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100-Year Starship some way off, project made by NASA scientists

Posted on: February 18, 2011

SCIENTISTS at the Johnson Spaceflight Center haven’t let a lack of money stop them from thinking big.

It was exciting news at the time – the US Government hi-tech research lab DARPA and NASA working hand-in-hand to take Earthlings beyond the stars.

It was even given a name – the 100-Year Starship Study.

“Within a few years we will see the first true prototype of a spaceship that will take us between worlds,” NASA Ames director Simon Worden back October.

Sadly, it might have been a bit of a bluff.

Last week, NASA wrapped up the first of several meetings this year exploring the possibility of making the 100-Year Starship a reality.

And the reality is “we picked the 100-Year Starship name because it would require a long-range sustainable effort to get our species to other stars”, DARPA’s director of Tactical Technology Dave Neyland told the gathering.

Not only that, he neatly washed the Government’s hands of the project, pointing out the fact that “most significant exploration, like crossing oceans or continents for the first time, was sponsored by patrons or groups outside of government”.

In a nutshell: “It’s a great idea we’ve come up with, but someone else will have to pay for it.”

Fortunately, some other NASA engineers aren’t going to let the dream die so easily.

Engineers Mark Holderman and Edward Henderson have developed an outline for NASA’s first ever deep space exploration craft, which they hope will overcome the obstacles of a lack of gravity and punishing radiation.

The spacecraft is called the “Nautilus X MMSEV”, an acronym for Non-Atmospheric Universal Transport Intended for Lengthy United States X-ploration Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle.

If it ever gets built, the designers say the Nautilus will be able to support a crew of six for missions of one month to two years and will hopefully overcome the major obstacles to long distance space flight, such as radiation and lack of gravity.

The Nautilus aims to get around these issues through its use of a built-in centrifuge which simulates partial gravity and specially designed radiation shields.

The centrifuge on the completed spacecraft is driven by external thrusters and will be capable of applying between 0.51 and 0.69 units of G-force on astronauts during their space travels.

The designers hope the craft’s innovative design, particularly the centrifuge, will prove effective in combating some of these problems and lead to possible future breakthroughs.

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