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RE: Re: Re: starship-design: scoops and sails and something to push against.

> ----------
> From: 	Steve VanDevender[SMTP:stevev@efn.org]
> Sent: 	Tuesday, October 06, 1998 9:28 PM
> Subject: 	Re:  Re:  Re: starship-design: scoops and sails and
> something to push against.
> I'm willing to concede that; there's no guarantee that by 2050
> we'll have the technology or the willingness as a society to
> stage an interstellar exploration mission.
> Is the original target goal of the Lunar Institute of Technology
> still feasible?  I don't know, but the possibility of manned
> starflight by 2050, without some major adjustments in society and 
> technology, is beginning to look a bit slim.
Well, I think we can all agree that it is economically unlikely for an
interstellar mission to be launched within the next fifty years.  I
suppose one might ask the question whether or not that matters?  I think
the original idea was to discuss the mission from a more technical
standpoint, although I certainly wouldn't want to exclude other
discussions.  Would it be worthwhile to instead discuss the question:
"How would we get to a nearby star given that there is a directive to go
(the reason being irrelevant) and that there are unlimited funds (well,
limited by the planet's resources), launching in 2050?"  Or would
everyone feel uncomfortable with a discussion on that level?

Now, by "unlimited funds" I don't mean building a starship the size of
our moon - there's still a question of what we can physically accomplish
by the time the launch deadline comes around.  If we took the next fifty
years to build something (coming up with something enormous) we'd be
limited by a design of today (i.e. fission, sail, etc).  If we want to
use a design from 2040 (i.e. fusion, maybe antimatter), we'd have to be
able to build it in ten years.

Or, do we think that there is simply technically no way we could launch
an interstellar mission within fifty years?  I suppose we have to define
"interstellar mission" - after all, the Voyager spacecraft are already
on such a mission.  So, let's say the definition is simple: a manned
mission that travels to the very closest star system, Proxima Centauri,
within the working lifetime of the crew (i.e. they are physically
capable crew when the mission starts and when the mission arrives).  I
don't even care about the return trip just yet (we can get to that
next).  Will it be possible or not?

My gut instinct tells me "yes", but at a dramatic cost.  What does
everyone else think?
David Levine                        david@playlink.com
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