- Planetary travel "within few years"
- Funded by DARPA, NASA
- First stop - moons of Mars
SENIOR NASA official has promised to deliver a spaceship that will travel between alien worlds "within a few years".
Speaking at a conference in San Francisco on Saturday, NASA Ames director Simon Worden said his division had started a project with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency called the "Hundred Year Starship”.
The project was kicked off recently with $1 million funding from DARPA and $100K from NASA and hopes to utilise new propulsion ideas being explored by NASA.
Star Trek fans, prepare to get excited - electric propulsion is here, according to Mr Worden.
“Anybody that watches the (Star Trek) Enterprise, you know you don’t see huge plumes of fire," he said.
"Within a few years we will see the first true prototype of a spaceship that will take us between worlds.”
Mr Worden said the space program was "now really aimed at settling other worlds”.
“You heard it here,” he told the crowd at the “Long Conversation”.
“Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.”
Mr Worden said he hoped to "inveigle some billionaires" such as Google founder Larry Page to help with further funding for the project.
Another possible source of propulsion being funded by NASA was by using microwave power from a planetary base to heat hydrogen propellants on board an orbiting spaceship.
"You don’t have to carry all the fuel," he said. "You use that energy from a laser or microwave power to heat a propellant; it gets you a pretty big factor of improvement. I think that’s one way of getting off the world.”
Mr Worden had an interesting take on how we would settle other worlds when we found them, suggesting it would be easier to adapt humans to an alien planet than changing the planet to suit humans.
“How do you live in another world? I don’t have the slightest idea,” he said.
“If you’re a conservative, you worry about it killing us; if you’re a liberal, you worry about us killing it."
Despite his ambitious vision to push further out into the galaxy, Mr Worden said there was still plenty of work to do in our own backyard first.
First stop, he said, was the moons of Mars, from where the planet itself can be explored using telerobotics.
“I think we’ll be on the moons of Mars by 2030 or so," he said.
"Larry (Page) asked me a couple weeks ago how much it would cost to send people one way to Mars and I told him $10 billion, and his response was, ‘Can you get it down to 1 or 2 billion?’
"So now we’re starting to get a little argument over the price.”
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