DARPA’s 100-year Starship Program

I spent the weekend down in Houston for ApolloCon, and the most surprising panel I attended was on a DARPA program to lay down the research necessary to launch an interstellar ship a hundred years from now. To quote from their announcement last year:

In 1865, Jules Verne put forward a seemingly impossible notion in From Earth to the Moon: he wrote about building a giant space gun that would rocket men to the moon. Just over a century later, the impossible became reality when Neil Armstrong took that first step onto the moon’s surface in 1969.

A century can fundamentally change our understanding of our universe and reality. Man’s desire to explore space and achieve the seemingly impossible is at the center of the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA Ames Research Center (serving as execution agent), are working together to convene thought leaders dealing with the practical and fantastic issues man needs to address to achieve interstellar flight one hundred years from now.

They’re not handing out research grants at the moment, but they hosted a symposium last fall to talk about issues from propulsion to philosophy, i.e. not just how to get there, but why we should go. This year, they kicked off the seed funding to create a private organization called the 100 Year Starship. They’re holding another symposium this September in Houston. Given that it’s just a few hours’ drive for me, I’m seriously thinking about it.

I mean, really, this is seriously cranking my geek.  Or… you know, something that sounds maybe a little less disturbing.