Simon “Pete” Worden, director at NASA’s Ames Research Center near San Francisco, California, may have let the cat slip out of the bag a bit too early on a new research project being funded in part by DARPA. The $1.1M project revolves around discovering new propulsion methods to allow for travel over greater stellar distances at a lower or more efficient fuel cost. It also involves a possible one-way trip for the astronauts involved, sending them to Mars, or even beyond, to establish a colony. The so-called 100-year starship is a theoretical craft and method of sending humans to places far outside out own solar system, at the cost of possibly never returning to Earth or even seeing your final destination. Since the announcement NASA has been dodgy and avoiding most communication with the press.
The basic process of the 100-year starship includes generations of people in the course of travel, living and dying on board a craft until it’s arrival at a target planet. Some locations, such as Mars, are well within a human lifespan however, but would still entail a permanent move to the Red Planet. The ethical conundrum is a major factor in a project like the 100-year starship, even with volunteers, the psychological toll is phenomenal and the possibilities of astronauts living out their natural lives on another world are narrow.
Another issue out side of technological or ethical problems is funding. The proposed amount of $1.1 million seems rather low for anything outside of research purposes, which begs the question: Is NASA seeking financial backing from third-party investments or private enterprise? How will they handle the enormous cost of development, manufacture, and deployment of technologies that may not exist yet? Hopefully, only time will tell.