back to article DARPA issues call for notions on Starship-for-2111 plan

Wild-hare Pentagon boffinry bureau DARPA continues to forge ahead with its radical plan to get the first manned interstellar spaceships headed out of the solar system by the year 2111. The military tech agency yesterday issued a call for papers to be presented at the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium which is to be held in …

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  1. Paolo Marini
    Alien

    stupidity squared

    in a new universal law discovered by the team working on the 100 year spaceship, human stupidity grows in direct relation with proximity to another human

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  3. nyelvmark

    L'Autre Monde: Où les États et Empires de la Lune

    où = where

    ou = or

  4. nyelvmark
    Thumb Down

    DARPA

    I thought the D was for 'Defence', but I can see now that it stands for 'Daft'.

  5. James Gosling

    Able to squash the USA like a bug...

    It was the sub-title 'We want an organisation able to squash the USA like a bug' that attracted me to this story, but I was disappointed to find no further mention of it. What a shame!

  6. Mike Richards Silver badge

    There's high concept...

    ...and then there's the vertigo-inducing, ear-popping, nose-bleeding, blood boiling, near orbit world of DARPA concepts.

  7. defiler

    "Squash the USA like a bug"

    You mean China then?

    (Probably not even worth the "joke" icon - especially in 2111...)

    1. Veldan
      Mushroom

      Not this again....

      Oh no the little yellow men are coming to get us!

      Wait... didn't we say the same thing about the Japanese?

      oh! and the Russians before that...

      and the Germans before that?!

      and the Germans again!

      Probably someone before that, maybe the British in the Americans case...

      People always seem to think that America will be toppled by these countries but at best they compete and even out. China will be no different, particularly with its current population/government...

      1. thecakeis(not)alie

        Americans

        Are you still here? How quaint.

  8. User McUser
    Go

    Lawyers? Ethicists? Technologists?

    Is this ship going to be called the "B Ark" perchance?

    Mental Note: Keep a look out for enormous mutant Star Goats, just in case.

    1. John Savard Silver badge

      Telephone Sanitizers Were Real

      Recently, thanks to a posting on an interesting blog about old American home workshop magazines such as Mechanix Illustrated, I found out that a service of this nature existed in the U.S. from 1939 to 1954, started by one Walter Morris, and a similar service in England had preceded it.

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A Virtual Proposal for SMART Acceptance ..... and AIDeliverance.

    "We here on the Reg space desk will be wishing the 100 Year Starship project all the luck in the world, while acknowledging that that's just what they're going to need." ....

    Luck plays no part whatsoever in such Great Games, El Reg, other than providing a ready excuse to be trottered out by myriad sceptics and cynics in a most disarmingly insecure justification for Field of Play Inaction.

    "As regular readers of our 100 Year Starship coverage thus far will know, DARPA and NASA plan to sidestep the tricky question funding for the starship(s) by triggering off "the creation of a self-sustaining organization that will tackle all the issues and challenges", as opposed to having the US government do it." ..... A simple Memorandum of Understanding between the Super Technology and/or Methodology Supplier [a self-sustaining organization that will tackle all the issues and challenges] and the Global Fiat Money System aka the Banking Sector, that the latter shall be protected and strengthened by the former, rather than attacked and decimated by any rogue and renegade programs which have been developed and embedded in their systems, which are predominantly SCADA are they not, would easily supply all that is needed at no adverse or extra cost to anybody, and without the US government having to do anything ......... unless, that is, they are the Super Technology and/or Methodology Supplier.

  10. Dick Pountain
    Headmaster

    Like Crazy Man

    It's a good job the laws of physics prevent these loonies from getting past the jerk-off stage

    1. sisk

      Not quite

      There are several loopholes in general relativity that could potentially allow FTL travel. The best known is the idea of wormholes, but I think a working Alcubierre drive is probably the most likely.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Just no.

        These are not "loopholes" but PhD students' fantasy.

        _Especially_ the Alcubierre drive.

        Or do you have an idea on how to modify the geometry of spacetime just in front of you into a desired configuration?

        Exactly.

        1. Chemist

          From "Hitchhikers..."

          "In Relativity, Matter tells Space how to curve, and Space tells Matter how to move.

          The Heart of Gold told space to get knotted, and parked itself neatly within the inner steel perimeter of the Argabuthon Chamber of Law"

        2. sisk

          Well...

          "Or do you have an idea on how to modify the geometry of spacetime just in front of you into a desired configuration?"

          Give it 100 years of the same type of exponential technological development we've seen the last 100 years and manipulating the geometry of local spacetime may not seem so far fetched. Granted, it's far beyond us right now, but we're talking about what we'll be capable of in 100 years.

          Given the various theories for getting around the speed of light that I know of, the Alcubierre drive seems the most doable to me. Unless, of course, someone figures out how to make wormholes large enough and stable enough to actually use for travel (I don't see that happening).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Give it 100 years of the same type of exponential technological development"

            No amount of tech. dev. is going to get round an impossibility ( if that is what it turns out to be )

            In the whole history of scientific and technological progess no-one has found a way around the laws of thermodynamics for example. You might say "yet" but it looks like a pretty poor bet.

      2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Boffin

        For loopholes in GR...

        ...I'd back the Woodward effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodward_effect

        No propellant needed!

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Pint

          Unfortunately...

          No reaction mass may be needed, but experimental evidence _is definitely_ needed.

          If it works, it also means the universe is future-closed, so prepare for Singularity.

          I like the Wikipedia Hopefulness [tm]:

          "While some have expressed doubt about this hypothesis, no respected theoreticians have yet disproved it. If these doubts are unfounded it is conceivable that...."

          No one has disproved the hypothesis? I CAN HAS STARDRIVE!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      FTL isn't mandatory anyway

      ...some of the nearer stars are doable if you have a powerful enough engine. And some further ones if you're prepared to entertain generation ships (not that that ends well in fiction)

      It's not such a looney idea anyway - all your eggs in one basket has never been a winning formula.

      Of course there are some intermediate stages - unmanned probes to likely candidate stars and a serious industrial base out in space somewhere (moon, asteroid belt?) to build the necessary kit without having to lift it out of the gravity well. Go DARPA!

      1. Chemist

        "if you have a powerful enough engine."

        That's the first requirement even if all the other problems can be overcome. To get to the nearest stars in a 'reasonable' time (~40 years say) the energy requirements are truly awesome.

        I calculate for 1 tonne moving at 0.1C ( ~40 years) the kinetic energy is ~4.5E17 J . That's equivalent to 14 1000MW power stations for 1 year.

        You'd definitely need a BIG power source which would add it's own weight.

        Solving the big energy question is a necessary step. (unless there really is some new physics as yet undiscovered)

        1. Mike Richards Silver badge

          Blimey!

          'I calculate for 1 tonne moving at 0.1C ( ~40 years) the kinetic energy is ~4.5E17 J . That's equivalent to 14 1000MW power stations for 1 year.'

          That's very nearly TWO deep-fried Mars Bars!

          1. Thomas 4
            Flame

            Good thinking Mike

            Perhaps El Reg can adopt the Deep -fried Mars Bar (DMB) as the official unit of energy?

        2. hplasm
          Headmaster

          Old physics will do

          if you focus the sun onto a solar sail.

          That a big enough power source for you?

          1. Chemist

            "Old physics will do "

            And you are going to stop at the other end how precisely ?

      2. umacf24

        Generation Ships

        Generation ships have serious moral problems. Anyone with a teenage child will know this: imagine "I didn't ask to be born" but in a situation where the child will spend her entire life in a metal bubble, with her social and breeding opportunities all pretty much fixed from birth. Ugly.

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
          Boffin

          One word...

          ....Holodeck.

          For all we know, we might be in one right now...

        2. TeeCee Gold badge
          Coat

          Re: Generation Ships

          Ugly indeed. We can go to the stars, but we'll all be Scientologists when we get there? Doesn't bear thinking about.......

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Scientologists?

            Or Spaceologists .. wahay! Robot hand!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Assuming no FTL...

      It takes about a year to accelerate to 99% of lightspeed (and another year to slow down) at 1G. From the POV of the crew. You'd need engines capable of accelerating at 1G, plus 4-ish years-worth of fuel to cover the travelling part. Accelerate and decelerate; there and back.

      A 25-year mission of this type would put 8 stars within range. A 32-year mission would open up 38 possibles. Obviously these missions would appear to take a lot longer to Earth-based observers.

      But it's perfectly possible -given the kit- to go to another star and get back alive. You'd have to make new friends when you got back, but I would think there would be some people prepared to go even so.

      You'd have to carry enough fuel to keep the ship powered up while you're coasting and you'd need some really good shielding.

      DIfficult and colossally expensive, sure, but it's not showstoppingly out of reach.

      1. Chemist

        You need to calculate the energy

        At 0.99C the relativistic kinetic energy is ~5E20 J PER TONNE - that's a staggering amount of energy. So you need (at least) that to accelerate to 0.99C and then again to decelerate.

        All this assumes a propulsion system that is efficient and isn't totally burdened by it's own mass

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Interesting point.

          Maybe it'd be possible to gain some of the energy on the way, with a Bussard Ramjet sort of device. Or a solar sail and launching lasers for a quick start and a lightening of the fuel you'd need to carry (by nearly half of the accelerating decelerating fuel; hoping the launching lasers would still be there upon your return). Or maybe there's an optimal speed/time for this sort of relativistic travel. Or an Orion-style nuclear explosion-powered craft.

          There's a few options for packing the energy in there. Never say never.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Go

            Greg Egan shows the way

            And it goes one-way only anyway

            http://outofthiseos.typepad.com/blog/files/GregEganGlory.pdf

          2. Chemist

            But

            0.99C is ~14000 1000MW power stations for a year for 1TONNE at 100% efficiency.

            Everything else is (WILD) speculation

  11. ravenviz
    Coat

    Easy!

    Just wait for Zephram Cochrane to invent the warp drive in 2061.

    Prerequisite: World War 3

    1. Chemist

      Trouble is ..

      The vulcans already have a patent.

  12. Arkasha
    Paris Hilton

    title

    "The Pentagon men obviously don't care to mention Cyrano de Bergerac's L'Autre Monde: Où (sic) les États et Empires de la Lune, written in 1650, as this would mean no starship for 319 years or more."

    Or possibly that they'd have to know how to read French....

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Coat

      Re: title

      More likely they know all about it.

      They call it; "Potential justification for time/cost overrun"........

  13. Alastair McFarlane

    Important things to bring, to a symposium or to space...

    Don't forget the telephone sanitisers, hairdressers, marketing executives, etc.

  14. Graham Marsden
    Coat

    David Neyland, DARPA bigwig.

    Are his middle names something like Ian Simon...?

    (Think about it whilst I get my coat!)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    >"no starship for 319 years or more"

    >"The Pentagon men obviously don't care to mention Cyrano de Bergerac's L'Autre Monde: Où les États et Empires de la Lune, written in 1650, as this would mean no starship for 319 years or more."

    Hey, it's worse than that; the earliest known fictional account of a journey to the moon is "A True History", written by Lucian of Samosata in the 2nd century (AD). By that standard we could have as much as another 1800-odd years to wait....

  16. Battsman
    Meh

    DARPA is like stock market speculation

    I love the chaps that like to pile labels implying a bunch of crazies on DARPA. IM"H"O (*not so humble really*), DARPA acts like a well-funded group of stock speculators. Sure most of the bets aren't going to pay off, but the idea is that the few that do pay off, should pay off spectaclarly. We can poo poo every idea they chase as being unrealistic science fiction, but if you are trying to maintain the most effective fighting force available you don't wait to embrace every technology until it is proven. (If you wait then everybody has it and you have no edge).

    Nobody would have believed stealth was anything but science fiction in the 70s, but the skunk works proved you can do some amazing things with plywood, paint, and angles. (Even with the non-scientists stick their noses in and demand changes that don't match up with the physics).

    Frankly, we are destined for spectacular mediocrity if every scientific venture has to have a short ROI. Grow some long range vision people.

  17. Mystic Megabyte

    Nuclear rocket

    "Don't forget the telephone sanitisers, hairdressers, marketing executives, etc." After reading this article Lewis Page should join them.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/06/201161664828302638.html

  18. Graham Bartlett

    Never mind the fruit, here's the nuts

    Alcubierre drive: The fact that according to the sums you'd need a little under three suns' worth of E=mc^2 *PER ATOM* tends to make this a little unlikely, yeah?

    Screw the stars. Until we have the will and the technology to get people to any other astronomical body *AND* stay alive there indefinitely, anything more is pissing money up the wall. It took 62 years to get from Kitty Hawk to the Moon. It's now been 42 years since the Moon, and technology has actually regressed since then.

    Sure it's "speculative". But any speculation when we're this far away is a complete waste of time, because real engineering is likely to make all this speculation obsolete. It's like all those Victorian futurists anticipating incredibly advanced, streamlined steam trains for mass transportation, with no idea that personal transportation would stomp all over that model.

    1. Rattus Rattus
      Trollface

      @Graham Bartlett

      "Alcubierre drive: The fact that according to the sums you'd need a little under three suns' worth of E=mc^2 *PER ATOM* tends to make this a little unlikely, yeah?"

      Pfft. The science adds up, that's just an engineering problem.

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      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Rattus Rattus

        There is NO science around this

        No EVIDENCE whatsoever.

        Models and hypotheses together do not constitute 'science'

    2. BenR

      Technological regression?

      Not sure I agree with that one.

      Regression of both funding and willpower? Certainly.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Can't wait!

    We effed up this planet, so let's go and look for another one we can mine to death! We barely got the internet off the ground before the money-men moved in to capitalize on it, the same thing will happen when we eventually get out "there".

    Still you can't stop that human spirit! I plan to have a burn-up when I pop my clogs, last thing I need to do is wake up in some cryo tube on a starship bound for flip knows where, while a hideous monster roams free around the ship!

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