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back to article DARPA wants a working manned starship for $500k

Bad-boy Pentagon boffinry bureau DARPA has now released the official solicitation for its "100 Year Starship" project, intended to get human beings making interstellar voyages within a century. We've covered the 100 Year Starship push on these pages before, and the outline idea remains the same. A very small amount of US …

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Anonymous Coward

Just so long as they call the first one

Sulaco

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Alien

ITYM...

... Nostromo...

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm

A big manly square lump of a spaceship with tonnes of antenna, sticky-out bits and packed to the gills with high tech stuff that makes other spaceships whimper in fear....or a refinery-pulling space tug.

Tough choice.

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Pirate

Re: Tough choice

Well neither of them were that much good when there was a Xenomorph on board...!

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taxi!

"Assuming for the sake of argument that the investment necessary to reach the Moon scaled up with distance, a series of basic missions to Alpha Centauri along the lines of the Apollo programme might cost 2 x 1018 dollars: that's 40,000 years' worth of the present-day gross domestic product of the entire human race."

My local taxi costs say 10UKP for a mile or so. This (for sake of argument) means that to travel to scotland from here (train,coach,plane) would cost six grand - dont think so. Likewise travle to/from our local airports via the same taxi is much much cheaper on a per mile basis.

I think someone needs to read Ben Bova - he covered how commercial space enterprises could possibly take off.

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Headmaster

Pedantry ahead

You're confusing investment and cost. Your local taxi may charge you 10UKP for a mile or so, but you didn't invest anything - you paid to take advantage of existing infrastructure. The cabbie on the other hand has invested several thousand pounds into buying and maintaining a vehicle and the various licences that enable him to drive a taxi and run his business.

To go back to the article, obviously 2x10^18 USD is a number basically plucked from thin air but it doesn't invalidate the point that the cost would be eye wateringly large. An interstellar spaceship would have to be massively over-designed for disaster recovery if you gave even the slightest toss about the occupants.

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Anonymous Coward

"the cost would be eye wateringly large"

I think it would be a LOT more expensive

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@auburnman

"if you gave even the slightest toss about the occupants."

I suspect the next successful manned space programme will give less of a toss about the occupants than NASA has.

We've had good reason on El Reg before about how one-way trips to Mars make sense for example.

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Resources

I don't think it takes *that* much.

AFAIK (and I'm not at all sciency) the biggest cost of space is getting out of the Earth's gravity well. Presumably most of the distance to Alpha Centurai is covered with very little effort, it will just take a long time to get there.

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"it will just take a long time to get there"

How long have you got ?

Even if you can manage 10000 km/sec it will take ~120 years and you'll need >5E18 joules to accelerate to that speed in even a 100 tonne ship

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WTF?

Huh??

"Assuming for the sake of argument that the investment necessary to reach the Moon scaled up with distance, a series of basic missions to Alpha Centauri along the lines of the Apollo programme might cost 2 x 10^18 dollars"

Why yes... and if I assume for the sake of argument that the moon is made of cheese, then our interstellar travelers will not run out of gourmet starters for their trip to AC. What's the point of inventing such a ridiculous extrapolation? Yes, we get it, Interstellar travel will be costly. No, it will not cost 40,000 Earth GDPs, or even 0.01% of Earth GDP for the simple reason that if DID cost that much, it wouldn't get done.

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FAIL

Assuming for the sake of argument...

...that Lewis can invalidate the opinion piece of his whole article in a single assumption, why does he bother? Expanding a bit upon the actual reportage would have been more interesting.

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Trollface

invalidate the opinion piece of his whole article in a single assumption

...that's pretty much the entire LP canon summed up in one sentence

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WTF?

This is not the weapon shop of Isher you are looking for

"DARPA's principal customer – the American warfighter"

Isn't DARPA a taxpayer-funded outfit that is allocated money seized from the populace to come up with stuff the that military-industrial-congressional-entertainment complex can make money off?

The "American warfighter" ("soldier" no longer Rambo enough, I see) is the dumb sod who ends up with his gonads blown off, so he is definitely NOT the customer.

Except when he finally needs those futuristic prosthetic limbs.

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Trollface

`"soldier" no longer Rambo enough'

Could be worse. How'd you like the sounds of Freedom Technician? Customer Facing Liberty Vendor? Kinectic Democracy Installer?

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Coat

Oh Yes, Oh Yes indeed

"Customer Facing Liberty Vendor"?...sheer genius.

Words that should make us proud, yes Proud I say, to be human....

(when I said "us", I didn't really mean anyone south of Carlisle...sorry, didn't mean to get yer hopes up).

Oh...and just in case anyone who has seen my rants before thinks that I've forgotten.....

Project Orion....you know it makes sense.

Ok, OK, I'm going...

(mines the one made out of lead)

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Headmaster

Re: "soldier" no longer Rambo enough

...Or, being part of the DoD, DARPA knows -- as you may not -- that airmen, marines, and sailors prefer to be called by their proper designations, and not lumped in with members of the army.

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Way too cynical

People who do research for the US armed forces are constantly reminded that the results have to work for the people on the ground. And the term warfighter is in the process of being rolled back in favor of "soldier" right now - not sure that is the best thing. I think too many people get their notion of the military from bad 1908s movies.

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Jos
Mushroom

Project Orion....

That was a bit, ehm, crude I suppose. I think Zuppero got it a bit closer with his nuclear-powered steam driven rocket (we just need water).

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/15/zuppero_solar_system/

The pdf is quite entertaining (albeit long, 450+ pages) read.

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Anonymous Coward

'"soldier" no longer Rambo enough'

> Could be worse. How'd you like the sounds of Freedom Technician? Customer Facing Liberty Vendor? Kinectic Democracy Installer?

If you go for 'Customer Facing Freedom Facilitator' you could use the abbreviation CF3

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Thumb Up

Applying for a grant?

Surely at that budget, the materials used couldn't be much more than paper and a bunch of balloons. Have they specified that they need interstellar humans or would playmonauts be sufficient?

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Boffin

In my next life...

...I'll apply for a job a DARPA.

Where else on the planet do you get paid to think up way out ideas usually only found in Superman comics?

Reckon it'd be great fun.

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Pirate

100 years?

Are they worried that in a hundred year's time they'll have run out of countries to bomb?

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Mushroom

No chance they'll have it finished...

...before the end of next year. They'd be better off investing that money the Arks that are currently under construction in China.

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Pint

The answer is obvious

Stay put and make life on our own little spaceship sustainable.

Personally I quite like it here.

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Childcatcher

Well...

I like it here, too. However, we should be wary of putting all our eggs in one basket.

True, at the moment, we only have one basket, but that should just be motivation for finding another that's suitable.

What will you do in the event of an asteroid collision? Or gamma-ray burst? Or one of the many other potentially apocalyptic cosmic events that could kill us all?

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Mushroom

@The answer is obvious

And how much will it cost to ensure that the comet or asteroid that, statistically, *is* heading towards this planet at some time, doesn't?

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$500 000?

Might just get you a very dramatic mission jingle.

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I'd like to see...

From the movie Pandorum: those emergency electricity spinners to get stuff going when the grid is down. On my phone, computer, monitor, tablet, garage door, car, calculator, etc.

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Boffin

Did someone forget to tell DARPA that economics IS a zero-sum game?

$500,000?

I remember in year 5 when we did 'compound interest' we all excitedly worked out that if we put $1 in a bank account, in only 2,147 years we would all be very wealthy.

I know DARPA play the long game, but really, didn't they realise THHGTTG is fiction?

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I take it you've already

... deposited your penny and booked your table.

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Devil

The problem is

with depositing your $1 in a financial institution is that the institution or its descendants have to survive for 2,147 years.

Can anyone name a bank founded in the first century BC or before that is still operating today?

No? Anyone? Medici? Bueller?

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Starship will not be ready this quarter, scrap the project

DARPA: "Neither the vagaries of the modern fiscal cycle, ..."

Given that corporations work these days on quarterly cycle, I see absolutely no hope for such a long-term project in the commercial sector.

To date, the only succesful centuries-spanning organizations are either unusually stable countries, or religious organizations (like the Catholic Church). So set up a new Church of the Starship, with spacefaring as the holiest sacrament, and you might have some hope...

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Anonymous Coward

"like the Catholic Church"

I think spanning the centuries is the ONLY thing they've been successful at.

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IT Angle

Project Management.

Your budget: 500 grand.

Your project: To build a working Interstellar spacecraft.

Solution: Get an IT Project Manager in to run it. This sort of thing is business-as-bloody-usual. In fact it's rather simpler than usual as they haven't demanded delivery of the finished product within 6 months as one would normally expect.....

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