Although many of the public may not want to go into space themselves, the 100YSS project is helping unite the world in the common goal of finally reaching the stars.
Ex-NASA astronaut Mae Jemison will head a multi-partner group of interstellar enthusiasts that has been awarded funding under the DARPA 100 Year Star-ship Program, which has the goal of making interstellar travel an inclusive endeavour, aiming to present humanity with the means to travel, by the year 2112, to another star.
This may well sound like science fiction, because science fact annoyingly reminds us not only that space is unimaginably vast, but also that, even at the speed of light, the options are very limited. Nonetheless, this group of interstellar enthusiasts see these things merely as problems needing to be embraced so that solutions can be found.
With the backing of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency they can now begin working on the technology needed to bridge the gap between the stars. This may seem impossible just now, but the concept of flight must have seemed equally out of reach in 1903, and maybe this is another such era in human history. Since the 1950s, man has taken the first tentative steps into interplanetary space, so interstellar travel seems a realistic long-term ambition.
DARPA think that a century of planning and developing a means of interstellar space travel will be needed, the reason for the project being named 100YSS. It has been started providing seed money for the development of technical, cultural, legal and financial frameworks for the stated aim of an eventual manned mission to another star system.
Other partners include the SETI Institute and the Foundatuion for Enterprise Development, DARPA awarding $500,000 to Jemison’s foundation to set things going on a journey that, by 2112, should see humanity finally going beyond the confines of the solar system and travelling to another star system.
Such a monumental task requires not only audacious vision but also a global perspective as key, because all of humanity will be represented in the interest of expanding the human experience to interstellar travel, the foundation team establishing what is dubbed The Way – a scientific research institute embracing speculative, long-term science and technology initiatives – eventually spinning off for-profit ventures to feed money back into the project, and ensure that 100YSS technologies are applied correctly.
Any endeavour on such a grand and innovative scale will inevitably generate spin-offs helping solve some of the most pressing issues of our time, doing something positive with the incredible capacity we have for meeting challenges and creating hope.
The project will host a public symposium in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 13-16, 2012, a proposed to be annual event open to the public and anyone with good ideas for furthering the progress of the whole thing. Space has, over time, become more accessible to a number of nations, the people involved in space exploration no longer such a small and exclusive preserve of privileged people. Although many of the public may not want to go into space themselves, the 100YSS project is helping unite the world in the common goal of finally reaching the stars.