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starship-design: Television Starships

Hi, gang, just forwarding this along.  Duncan is not a member
of the starship design mailing list, so if you respond, you'll
want to cc him.

Duncan, these questions are more easily answered by the group.
I can give you at least one fast answer: no, we do not have
the ability to produce a starship -today- that can accellerate
at 1g for several years.  There are, however, other ways to
produce gravity.  And communication is the -least- of our
worries.  It's the drive system that causes all the engineering


>From duncan@mail.cable.com Wed Oct 30 10:26 EST 1996
Comments: Authenticated sender is <duncan@mail.cable.com>
From: "Duncan McKenzie" <duncan@mail.cable.com>
To: lunar@sunsite.unc.edu
Date: Wed, 30 Oct 1996 10:26:57 +0000
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT
Subject: Starship designs

Hi David

I'm a freelance writer currently working on a proposal for a TV
series set on a starship in the near future. My objective here is to
create something entertaining but scientifically plausible. Plots
would explore the challenges of having a crew living in a state of
confined isolation during a single, long mission (to a nearby star),
rather than the usual space battles and alien encounters.

In order to make this easy to produce, I want the crew to be living in
a normal gravity -- hopefully on flat floors. It seems to me that the
only way to accomplish this is to accelerate the starship at a
constant 1g. Would it be possible, using current technology, to build
engines capable of delivering this level of thrust continuously over
several years?

I would also like the spacecraft to be quite small, with all food
water and air being recycled (again over many years). Are there any
practical proposals for how this recycling might be done? I thought
that the methods used on nuclear submarines might apply here, but
apparently they just compress and store their garbage and waste
products. What I'm after is a complete, self-contained ecosystem, with
humans (a crew of six) as a part of the system, but I'm having trouble
finding details as to exactly what species would be required.

Finally, what are the practical limits on how far away a spacecraft
could communicate with Earth? I see that the T.A.U. design on your web
site is supposed to communicate with Earth from interstellar space by
means of a 10 W laser. Is this a practical proposal? I find it
extraordinary that a laser could be aligned accurately enough to
operate over such a distance. Do you know how far into "interstellar
space" such a device would be able to maintain contact?

I'd be grateful for any help you can give me on this, or for other
sources of information you can point me to.


Duncan McKenzie
Toronto, Canada