Thursday, August 18, 2011

Here's an Interesting Boondoggle

The latest from the deep minds in the Pentagon basement:

In what is perhaps the ultimate startup opportunity, Darpa, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, plans to award some lucky, ambitious and star-struck organization roughly $500,000 in seed money to begin studying what it would take — organizationally, technically, sociologically and ethically — to send humans to another star, a challenge of such magnitude that the study alone could take a hundred years.

The awarding of that grant, on Nov. 11 — 11/11/11 — is planned as the culmination of a yearlong Darpa-NASA effort called the 100-Year Starship Study, which started quietly last winter and will include a three-day public symposium in Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 30 on the whys and wherefores of interstellar travel.
Count me among the skeptics on this one. It seems to me that talking about interstellar missions now is like talking about moon missions in 1910; the basic technological knowhow is not there to seriously plan a mission. If the Interplanetary Society wants to make this their hobby, great, but DARPA really shouldn't be spending government money on this.

1 comment:

leif said...

Indeed. An utter waste. Presumably this effort would be to study extrasolar planets. The nearest star, Epsilon Eridani, which has planets (well, proposed planets) lies ~10.5 light years away. At the interplanetary velocity characteristic of a Galileo-class probe, such a visit would take something like 705,000 years.

Related nonsense born of the same innumeracy appeared in today's Guardian:

Apparently these aliens have not only mastered interstellar travel, but they've also set up listening posts to spy on the outcomes of our delusional practices. Hmm, interesting... /yawn/