This is the best story to run on page one of the New York Times in a year: DARPA, the Defense Department R&D arm, is going to award $500,000 to figure what it would take to send people to another star. That’s right, government research bucks for interstellar travel, a ship to Alpha Centauri. DARPA won’t be making any follow-up grants and doesn’t want anything back. Just go to work studying for a hundred years—or two—and come up with a starship. You must read the Times piece on the “100-Year Starship Study.” It’s like the NYT has turned into Amazing Stories, or Robert Heinlein meets the Federal Register. Here’s a bit:
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. The agenda ranges far beyond rocket technology to include such topics as legal, social and economic considerations of interstellar migration, philosophical and religious concerns, where to go and — perhaps most important — how to inspire the public to support this very expensive vision.
This may be the best government money spent out of trillions. And remember, DARPA are the folks that funded the creation of the Internet. Who knows what this money will buy.
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