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back to article Former coder, NASA 'naut to lead DARPA starship dream

The bevy of boffins over at the occasionally madcap Pentagon agency DARPA have chosen a former astronaut to lead their highly ambitious drive to get the first manned interstellar spaceship flying out of the solar system by 2111. The so-called 100-Year Starship project will be headed up by Dr Mae Jemison, the first African- …

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Anonymous Coward

One of the best things about TNG, for a tennage boy in the '90s.

Was just how prominent Troi became. Twice.

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Happy

Pretty much the same effect as Nichelle Nichols had on me..........

...................as a young teenage boy in the late sixties. In a word, devastating.

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Joke

Irritating?

Deanna Troi was irritating? Thats not how I would describe it...

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Anonymous Coward

Indeed.

Maybe the author had a crush on Wesley Crusher...

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Go

"highly ambitious drive to get the first manned interstellar spaceship flying out of the solar system by 2111."

What a gift for 2012, LOVE IT!!!

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Alien

Twilight Zone

They might be in for a shock if the Voyager probe either bounces off the Heliosphere or passes through it and discovers that beyond it is.....nothing.

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Alert

Nothing?

Some bearded dude woken up by the probe bouncing into the stage lighting, yelling "CUT!", more like.

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Happy

.....or 'I Shot an Arrow into the Air' where they simply crash land back on Earth after 100 years in deep-sleep, believing they've made it to another planet?

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Troi and Riker wern't the most irritating

You forgot Wesley.

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Indeed

To quote from the Big Bang Theory - Damn you Will Wheaton!

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RE: Troi and Riker

... were 2nd and 3rd most irritating. It was a close, but Troi wins 2nd.

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WTF?

Unless they come up with a novel propulsion technology...

.. then the whole exercise is a complete waste of time. Nothing we have at the moment whether it be rockets , ion drive , solar sails etc is up to the job of getting humans even to the outer planets in a reasonable timeframe at the moment, never mind the nearest start. So unless nasa has discovered some tech they're keeping to themselves - cue area 51 conspiracy nutters - then I fail to see the point of this program other than as some lame PR.

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FAIL

What's that you say? A flying machine?

What a waste of time - it'll neverwork...

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Anonymous Coward

why I say

If you pass thirty miles an hour the whole human skeleton will liquify!

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And some said that...

... coming down from the trees was a big mistake!

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propulsion system

a propulsion system was one of the main barriers to the Wright Flyer. No-one believed they could get the power density from a reciprocating piston ICE they ended up with, and 100 years later a bog-standard one of those nowadays in a lawnmower would laugh at it, let alone a Type-R powerplant, and that's before we start with turbofan jet engines. So both you and the man you scoffed at had good points. 1) a flying machine needed a new propulsion system over what was available at the time 2) the Wrights themselves were heavily involved in that development, just like I'd assume the people behind this project will be thinking a lot about propulsion. A generational ship is one thing, but you don't want it to take too many generations to get anywhere.

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I don't want to sound prejudiced, but I guess I am. I don't honestly think anyone who has willingly watched more than three episodes of Star Trek should be allowed anywhere near an actual real world space program. Star Trek teaches three things: that a crises can be solved by running around a lot; that new technology is evil and must be overcome by assertion of how ineffably wonderful human nature is; that wearing trousers is a sign that someone should be in authority.

At least that's what I got from the three episodes I ever watched. ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Film recommendation

You should see Galaxy Quest if you haven't already done so. They cover most of the clichés rather thoroughly.

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Anonymous Coward

If you can't tell that it is *fiction*

then perhaps you should be off lobbying for violent video games to be banned?

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There's a reason NASA was willing to loan real astronauts to Star Trek.

Even some of the boffins who got us to the Moon were inspired by the show, even if it was concurrent or after the fact for some of the program. It also inspired quite a few of the next generation of NASA boffins to study hard in the engineering sciences and then work for NASA.

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Wow

Jemison sounds amazing. Even if she gets nothing accomplished (and she seems to be an accomplisher par excellence) she will explore new worlds of things.

Also, I am in love...

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@h4rm0ny

"Star Trek teaches three things:"

No four things - you forgot it also teaches us that wearing a red jumper having beamed down to any planet other than earth is just asking for trouble. You're life span will be exactly 30 seconds from the point at which Kirk fires his phaser at some huge alien blob (which is usually 30 seconds after they've landed when Kirk has exhausted his verbal negotiating skills).

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They even tried to combat this in TNG by making all the command staff swap their goldy-coloured shirts with the red shirts of the security detail.

Didn't work too well.

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Holmes

The most important lesson is never, ever go on a holodeck. It's the first system to fail in a crisis and it never fails safe - all the CG characters will turn on the hapless human prisoners and every non-lethal object becomes a weapon of instant death.

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Anonymous Coward

never, ever go on a holodeck

I for one hope that present day MMORPGs will suffer the same design flaws.

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Interstellar bus

Those wondering why the article describes a one-way trip as a "galactic bus" should remember El Reg is a UK site. Once-a-lifetime is a pretty good bus service round here.

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2 most irritating?

More irritating than Wesley Crusher???

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!

Riker? Irritating?! He's one of the best characters! Troi is completely useless though.

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FAIL

How on earth..

..can you rate either of those above Crusher Jr on the irritation scale?

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Deanna Troi

I don't think many people objected to Deanna Troi. Not male people anyway, and female Trekkies are a definite minority.

+1 on Jonathan Frakes though - the Shat plus beard minus the singing voice...

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Where can I invest?

I might not see its flight, but I want to invest! Where can I apply?

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@Boltar

The whole idea behind the project is:

1) fund research into relevant technology and sciences,

2) get money out of spin-off products and patents,

3) invest that again in more research,

4) ...

5) profit!

Do that until there is both 1) the technology for intersteallar flight and 2) the money to build a ship.

I believe something similar was proposed in several classic science fiction books.

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ISTR the problem with this, is that any corporation using that approach would have to become at least as large as the government of a large nation in terms of power and wealth.

At which point, they might as well actually *be* that government. They probably own most of the large-scale industries in the country, are *the* major employers, and have vast influence over the populace. And since any empire must either grow or wither, they straight-up get their fingers into every pie they can. 7-11s and Wal*marts start to disappear, replaced by a single, banal brand.

Either the traditional government all become corporate puppets (moreso than some already are) or they're replaced entirely with compliant board members of our huge fictional corporation.

But either way the corproration gets saddled with all the negative effects (on a space program) that go along with the role of governing. Such as developmental drag on the starship caused by their day-to-day running of everything else... like the prison system that 27.5% of the population find themselves in for violating the laws which were put in place to protect the corporation's profitability.

Since any mention of money being "thrown away" into space causes the stock price to dip, the generations of stockholders who have become wealthy on the corporation's coat-tails refuse to accept the risk exposure.

All you can hope then is that one day the requirement for interstellar travel becomes itself either profitable or desparately urgent.

Or...have I just written an even more cynical back-story to Wall-E?

Anyway: "Good morning and welcome aboard this flight to Proxima Centauri, brought to you by the good folks at the Motion Picture Association of America."

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@Avalanche

"1) fund research into relevant technology and sciences,

2) get money out of spin-off products and patents,"

Which essentially means they'll be chucking money at anyone they think might come up with something useful but putting a "starship" label on it to make it all sound sexy. Like I said , its just lame PR designed to make Nasa sound more relevent at a time when its funding is being cut to the bone.

Whether or not stardrives of the sort we see in science fiction are possible the fact is that we don't even have the fundamental physics nailed down to explain how they might actually work in the first place, never mind the ability to build any sort of technology out of it. It would be like someone in the roman era trying to build an Airbus.

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@ boltar

"It would be like someone in the roman era trying to build an Airbus."

Curious that you use that example. The Romans are notorious for having taken the Greek legacy of investigation in mathematics and science and doing absolutely nothing to advance them in the 600 years until they collapsed and led us into the Dark Ages.

If it had no immediate practical use at that moment, they were basically uninterested. They were not theorists and they were not experimenters.

Your apparent attitude strikes me as a VERY Roman one. "We don't know anything about it and we can't use it NOW, so what's the point wasting resources in thinking about it?"

If we have learned anything in the last couple of hundred years, it's that theory and experiment -- thinking and tinkering -- research and development -- go hand in hand and, frequently, lead to completely unexpected results. Remember Physicist I.I. Rabi's pained query on the discovery of the -- unpredicted -- mu-meson: "Who ordered this?" Without experiment leapfrogging theory leapfrogging experiment, ad infinitum, much of what we have and what (we think) we know about how the world works might not have come about as early as it did.

I don't expect a warp drive or a Bergenholm generator to come out of this, but a really efficient plasma drive that, given a long-enough period of constant acceleration, could take a ship to a significant fraction of C (and the powerplant to run it) is probably not impossible. It seems silly to me to wait the ENTIRE project on finalizing the drive train. Plan the mission in modules -- "What can we do if we have THIS; what can we do if we have THAT...?", then let the parts come together as they will for the final design.

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WTF?

Fail

So first the author comments that Troi and Riker were the most irritating. A matter of opinion, I guess, but one that displays a - no wait, what am I saying? It's a FACT that Wesley was the most irritating.

And then... @h4rm0ny's comment made me laugh so it's alright now. Unless that person was serious. Then I was just bewildered.

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Warp drive concepts

Before Miguel Alcubierre published his paper on warp drives inspired by star trek , nobody believed that there was a theoretical framework for this (basically expanding and contracting spacetime around a spaceship). OK it needs an infinite amount of negative energy to make it work but it is the principle that counts. Other ideas make it practical if there are other dimensions and so on.

I tried coming up with my own version of the idea where a wormhole could be treated as an interstellar ramjet, where you treat spacetime as a working fluid. Like a jet engine, it should compress and expand spacetime. But I'm not smart enough to say if it will actually work within the framework of general relativity.......

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Anonymous Coward

Warp Drive Temperature

Dense source of energy is not enough for interstellar travels; it is needed to deal with the generated waste heat by efficiently recovering thermal energy again into electricity making starship more energy-efficient than ever. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uqnk19hn7Rc

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I've got a nice hot cup of tea here...

... anyone got a Bambleweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain and an Atomic Vector Plotter...?

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Alien

Riker and Troi were hardly irritating

Now Wesley "Weasely" (as my roomates and I called him at the time) Crusher--THAT was a character that you were hoping would get blown out an airlock or something.

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