Planning Ahead

StarDate: October 1, 2011

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The space shuttle is grounded, the Apollo trips to the Moon are decades in the past, and a manned trip to Mars is always at least a couple of decades in the future. Sounds like a perfect time to start planning a trip to the stars!

That’s the philosophy behind a meeting this weekend in Orlando. A couple of thousand participants are looking at the steps needed to get a starship off the ground in the next century.

The project is called the 100-Year Starship. It’s sponsored by NASA and DARPA — a research arm of the Defense Department. It began with a meeting of a handful of big thinkers back in January, and is continuing with the much-bigger meeting in Florida.

The plan isn’t to actually design a starship. Instead, it’s to find ways to set up an organization that’ll push the project forward. Initial ideas are looking at an endowment like the one that supports the Nobel prizes.

Among other topics, participants are talking about technology, space medicine, possible destinations, and economic, political, and religious considerations. The goal is to take the first small steps toward taking a really big step in the exploration of the universe.

And the place where humans took the first small step into the universe is in good view this evening — the Moon. It’s in the southwest at nightfall, with the orange star Antares below it. It’s a sight that just might provide a little extra inspiration for those who are dreaming of the stars.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011

 

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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