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Re: starship-design: I nterstellar mission within fifty years

In a message dated 10/7/98 12:43:35 PM, zkulpa@zmit1.ippt.gov.pl wrote:

>> From: David Levine <david@playlink.com>
>> [...]
>> 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?
>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 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.

breaktrough to me implies a fundamental jump in science or technology.  I
would see where fusion or huge laser system would require eiather.  The fusion
and microwave sail system I last sujested seems to require none.  Thou given
the extream lack of effort in fusion or space solar power sat now, its
obviously not progressing.  But future demand is expected to boost interest in
the near future.  A big problem is the two are competitors.  So if fusion is
developed, space solar would likely be abandoned.

>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.

Here we agree.  Unless your pretty heavily along in doing things in this solar
system, your not likely to be worrying about interstellar.

>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.

We can evaluate could do's, easier then would do's.  Like I've said, we never
did figure out why anyone would do such a masive project in 2050, but then
Apollo didn't make any sence eiather.

>-- Zenon Kulpa