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starship-design: Mission structure

Kelly, I just don't agree with you. I think that setting up a permanent
colony would be a small matter in comparison to getting a massive
exploration vessel to a nearby star system. The construction, biotechnology
and genetic engineering (not to mention entertainment and psychological
health) technologies are likely to advance much more rapidly in the future
than relativistic speed propulsion technologies, which can surely have no
application apart from the one we intend. We have been focussing on how the
nearly impossible task of interstellar propulsion can be accomplished, but
perhaps we've given insufficient consideration to the technologies which
will continually advance due to a host of other applications. We should be
thinking about how these can be used to our advantage. It is essential to
consider the nature of technological advance when 'planning' future
projects. What will have to be developed specially (expensive), and what
will be available in any case (good value)?

This is, of course, a matter of opinion, as neither of us knows for certain
what areas of technology will be most developed in the coming decades.
Speaking for myself, when I consider the technology required for setting up
a completely self sustaining colony independent from Earth, I feel far more
optimistic about the feasability of the concept than I do when I read about
maser powered ion engines and the like (fascinating though such ideas are).

This is a subject which has to be thought out in much more depth (as does
the question of whether a colony is desirable, which, being a much more
subjective issue, I feel we can leave until we have decided whether it is