It has been quite a week for space travel. First, there was the launch of the first private commercial ship launch to the International Space Station. And now, the earnest start of a mission to ensure man reaches the stars in the next 100 years.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded $500 000 (R4.2 million) to the 100-Year Starship, which aims to get humanity on a mission outside our solar system.
Mae Jemison, the first black astronaut in space, will head up the century-long endeavour.
She said: “Yes, it can be done. Our current technology arc is sufficient.”
Jemison’s proposal for the project was accepted this year, and she is to seek new investors and find new ideas for interstellar exploration.
In September, the work is to begin in earnest, with everyone from philosophers, writers, sociologists and engineers gathering to discuss ideas and bring proposals to a conference in Houston.
Any endeavour is likely to be a strictly one-way trip: it would be likely that the original travellers would not even reach their final destination – but the hope is their children, or children’s children, or even later generations will make it, and send humanity on an eternal quest through the galaxy.
Jemison, 55, from Alabama, played a key role in setting up the 100-Year Starship symposium organised last year by Nasa and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Florida.
That led to the agency’s awarding of the $500 000 contract to study what is needed for long-term projects such as interstellar space missions.
With the money in the bank, Jemison’s group, the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence in Houston, now has to take on the challenge of building a programme that can last 100 years and which, it is hoped, will produce a starship.
It has teamed with the Foundation for Enterprise Development and Icarus Interstellar.
Adam Crowl, director of Icarus Interstellar, said: “Project Icarus will be producing designs and doing basic research with the common goal of building the technical foundation required for eventual successful interstellar flight.
“Together we’ll be working towards an organisation that will last 100 years and produce a viable interstellar technology, with benefits for all humankind.” – Daily Mail