Feeds

DARPA wants a working manned starship for $500k

Mere seed money for mighty humanity-saving organisation

Top three mobile application threats

Bad-boy Pentagon boffinry bureau DARPA has now released the official solicitation for its "100 Year Starship" project, intended to get human beings making interstellar voyages within a century.

We've covered the 100 Year Starship push on these pages before, and the outline idea remains the same. A very small amount of US government seed money (to be specific, $500,000) will be provided by DARPA and handed out by NASA's Ames campus in Silicon Valley. This tiny financial seed is intended to sprout and grow into a stupendous organisation able to harness and deploy the titanic resources necessary to deliver working interstellar transport.

According to the DARPA solicitation just released (13-page/168KB PDF):

For the past half century, the great domain for human exploration has been the cosmos. In a break with the past, however, space exploration has been principally a government-driven enterprise. While not without its spectacular successes, this has not proved — and nor would history suggest otherwise — an especially promising model for long-term investment into the fundamental challenges associated with a sustained foray into space. Neither the vagaries of the modern fiscal cycle, nor net-present-value calculations over reasonably foreseeable futures, have lent themselves to the kinds of century-long patronage and persistence needed to definitively transform mankind into a space-faring species.

DARPA – which is allowed and indeed encouraged to wander the wilder shores of speculative tech, but is in the end supposed to be helping the US military achieve its goals – says that it expects spin-off technologies from the ongoing starship programme to benefit America and "DARPA's principal customer – the American warfighter".

Given the scale of the challenge, however, it is likely that if the proposed starship-spawning entity actually does come into existence it would possess more clout than the entire US government. Assuming for the sake of argument that the investment necessary to reach the Moon scaled up with distance, a series of basic missions to Alpha Centauri along the lines of the Apollo programme might cost 2 x 1018 dollars: that's 40,000 years' worth of the present-day gross domestic product of the entire human race.

That doesn't necessarily mean anything, but it does indicate that the Starship project may need to somehow divert or seize control of a big chunk of humanity's available resources: and thus that the project organisation itself might well be a rival to the USA's status as sole superpower rather than a benevolent research nonprofit or similar.

It's unlikely that anyone at the Pentagon is panicking, however, as – sadly for starship fanciers like us here on the Reg space desk – DARPA projects traditionally enjoy little hope of success (or at any rate, success in the form envisaged at the outset).

There's to be a symposium next month on the Starship project in Florida for those who are interested and can afford the airfare. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.