The 100 Year Starship: My Three Ideas

It’s the end of an era. The space shuttle was retired last month (July 2011) after 30 years and 135 missions. Now NASA becomes a massive data collection organization.

Which allows us, as a nation, to pivot and move in a new direction. A worldwide call for ideas is on the table and it sounds like fun.

DARPA is in the game with the 100 Year Starship symposium asking the world’s researchers to submit abstracts.

Which is where I get really excited. Here we sit on the brink of a new era. The field is wide open and the opportunity to create the future is upon us.

Or, at least my amateur fanboy-ism thinks so. Still it is fun to share ideas, even crazy ones. So here is my attempt at space domination.

Please, feel free to share your own sci-fi ideas.

Space Ship not Space Shuttle

I think space travel involves two different kinds of travel: planetary and galactic.

Planetary travel involves moving around with all the gas, gravity, and debris of planets. To which we seem to have mastered.

We have innumerable methods for getting around like cars, planes, and boats, and not forgetting a shuttle to get us out of the planet and into space.

We can travel faster than sound and pretty much get anywhere on the planet in a matter of hours. The only real next step here is to develop some “beaming” technology, not to improve our travel, rather to cut down on the time of the journey (or the traffic).

On the other hand, we have yet to do any serious work on travel in the galaxy. Do we actually build engines for the vacuum of space? Is it possible to build a galactic engine from within a planet?

If it were up to me I would make building space ships, not space shuttles, a priority. Perhaps, this will have to wait a few decades while the private sector lowers the cost of these shuttles. But, eventually, we will have to get down to the business of building space engines in space (not in office cubicles).


I really want to know what gravity is. I generally understand that it’s something magnetic and the force of which gets exponentially stronger as mass increases. To which I equate, “everyone likes to look at a car crash”.

That’s the best I can do.

And, I’m not sure the best and brightest can do any better.

Something tells me this is important for our future in space travel. Men and women are going to be spending a lot of time up there and we will need a way to mimic Earth so that we don’t damage our bodies in any way (so it becomes more like riding the bus than NASCAR).

Also, the force is so strong that it can keep a moon hanging around. Maybe we can harness it?

In order to travel in space and get anywhere we will need to travel at very high speeds. Which will mean creating a way to not kill humans going at death-defying speeds, and finding energy powerful enough to move that fast.

I just feel like this mystical gravity holds the answer..

Satellites like cell towers

I think it would be awesome if every planet in our solar system had a satellite in orbit around it. One that could take pictures and send/receive messages.

The ability to monitor our surroundings and communicate between them seems critical. Like if we send a ship to Mars it can communicate with satellites back on Earth and the Moon.

Or, maybe I’m just a kid who grew up in a cell phone world and think’s its scary to travel in space unless you’re always connected 🙂

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