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starship-design: I nterstellar mission within fifty years
> From: David Levine <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> 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?
There is no yes/no answer, I am afraid.
Mine is "possibly, provided...".
More precisely, I see two basic problems here:
Ad. 1: Propulsion
I think it will not be possible, unless some real breaktrough
occurs in one or more propulsion system ideas that seem feasible
from our perspective, namely:
- fusion rocket;
- giant lasers (possibly solar-powered);
- antimatter rocket (including an efficient antimatter factory).
I mean, unless the real working design will be proposed,
a prototype build and tested in space.
As for now, nothing of the sort seems to occur
in the foreseable future.
Ad. 2: Infrastructure
I do not think it at all possible to build a starship without
extensive infrastructure in space, including asteroid mines
and space factories. It must of course start from building
permanent human habitats in space and on other planets/moons.
Also, the progress in this area is excruciatingly slow -
it is even more annoyning than the slow progres in point (1) above,
as the progress in this area already needs no essential breaktroughs
in science or technology, only the will and money.
Summing up, if something does not, rather dramatically,
change the attitudes and goals of humanity concerning space,
the probability of launching a starship within fifty years
is very, very low.
-- Zenon Kulpa
* * * URANOS: Club for Expansion of Civilization into Space * * *
All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct [Carl Sagan]