By Jon Walton...
The final frontier seems to be more out of reach of late, as NASA recently retired its Shuttle program and funding for space programs continue to be ransacked in the wake of the economic uncertainty and financial crises the world over. One engineer, though, has a 20 year plan to get us back into space in a big way – and realize the decades-old fantasy of Trekkies everywhere.
Nuclear powered ion propulsion engine
BTEDan, creator of BuildTheEnterprise.org, is convinced that a near-perfect replica of the iconic Starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek series could be built using today’s technology, and believes the venture could reignite humanity’s passion for space exploration. In his detailed site, Dan outlines the specs of the project, covering everything from propulsion, construction, funding, scheduling, and more.
Boasting nuclear-powered ion propulsion engines, the massive 1,000 person ship would be able to reach Mars in as little as 90 days, and the moon in just over three. Upon arriving at a point of interest, the ship would be equipped with an array of landers, probes, and smaller craft for more detailed explorations of planetary surfaces and other celestial bodies.
The ship will be have to be slightly altered from the original USS Enterprise, given the 200 year gap in technological advancements between the show’s timeline and today. Some of the changes include an inner, magnetically-levitated rotating gravity ring, providing the crew with Earth-like gravitational conditions for long voyages deep into the solar system (and, of course, no warp drive… yet).
A mere $1 trillion
Dan’s plan for the project consists of a nine year research phase, followed by eleven years of development and construction at a cost of around $1 trillion. While the sum seems daunting, Dan points out that, “Since we only need about $50 billion per year to fund the Enterprise program – out of a $3.6 trillion federal budget – it is well within reason that such a program could be funded given enough enthusiasm within the slice of the public who cares about space exploration.”
Over 35 percent of these funds would be required for moving materials into orbit – prompting questions of alternative supply chain methods like a potential space elevator (one has been proposed by as early as 2050). Though the vision seems utopian, Dan’s compiled data, exhaustive explanations, and unrelenting optimism are undeniably convincing, and the call ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’ is a bit contagious.
“If you don’t think it’s possible over the next two decades to build the first USS Enterprise, given the national will and funding to do so, think again. This website will tell you how it can be done. The only obstacles to us doing it are the limitations we place on our collective imagination.It’s a big universe out there. Let’s ratchet up our plans and technologies to explore it!” adds Dan.