...

We have a need to develop all of these anyways. Even without the 100 year starship project. It's not going to get us anything we don't already strive for.

(Not that I think we shouldn't do it. The 100 year starship projekt is definitely something that should be undertaken - but the benefits will be purely idealistic. I wouldn't expect anything commercially worthwhile to come from launching some people on a journey to the stars)
ArtifexIngenium
1 / 5 (1) Jan 16, 2012
We need to remember that when humans first decided to go to the moon the technologies and other spin offs generated by the project vastly advanced the development of the human race, not only directly but indirectly, a generation of scientists, engineers, physicists were inspired to choose these subjects as their careers and pushed development of these technologies forwards. The benefits of this project are, accordingly, not just directly from research into more efficient energy usage, component production in isolation, creating isolated ecosystems etc (many others are mentioned in the comment by mayday) but also from that inspiration for young people to take up these fields as their careers. I may be biased as an engineer myself, but these technical subjects are the ones that are advancing the human race and need to be nurtured. Far from the project requiring it's technologies to produce a byproduct of commercial use, the 'spaceship' itself will be the byproduct.