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RE: starship-design: Interstellar mission within fifty years


> As far as I know, still only on paper.
> Did they produced some rocket exhaust generated by
> actual fusion reaction?

No, this is an engineering study. JPL has tested the reactions and verified
the energy output. In other words, the technology has been proven - the
actual engine has not been built. But it is far from being only on paper.

> Ditto.
> And what about the antimatter factory?
> Current annual production is able to deliver a kilogram of antimatter
> in several million years, counting optimistically...
> And what about reliable containers capable to hold tons of antimatter
> for years on?

The production of antimatter is currently very low, however, ICAN and
AIMSTAR do not need much, the amounts are well within what we expect to be
able to produce within the next twenty years. Storage technology is hard
science, already built, and tested (they drove around the U.S. with the
storage container loaded with antimatter in the back, we're still here so I
guess it worked.)

> > VASIMR is scheduled to FLY in 2005. While not exactly a fusion rocket,
> > it is close in terms of performance...
> >
> We will see... I am rather skeptical, especially concerning
> the performance.

VASIMR's performance isn't in question, the engine is fired on a regular
schedule and its performance is a known quantity. It hasn't been FLOWN yet

> First, actual complex mines and factories cannot yet be fully
> automated without human supervision, and will not without
> real breakthroughs in AI and nanotechnology.
> Teleoperation is also infeasible for interplanetary distances
> (remember Sojourner...), even on the Moon
> (ask Russian drivers of Lunokhods...).
> Second, our starship should be a viable "permanent human
> habitat in space", and rather large for that.
> How to build one without any prior experience?
> Do you think that the very first human space habitat will be
> that going to another star?

For the first part, these are relatively minor problems involving no new
technology, just development and refinement of known ones. Yes, this will
take time, but I would hardly characterize this as a major road block.

For the second part I would just reiterate the argument I already gave, the
only way to get the experience we need is to start doing it. It is a self
reinforcing process, the more we work and live in space, the better we get
at it. Again, hardly a major obstacle.

> I doubt seriously if we discover a habitable planet
> around another star. Kelly seems right here - it will
> be either inhabitable, or deadly.

The only way to find out is to go. Besides, I am not a fan of settling other
planets, I think we should start buy settling the system, planets are for
sheep...and sheep herders.

> Moreover, so what? I do not think the public will care much,
> unless general attitudes toward space exploration change significantly.
> Hence I also consider SETI to be currently more of a distraction
> than help.

Perhaps not, I was merely paraphrasing someone else. It was either Marc
Millis or Carl Sagan, either way, they certainly know more than I.