NASA, DARPA set aside $500,000 for private, long-distance space travel project

NASA, DARPA 100 Year Starship program to set up “machinery” of building long term space exploration

On paper anyway the 100 Year Starship - now with its own acronym, 100YSS -- project could be one of the most ambitious space developments ever attempted.   The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with NASA Ames Research Center have officially announced a $500,00 grant that will likely be awarded to one outfit to create a self-sustaining organization that will tackle all the issues and challenges inherent in long-duration interstellar space flight.

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According to DARPA: "The goal is to develop an investment vehicle-with the patronage and guidance of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and technology visionaries-which provides the stability for sustained investment over a century-long time horizon, concomitant with the agility to respond to the accelerating pace of technological, social, and other change.

In attempting to achieve major endeavors, such as the first flight to the moon, mankind has pushed the boundaries of what's possible technically. In addition to yielding a long-term impact, it typically has very real near-term benefits. Space programs and related investments to date have resulted in benefits as far flung as improving water purification processes to better data communications protocols to enhancing breast cancer detection. The technologies developed as part of the 100YSS undertaking will have very direct impact here on earth, including benefitting DARPA's principal customer-the American warfighter.

Offerors should consider and describe in detail all aspects of the proposed 100YSS organization, including ownership, management and organizational structure, sources of income and fundraising, and approaches to making investments including mechanisms, areas of interest, and investment criteria."

The project will get off the ground with a bang in September as the agencies' hold the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium in Orlando, Fla., from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2.

"This won't just be another space technology conference -- we're hoping that ethicists, lawyers, science fiction writers, technologists and others, will participate in the dialog to make sure we're thinking about all the aspects of interstellar flight," David Neyland, director of the Tactical Technology Office for DARPA, said in a statement in June. "This is a great opportunity for people with interesting ideas to be heard, which we believe will spur further thought, dreaming and innovation."

The conference will include discussions on all manner of topics including:

  • Time-Distance Solutions [propulsion, time/space manipulation and/or dilation, near speed of light navigation, faster than light navigation, observations and sensing at near speed of light or faster than light]
  • Education, Social, Economic and Legal Considerations [education as a mission, who goes, who stays, to profit or not, economies in space, communications back to earth, political ramifications, round-trip legacy investments and assets left behind]
  • Philosophical and Religious Considerations [why go to the stars, moral and ethical issues, implications of finding habitable worlds, implications of finding life elsewhere, implications of being left behind]
  • Biology and Space Medicine [physiology in space, psychology in space, human life suspension (e.g. cryogenic), medical facilities and capabilities in space, on-scene (end of journey) spawning from genetic material]
  • Habitats and Environmental Science [to have gravity or not, space and radiation effects, environmental toxins, energy collection and use, agriculture, self-supporting environments, optimal habitat sizing]
  • Destinations [criteria for destination selection, what do you take, how many destinations and missions, probes versus journeys of faith]
  • Communication of the Vision [storytelling as a means of inspiration, linkage between incentives, payback and investment, use of movies, television and books to popularize long-term research and long-term journeys]

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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