Government // Leadership
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6/17/2011
12:02 PM
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Making Star Trek Reality: NASA Wants Ideas

Defense Department and the space agency want sci-fi fans, scientists, and space junkies of all types to help brainstorm ways to to fly humans to the outer reaches of the solar system by 2111.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA are soliciting ideas from the public for technology and other considerations for how to send people on long-distance manned spaceflights in 100 years.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the space agency collaboratively this fall will hold a symposium on their 100-Year-Starship study, which aims, a century from now, to fly humans to the outer reaches of the solar system in ways so far only possible in sci-fi movies. The agencies are seeking abstracts for ideas to be presented at the meeting.

People will be invited to speak on a variety of research angles through different topic tracks, including technology as well as various sociological, economic, legal, and philosophical considerations for the type of travel the agencies are proposing.

Other tracks will focus on the biological and medical needs that must be considered; destinations for travel; and ways to communicate to the public about their vision for the program.

On the technology side of things, NASA and DARPA are looking specifically for abstracts on time-distance solutions, such as propulsion, time/space manipulation and or dilation, near speed-of-light navigation, faster-than-light navigation, and ways to observe and sense at near speed of light or faster than light, according to DARPA.

Technology also will be a consideration in setting up the habitat that will allow people to survive on long-duration space journeys, including providing sustainable energy and advanced medical capabilities, the agency said.

Because of the innovative and outer-worldly nature of their research, the agencies are hoping for a response from a different cast of characters than are usually found in the scientific and technology industry.

"This won't just be another space technology conference--we're hoping that ethicists, lawyers, science fiction writers, technologists, and others, will participate in the dialog to make sure we're thinking about all the aspects of interstellar flight," said David Neyland, director of DARPA's tactical technology office, in a statement. "This is a great opportunity for people with interesting ideas to be heard, which we believe will spur further thought, dreaming, and innovation."

Ideas shared at the symposium not only may be applied to the 100-Year-Starship study, but also may be used in the future by the private and commercial sector, according to DARPA.

The agencies introduced the year-long study at the end of October. They hope by the end of their research to create a self-sustaining organization that can solve the challenges of long-distance, long-duration interstellar space flight.

What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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