The Ultimate Project: 10000 Year Journey

by Paul Gilster on February 26, 2008

When you’re thinking interstellar, long time frames are inescapable. Are we capable as a culture of planning missions that last not only longer than a single human lifetime, but longer than multiple generations? Steve Kilston (Ball Aerospace & Technologies), with help from Sven and Nancy Grenander, clearly thinks so. The three are behind the fittingly named Ultimate Project, a starship designed to carry one million humans across the light years separating us from the nearest stars, creating colonies and perhaps going on from there, a ten thousand year star journey that could turn into a trek through the galaxy lasting for millions more.

For just to get such a mission to the launch point, Kilston is thinking in terms of century-long segments within an overall 500-year plan. 100 years to develop the plan for the mission. 100 more years to achieve a detailed design. Now a century for prototyping and demonstrating technologies, followed by a century to assemble materials and construct the spacecraft. A final one hundred years for a shakedown cruise in the Solar System. You can see that we’re looking at societal commitments on the order of the great cathedrals of Europe, but going substantially beyond even their protracted construction in terms of time and expense.

Ultimate Project Starship

A few assumptions travel with this project. Because scientific discoveries are much harder to predict than changes in technology, the Ultimate Project assumes new technology but no new physics. And it operates with the certainty that experiments and discoveries in coming centuries will alter its plans, that experience triumphs over theory every time, and that advances en-route will continue the process of updating the plan until the mission is accomplished. I’m drawing these premises from a presentation Steve Kilston made at the second Space Mission Challenges for Information Technology conference, which provides far more background material than I can offer here.

That being said, the current daunting specs are what you might expect of an interstellar ark: A vehicle of 100 million tons, with a cost of $50 trillion, built as a cylindrical shell some two kilometers long and two kilometers in diameter, with ten or more decks of habitable space and 1 g of gravity provided by rotation. The great pyramid of Cheops has one-sixteenth the mass of this ship, which carries twice the ‘land’ area of the island of Manhattan, offering 125 square meters per person. The propulsion method: Magnetically confined deuterium/Helium-3 fusion, a technique familiar from Project Daedalus here updated and now using the atmosphere of Uranus for the necessary store of Helium-3.

Expansion plans? Count on twenty Sun-like stars within six parsecs of Earth, a range reachable within 10,000 years. Figure 2000 years to settle a new planet and build two new starships to continue the voyage. The net rate of expansion becomes one parsec every 2000 years, with the Milky Way explored in some forty million years. The Ultimate Project’s Web site is bare-bones at present and the link to the Project’s recent poster presentation at the JPL Exoplanet Fair is broken, but I assume that oversight will be repaired soon. Or perhaps not. With five hundred years to launch, the site operators may see no need to rush.

Steve Kilston has been involved with Webster Cash’s New Worlds starshade concepts and has worked at Ball Aerospace on imaging Earth-like planets around other stars. He may be an optimist in terms of the cost of the Ultimate Project and my guess is that 500 years from now the type of fusion the Project now focuses on will have been superseded, but trans-generational endeavors begin somewhere, and I know of no one else who is currently trying to do what the British Interplanetary Society once did, bringing solid scientific and engineering knowledge to bear on a complete design aimed at reaching the stars. For that reason alone, the Ultimate Project is worth keeping on your watch list.

Hiro February 26, 2008 at 15:19

I think our goal in the next 40 years is the gravity focus point, around 550 AU from Sol. If it takes longer than 10 years to cover this distance, then it’s almost impossible to travel to any extrasolar planets.

djlactin February 26, 2008 at 15:45

Call me pessimistic but I don’t see this ever happening. The time scale is just too incomprehensible. We can easily TALK about such scales but to actually GRASP them is difficult. To put it in perspective: 10000 years in the past, humans were just emerging from an ice-age, learning to work metals and beginning to toy with agriculture.

There is a story about people of that time trying to reach the stars. They couldn’t build the tower high enough before their languages diverged.

I imagine any surviving human culture 10000 years down the time-line would find our efforts just as quaint.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for exploring the galaxy. I just don’t think generation ships are feasible. Yet.

Sven February 26, 2008 at 16:34

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the very nice article. One question; where did you find the broken PDF link to the poster ? I tried both copies of the pointer (that I remember putting in) and they both worked.

We’d love to have you join us and help flesh out the description and planning of the mission.

Thanks again,

-Sven

Hans Bausewein February 26, 2008 at 16:56

I see more in shorter term goals that finally get there. Start builing a self-supporting community in the solar system. Building the space ship from asteroids will probably reduce costs and effort in the long term and provide some experience for the future around other stars.
When it doesn’t need the earth and sun anymore, think about leaving the solar system.

125 square meters per person is not much. I wonder whether they have appropriately calculated the total cost for food production, waste handling, and what else is needed for a long term journey. (small scale industry?)

Nice question for psychology, too: can so many people live there entire life in such a small world.

Hans Bausewein February 26, 2008 at 16:56

“building”

Administrator February 26, 2008 at 18:15

Sven, I can download the PDF but what I get is an empty file — I’ll try again and see what happens. Thanks much for your kind note!

John Kavanagh February 26, 2008 at 21:38

Over at Space Transport News, yesterday’s posting of Fastest Space Transport: 42,000 Miles per Hour details the length of interstellar spaceflights if conducted with today’s propulsion technology. It is interesting to contrast the “10000 year journey” described above with the amount of time it currently would take to travel to the nearest star:

Looking out further, the distance from the Sun to Alpha Centauri, in the next nearest star system, is 25.7 x 10^12 miles; approximately 276,000 times farther away than from Earth to the Sun. Transport to Alpha Centauri, traveling at the same Atlas V + Star 48 + gravity assist velocity of 368.2 x 10^6 miles in a year, would require a one-way trip of ~700,000 years.

Ron S February 26, 2008 at 22:48

John K, is that arithmetic right? I get 4 AU/yr ==> ~70,000 years.

James M. Essig February 26, 2008 at 23:28

Hi Folks;

If we can reach but 0.1C to 0.2C in huge multi-generation ships, in 100 billion years of human species propagation we will have reached out and colonized out to 10 billion to 20 billion light-years not taken into account space-time expansion. At some point, the recessional velocity of the space craft and far away colonized planets will become so great that the space time expansion between Earth and these distant ships and planets will result in superluminal recessional velocities between our home planet Earth and the far away colonies. In short, we could keep on propagating the human species outward forever as long as the universe remains out of yet its proposed thermodynamic cool down or heat death. By that time, we ought to have physically evolved gradually into a new type of bodied life form or have found other means to collect mattergy for space travel and infrastructure sustenance perhaps eternally into the future.

What if the universe we live in has some aspect of multiple connectedness wherein, upon traveling out to a distance of say 100 billion light years from earth, we suddenly cross a space time connectedness barrier and end up in a totally new, unexplored, and unexpected part of the universe. Perhaps the universe may have limited spatial-temporal multiple connectedness wherein we could end up suddenly in a much more remote location is space within our universe after traveling 100 billion light-years and end up suddenly in the past or the present relative to the temporal location of the craft at its point of travel just adjacent to the multiple connectedness barrier.

Perhaps our universe has a limited unnoticed multiple connectedness with other universes altogether. Such multiple connectedness might conceivably be used to branch humanity out into any existent multi-verse, omni-verse or what ever term one wants to use to describe the conjectured physical cosmos.

Our big bang might have some sort of symmetrical multiple connectivity such as a dodecahedral type of multiple connectivity pattern. I believe that our blogging colleague ljk provided a summary and URL for an article or paper regarding this concept a couple of weeks ago at Tau Zero. If such multiple connectivity exists, perhaps it can be utilized by manned space craft plying the depths of our universe over cosmic distances to facilitate space time transport.

If multiple connectedness does exist, perhaps we can exploit such topological aspects of our universe for space travel without utilizing any craft based warp drive, wormholes, space time distortion etc to roam the universe on cosmic spatial-temporal scales. All that might be needed is good old fashioned, or should I say new fashioned, fusion rocket based reactionary impulse propulsion. Whatever laws and/or engineering principles we can discover and/or develop, I believe that we will ultimately go interstellar and then eventually intergalactic. Lets begin our journey by encouraging any young folks aspiring to be scientists and engineers to dream the What Ifs. The journey has only just begun.

Thanks;

Jim

jh2001 February 27, 2008 at 2:14

The Wait Equation would suggest that such a ship should never launch as it could easily be outpaced by a faster, smaller ship.

I applaud the effort to design an interstellar mission. I just think it would be more productive to put efforts into designing a mission which was much smaller and faster.

Ronald February 27, 2008 at 3:26

I agree with djlactin: as I wrote before, time in a confined space does NOT work in favour of any community, it is similar in principle to island biogeography: the risk of extinction due to chance events increases with increasing time and decreasing space.

I still strongly believe that any future with regard to interstellar travel depends on going fast, first as small unmanned probes, then (maybe) with humans in a kind of hibernation state (suspended animation). Keep those intelligent, but mentally highly vulnerable beings sedated ;-)

tacitus February 27, 2008 at 3:30

I just don’t buy it. Unless there is some impending planetwide catastrophe that is bad enough to spur the effort but somehow far enough off to allow the project to be completed, I can’t see how enough nations (or other political/economic/religious entities) could band together to the make a project of this scale possible.

Without being driven from their homes, that many people aren’t going want to live and die before they get much further than the edge of our own solar system for the sake of some distant descendant of theirs reaching another star system. You have to give them the dream of seeing distant planets with their own eyes, so something like suspended animation or stasis is really the only option (or immortality, but that could get a little, er, old, if all you’re doing is drifting between the stars) and even then, there seems to be little point in putting all your eggs, a million strong, in one basket.

I’m all for dreaming big, but I think this seems a little over the top. I can see million strong orbital habitats being possible, and even desirable places to live (think Iain M. Bank’s Culture novels) but for trips between the stars, you’re more likely to want “faster, better, cheaper” to borrow a phrase from somewhere.

First, you send out the robot scouts. There’s no point in traveling several light years only to find the Earth-like planet there is irredeemably toxic to human life. Once a suitable planet has been found, you build a fleet of smaller vessels, with a viable community of crew on born (200, maybe?) that gets you there much faster than a million-strong hulk of a vessel. It will probably still be multi-generational, but with the likelihood of extended lifespans by then, you still allow the crew to hope they will see their destination several decades down the line. And even if the first generation doesn’t survive the trip, they will die with the knowledge that their kids will get there (not some abstract descendants they never knew). As for the colonists? Embryos. A million of them if you want. Frozen in time, unaware of the voyage, but ready to be brought to term in artificial wombs brought by the ship.

There is a ton of stuff to chew on and plan over the next few decades with a smaller, simpler plan than that, with the added benefit that someone alive today (just) might possibly live to see at least the first part of the plan being carried out. Human beings do so much better when the end game is in sight and the goals are tangible. Building the Ultimate Project just doesn’t seem real or realistic enough to me for it be worth investing time and ideas in. I want something more practical dig into. (The Penultimate Project, perhaps??)

:)

Sven February 27, 2008 at 9:46

The questions raised above are exactly the ones we created the project and specifically the discussion forum for. The current project design is not _the_ design, it is only an example of what could be a plausible design … it is not inconceivable that it could work. Speed, size, layout, propulsion … are all up for complete revision. The assumption is that all our plans will be overtaken by better ones, but only if we get started.

The way I’ve set up the projectization of Steve Kilston’s vision is that we use the discussion forum to debate the trade spaces and solutions. Each topic that has been raised above has a home in the current discussion forum structure. If a relevant topic shouldn’t fit, there is a forum to discuss which forums might be missing.

The Confluence Wiki is where we collectively start to document the evolving decisions and conclusions we come up with in the forum. The JIRA project management Wiki is where start tracking action items and tasks when we get to the point of actually starting to manage the overall effort.

All of these are collaboration environments because the current three principals are only the catalysts of the project, the overwhelming bulk of the intellectual contributions will come from those who join us in the collaboration over the coming days, months, years and centuries, not from us three.

Personally, the most intriguing question which keeps popping up is “why ?” but even if I don’t have _the_ answer I am taking the first steps on what will be an inconceivably long and fascinating journey. We’re hoping others will feel similarly compelled and join our adventure.

Thanks to Paul for bringing The-UP.org to your attention !

-Sven

Administrator February 27, 2008 at 10:08

Sven’s point is well taken: “The current project design is not _the_ design, it is only an example of what could be a plausible design … it is not inconceivable that it could work. Speed, size, layout, propulsion … are all up for complete revision. The assumption is that all our plans will be overtaken by better ones, but only if we get started.” I’d add that just as the Daedalus concept was an image of what was plausible in its time, we will always have to update and upgrade such theoretical projects. But the only way you upgrade is by beginning somewhere. Darwin’s notebooks make it clear how often working on an idea would lead to results that went well beyond his original observations — it was the continued hammering at the raw data that pushed his thinking forward.

dad2059 February 27, 2008 at 13:07

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

Or a journey of 14 billion light-years for that matter.

tacitus February 27, 2008 at 15:42

I understand what Sven is saying, and I applaud his efforts in getting something going. But I am questioning Sven’s definition of the UP, as currently touted, as being a “plausible” project. It is certainly “possible.” I have little doubt that barring some serious setbacks in the future, our scientific and technological progress will make such a thing possible, but I can’t see how it would be plausible from an economic or social point of view — not even in the next 500 years.

The only possible scenario I can envisage is, as I said in the previous comment, is one where mass migration is necessary, driven by some sort of desperate need to survive. Even then, plausible scenarios are hard to come by. Overpopulation isn’t a likely driving force–a bare million people leaving Earth wouldn’t make any difference in that regard, and the resources for building such a ship would be impossible to come by. Some form of unavoidable extinction event would be needed, but it would have to be one with enough warning to allow the decades (at least) of lead time the project entails.

But I also think you have to consider the psychology of people you want to participate in the project today. I mean, there is no doubt a lot of fun to be had in debating the design of a Dyson sphere, for example, but you would have a very hard time convincing a large number of people that such an exercise was part of a serious attempt to bring one to fruition and worthy of a serious investment of their time and effort. I know that’s an extreme example, but the UP, while less ambitious, still risks turning people off as being too “pie in the sky”.

(BTW: I’m not persuaded by the argument that the UP as currently conceived is as plausible as the multigenerational projects of the past. People could immediately see the utility of a even shortish stretch of the Great Wall of China. It wasn’t necessary to build the whole wall before it was any use. As for cathedrals, again even in the Middle Ages you could design and build such things within the lifetime of the builders, it was usually things like politics, wars, and religious strife that caused the projects to extend decades beyond their original targets. Plus they had the religious imperative, which you say would be absent in the UP.)

Now that I think about it, my biggest problem with the UP is that they are framing the whole debate in the wrong way. The goal of the project is defined as designing and building a massive multigenerational ship over half-a-millennium that will take hundreds of generations to get to its destination. You say that this is one possible solution to the problem of colonization and that you are open to other ideas, but you have explicitly talked about this as being the goal of the project.

If the mammoth generational ship is just one solution and you are open to alternatives, then the goal of the Ultimate Project should more properly be defined as the colonization of space (or more narrowly as the colonization of other solar systems). In business terms, the type of spaceship is merely one design, one possible solution to the problem your trying to solve. The real problem–the customer requirement, if you will–you are trying to fulfill is the colonization of other planets. How that is done should be part of the early design phase, not a stated goal right at the start of the project.

So why not reframe the Ultimate Project in these terms? Ditch the 500 year plan (you can’t set a timetable before you know what the best design is going to be) and million-strong generational ship as goals of the project. They can certainly be retained as one proposal, the merits of which can be discussed and debated, but you will open up the project to other ideas, and greatly reduce the risk of sending the project down a blind alley.

It would be just as much an Ultimate Project with the added bonus of inviting ideas for colonization that perhaps none of us might have imagined before now.

dad2059 February 27, 2008 at 19:07

As much as I would like to see a noble venture like the Ultimate Project get started, I have to agree with Sven and tacticus, it just wouldn’t get people excited enough or grab their attention.

But I do foresee something like this happening along the line of Asimov’s ‘spome’ migration idea, future independent asteroid colonies who might decide the Solar System has grown either too hostile or crowded for their taste.

Throughout human history there has been four major reasons for human migrations; War, religion, politics and economics. Sometimes they all go hand in hand. There’s no reason for me to believe this will ever change, even if we become trans/post-human.

The Ultimate Project, either by design or evolution, will happen in it’s own good time.

Colin Weaver February 27, 2008 at 21:10

Why would we ever send humans physically?

I am of the opinion that if we ever reach the stars, it will be in one of two forms:

1. AIs carrying human-like consciousness but not constrained by the limits of biology and life span, or
2. Digital transmission of genome data, for re-instantiation by robotic mechanisms at the other end. Ie. reach the stars with automated equipment, and re-grow humans at the other end.

Giant starships full of goopy humans are science fiction.

cheers,
Colin

forrest noble February 27, 2008 at 21:27

Hi Jim, Hey guys,

The way that I see it was generally suggested by James above. We are just beginning the space station now, but there will seemingly be a time when real space colonies in the inner solar system will get their start. The first of which will seemingly be located near both the earth and the moon. From the moon we could get all the resources and do all the manufacturing, and inexpensively deliver it to the colony because of the low-moon gravity. Not 500 years but maybe within a thousand years or so. Eventually this city might contain a few hundred thousand people and be completely self sufficient.

At a time in the future they might decide to go out and about. They might vote to go toward another star system just for the fun of it. Such a system/ city would require very little propulsion. Just enough to accelerate it and enough to slow it down if they encounter something interesting to check out.

In general it would be a city of highly skilled individuals who live their lives in this multi-generation city. There would seemingly need to be a lot of recycling, vegetarians, and birth control.

We eventually could have seemingly countless cities of this type, and hundreds of years to perfect the required technologies to go out and about. The speed that such cities might travel would seem to be inconsequential because nobody leaving would probably ever come back to earth again. And if they’re having a happy life their speed would not be all that important.

They could receive and send streaming info to and from other space cities, the earth, the moon, mars, etc.

The key here is that it would need to be self sufficient and therefore would not require any earthly resources or money other than soft wear, movies, news, etc.

your friend forrest

Sven February 27, 2008 at 21:58

“So why not reframe the Ultimate Project in these terms? Ditch the 500 year plan (you can’t set a timetable before you know what the best design is going to be) and million-strong generational ship as goals of the project. They can certainly be retained as one proposal, the merits of which can be discussed and debated, but you will open up the project to other ideas, and greatly reduce the risk of sending the project down a blind alley.”

Hmmm, that is what we are doing. The design is not _the_ design, it only serves the purpose of first getting “it is impossible” out of the way … it is plausible. The very purpose of the forum is to discuss the very trades you mention and all options are on the table, limited only by where the forum participants chose to explore.

As for the “why”, that too is up to debate and colonization can mean many things.

Sven February 27, 2008 at 22:10

I hit submit before I was done with that last comment, but it was pretty complete other than attributing the quote to tacitus.

A question for Paul: I don’t see any explicit copyright statements on this page but wonder if you would object to us copying some of the questions that have been asked here into The-UP.org forum where we can discuss them in more detail ?

Thanks,

-Sven

Administrator February 28, 2008 at 8:15

Sven, Centauri Dreams uses a Creative Commons license, which means you are certainly free to use these questions on your site. I hope they’ll continue to inspire discussion there.

tacitus February 28, 2008 at 12:54

It’s also fine by me to use anything I’ve written (not that anyone was asking :-) )

Sven, I’m glad that you say that the plan under discussion here doesn’t have to be the only one, but I think you really need to rework your site because so far it does look that way over there–certainly at first glance.

Ron S February 28, 2008 at 13:07

I am reminded of Charles Babbage and his design for the Analytical Engine, a forerunner to the general-purpose computer. He brought a great intellect and creativity to bear on the problem and then found clever ways to push the state-of-the-art in science and technology. All for a machine that was interesting and potentially useful, but ultimately unbuildable, obscenely expensive and that didn’t justify investor interest. Outside of a select few, the utility of the AE was obscure at best.

It didn’t get built of course. While some of the ideas survived to the age of the computer, it was rapidly obsoleted by science, technology and economics. Was it a worthwhile effort? Perhaps. Today it primarily interests only historians of science.

To me, work on a multi-generational spacecraft appears similar. I don’t see the utility and I strongly doubt, despite the effort being put into it, that any of the work will survive to play a role in a future time when travel to the stars does become feasible. Science, technology, and justifiable applications determined by our descendants will render today’s efforts obsolete, much as previous commenters have noted.

Some dreaming (speculating?) of the far future is very good, but, for myself, I prefer to see concrete work on what we can reasonably expect to achieve in the near future.

ljk February 28, 2008 at 13:19

I love how Cosmos displayed galactic colonization:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck7TUZNz748

William Sinclair February 28, 2008 at 14:05

Actually, the journey would NOT be impractical for an ARTIFICIAL intelligence. We are actually well on the way to doing that ourselves, when we send unmanned probes to Mars, Jupiter, and the outer planets. The distinction with us is: We have not developed AI to where it can make important decisions on its own. But in another 30-50 years, we may have human intelligence equivalence, or even superior. We can then send probes to make “policy” decisions regarding what information to collect and relay back.

Let’s assume we already have a probe in the Alpha Centauri system. We can still send INFORMATION to it in about 4.33 years or so. If we send a GENOME (i.e. human) to it, it could have the capability to reconstruct organisms from that. Therefore, there is no need to send an actual living organism there. It is highly doubtful that any carbon-based organism would survive a trip of several thousand years without accumulating a lethal dose of radiation, which is why no advanced civilization would send one of their own. AI organisms could be made self-repairing or put into a hibernation (quiescent) state.

The disadvantage is that the organisms once created would have to be trained and nurtured from birth. But an advanced AI could probably do that easily. Remeber the flick “Alien,” where they called their computer “MOTHER?”

I think this is the way an advanced civilization would colonize worlds in other solar systems. And I think that if we are being observed, it is with such AI organisms, who could even be replicated to look HUMAN, a la “Blade Runner.”

ljk February 28, 2008 at 15:28

Regarding the purpose of the Ultimate Project, I am strongly
reminded of this quote by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, author
of The Little Prince:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather
wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to
yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

William Sinclair February 28, 2008 at 17:03

I watched Carl Sagan’s comment on the “encyclopedia Galactica” He’s very optimistic about contact with ET civilizations.

But, I think the sad truth is – they probably wouldn’t bother with us. Considering what we’re doing to each other, and the way we trash our planet, we’re probably very low on their opinion scale.

Would they intervene? Perhaps, if we’re on the verge of destroying ourselves. It’a analagous to what WE do with stone age tribes when we encounter them. Do we give them penicillin shots, TV sets, and computers? No, we hopefully have the common sense to leave them be and just observe their customs and life style without interference. The many occasions where we DO intervene generally have destroyed what they have (i.e the American Indian). If we did intervene, hopefully it would be without their realizing it.

This, by the way, is called the “zoo” hypothesis.

William Sinclair February 28, 2008 at 17:20

Those that are touting the “multigenerational” approach are assuming that we would not have a way to either freeze the organisms, or put them in a stasis field. Of course, we currently have no way to do either of these things.

Anyway, assuming that these things are developed in the near future, it solves the problems of waste disposal and recycling, which get to be pretty severe over time spans of centuries.

Also, we still would need to prevent lethal doses of radiation from accumulating over such long periods. Using shielding imposes a severe payload penalty.

tacitus February 28, 2008 at 18:39

Therefore, there is no need to send an actual living organism there. It is highly doubtful that any carbon-based organism would survive a trip of several thousand years without accumulating a lethal dose of radiation, which is why no advanced civilization would send one of their own. AI organisms could be made self-repairing or put into a hibernation (quiescent) state.

That’s an interesting idea, though I suspect it’s more likely that such an AI will be accompanied by human DNA (probably in the form of frozen embryos) rather than in digital form. I suspect that recreating human beings from a digital template is a lot further off than raising natural embryos in an artificial womb. Remember that the technology for defending against cosmic radiation is also likely to advance a great deal too. So if you send along enough of them, you can be pretty sure that some of the embryos will remain viable.

In any case, I find it hard to believe that humans won’t want to at least make the attempt of traveling to other star systems–but only if there’s a chance they, or their offspring will get there. If it remains a 1,000 year time then unless suspended animation is perfected, I can certainly see advantages of delegating the colonization process to an AI. But that’s why I think, especially in Alpha Centauri yields some inviting planets, we well be focusing our interstellar efforts into shortening the trip to decades rather than building ships that take more than two or three generations to get there.

I suspect we won’t be heading out, even with AIs, until we achieve a decent fraction of the speed of light, perhaps 10% (which I believe is theoretically possible with fusion propulsion) which could get us to our nearest neighbor in under 100 years.

In the meantime, there is nothing to stop us from building bigger and better telescopes to find out what’s out there. We already know how to build them, and are rapidly developing technologies that will soon allow us to directly image Earth-sized planets in other systems. And if we just happen to find stumble across evidence of advanced civilizations (perhaps via SETI) then I would not be opposed to cribbing interstellar propulsion systems off them, either!

Adam February 29, 2008 at 2:43

Hi All

Instead of seeing this UP artefact as a “ship on a journey” see it as a city with a changing address. With plausible advances in communications, nano and bio-tech, the Artefact would be a destination for beaming specifications for human bodies down to the sub-cellular level. Imagine engineered human bodies that can go into stasis – the specs are beamed to the Artefact and a generic body is reconfigured, including the neuronal pattern (assuming you use neurones for data handling by then). Thus the individual is “teleported” – they might remain on the Artefact or they might head back to Sol eventually. On return their original body comes out of stasis and the neuronal structure is reconfigured with new memories. Or they might take residence in a new body produced by an advanced organ-printer.

And the use of a city with no fixed spatial address? Astronomy, interstellar studies, or whatever. But it need not be a far, far exile, merely another city amongst many – albeit with unusual travel requirements.

Adam

Tobias Holbrook, Terraformer October 4, 2008 at 9:11

“Would they intervene? Perhaps, if we’re on the verge of destroying ourselves. It’a analagous to what WE do with stone age tribes when we encounter them. Do we give them penicillin shots, TV sets, and computers? No, we hopefully have the common sense to leave them be and just observe their customs and life style without interference.”

That is the main reason I detest anthropologists: They let people die so they can observe them. It’s worse than what Channel 4 do with Big Brother. A lot worse. At least on Big Brother the people chose to be observed and shut off.

“Also, we still would need to prevent lethal doses of radiation from accumulating over such long periods. Using shielding imposes a severe payload penalty.”

Use a MiniMag that can also double as propulsion. For the electromagnetic radiation, use the water supplies of the city. It may even be possible to turn the radiation into energy.

How about a large city that flies from star to star (then galaxy to galaxy), creating space colonies on its way (similar to a von Neumann machine). Of course, the crew would hopefully have lifespans in the 1000s to 10000s of earth-years. Every time a colony was dropped off, there would be the time between star systems to replenish the crew number.

Of course, travelling at 0.5c will be useful, as it’s the fastest we can go before hitting the time dilation and lorenz tranformation barrier (even then, the factors about 1.1 earth years to every ship year) That would be enough to get to the nearest star(s) in 9 years, Eridani in 22 years, and various other stars in reasonable time frames.

Interstellar communication will be achieved through use of FTL Light. Seriuosly, they’ve managed to make light go faster than 300,000km/s. About 300 times as fast. But the government won’t let anyone find out ;)

Tobias Holbrook, Commander of the Dragonfire October 29, 2008 at 10:49

As for crews in the 100s, remember the Gays. And the Transsexuals.

What I’m trying to say is; how much of that population will actually be having children? Going with the widespread (although probably wrong) figure of 1 in 10 men being gay, with a crew of 100 men and 100 women, that’s 10 homosexual me who won’t be having children. I know, the initial crew won’t be, but there is no way of knowing what the children would be like.

Not that I have anything against Gays or- we need a better word to describe Transgendered people ;)

spaceman March 31, 2009 at 0:48

Sorry, Jim, the dodecahedral model has been essentially ruled out as a possible topoogy of the Universe if the polyhedron is less than or equal to the size of the cosmic horizon. Multiconnected per se has been ruled out on a distance scale that is much smaller than the cosmic horizon, but I believe there are models of inflation which predict spatial multiconnectedness on scales much much greater than 100 billion light years.

Tobias Holbrook May 5, 2009 at 12:33

Don’t forget Brown Dwarfs as a destination. Possibly ones much closer than Alpha Centauri. Stepping stone colonization, possibly with the same speed as the UP ship.

Tom June 15, 2012 at 1:30

We really live in a strange error of human history. The cost effective nature of any entrepreneurial plan is based on ‘return’ of investment. Deep space exploration will require more than just ‘big treasuries’. Staying ‘Earthbound’ is easy, until the Earth becomes treacherous to our humanity. We subsist in a vast social-economic global network; this has come at a price, we are ‘complacent’… there needs to be something more than ‘maintaining’ the status quo. Spacefaring across the stars can give us something we don’t have… making the galaxy part of our existence.
I don’t think ‘arguing’ the inevitable futility of our extinction should be the basis of not attempting to ‘explore & colonize space’.
Going to other worlds would only make us more vigorous. How will this be done? Who can afford this ‘adventure’? Aren’t these resources better invested in more conventional spending? Surely, in the future, this could be realized more economically & safer than now?
We are not as far along as the previous expert opinions I just stated; frankly, avoiding doing ‘anything’ is costing us more as a nation. And currently, other nations can only catch up to what has already been historically achieved. People tend to confuse ‘institution’ with ‘infrastructure’; space programs can be ‘institutionalized’… real outer space will not ‘politicize’. The actual ‘resources’ for these proposed missions will be ‘in situ’… its all about ‘the sweat equity’ of active ‘pioneers’. Deliver the abilities for people to make an ‘outer space’ habitat that can be ‘adapted’ to reasonable conditions… it can take care of itself.

Leon J Williams October 28, 2012 at 16:46

Is this project still going?
Where is it currently at?
Is there a website, none of the links seem to be working.

tom February 27, 2013 at 0:21

I just reread the commentaries. If wishes were horses, beggers would ride. The best thing that really excites me about projects like these; is there is a plenitude of ideas of how to do it. I daydream of a magic carpet… printed into the weave is a spaceship… it flies off into space and tangles up with everything that touches its fabric… then it grows into a vast kingdom that can travel to other stars. I live on a natural celestial body that moves about the Sun… my ancestors did this, my children and young grandchildren are doing this…. I think we can make a world that can do this? Hell, I think we could have pulled it off back in the 1950s with Project Orion.
Whatever path we’re taking, building bombs, prisons, making more billionaires… those stars I see in the night sky look better every night.

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