Setting our sights on the stars

Researchers explore the technology needed for star flight

No one alive today is likely to see the dawn of travel among the stars, but two of the government's premiere research agencies are aiming to make that happen in a century.

The 100-Year Starship study, a joint venture of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA, will study the technology needed for star flight and business models that could make it financially feasible.

Sending manned craft to the moon and unmanned probes to the planets in our solar system was a monumental achievement, but star flight would be many orders of magnitude beyond that. The moon is only about 250,000 miles away. The nearest star, Proxima centauri, is 4.2 light-years ... or 24.6 trillion miles.

The project's goal "will require sustained investments of intellectual and financial capital from a variety of sources," DARPA officials wrote in a news release. "The year-long study aims to develop a construct that will incentivize and facilitate private co-investment to ensure continuity of the lengthy technological time horizon needed."

Paul Eremenko, DARPA coordinator for the study, said it is the beginning of an effort to ignite interest in the topic that will engender research that will span mutiple generations and many fields of science.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Nov 2, 2010

Until somebody comes up with an engine that can do a significant fraction of light speed, everything else is kind of moot. Since we don't have viable cryo-sleep technology yet either, the only remaining option is multi-generational ships. All in all, even though I strongly support manned space exploration, given how broke the country is right now, I cannot say this is a good investment. Especially if the dollars could otherwise be used for NEO or lunar projects, that have an actual potential payback that our grandchildren could see. Travel to the stars may come someday, but absent a stunning leap in technology, it is just dreaming at this point.

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