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RE: starship-design: Interstellar mission within fifty years


> Good question.
> There is no yes/no answer, I am afraid.
> Mine is "possibly, provided...".
> More precisely, I see two basic problems here:
> 1. Propulsion
> 2. Infrastructure
> Ad. 1: Propulsion
> -----------------
> I think it will not be possible, unless some real breakthrough
> occurs in one or more propulsion system ideas that seem feasible
> from our perspective, namely:
> - fusion rocket;

First generation under test at JPL

> - giant lasers (possibly solar-powered);
> - antimatter rocket (including an efficient antimatter factory).

First generation under test at JPL

> I mean, unless the real working design will be proposed,
> a prototype build and tested in space.

VASIMR is scheduled to FLY in 2005. While not exactly a fusion rocket, it is
close in terms of performance...

> As for now, nothing of the sort seems to occur
> in the foreseeable 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.

True, but...

> It must of course start from building
> permanent human habitats in space and on other planets/moons.

Not necessarily, these _could_ be automated or even teleoperated in some
cases. But admittedly, we would vastly prefer a human presence for our own
reasons <G>.

> Also, the progress in this area is excruciatingly slow -
> it is even more annoying than the slow progress in point (1) above,
> as the progress in this area already needs no essential breakthroughs
> in science or technology, only the will and money.

Umm, I would submit that it is more a matter of acquiring a historical tech
base of what works and what doesn't, which only happens in direct relation
to how much time we spend doing things in space to acquire this knowledge.
Sort of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. It will get better as we
go along, probably a LOT better.

> 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.

Well, there is that. Of course, as has already been said elsewhere (Warp
Drive When?) if we discover a habitable planet around another star, the
public will want to know why we haven't _already_ invented a warp drive!
Your club is a good start, there are also other avenues that help. ANYTHING
that encourages the commercial use of space should be helped along.
Commercialization of space will result in the fastest overall growth path.