Mae Jemison will kickstart the 100 year project, hoping to spread humanity across the stars
It has been quite a week for space travel
Yesterday, there was the the launch of the first private commercial ship launch to the International Space Station. And now, the earnest start of a mission to ensure man reaches the stars in the next 100 years.
Research and defence agency DARPA has awarded $500,000 to the 100-Year Starship, which aims to get humanity on a mission outside our solar system.
Mae Jemison, the first black astronaut in space, will head up the century-long endeavour.
She said: ‘Yes, it can be done. Our current technology arc is sufficient.’
Jemison’s proposal for the project was accepted this year, and she will seek new investors and find new ideas for interstellar exploration
In September, the work will start in earnest, with everyone from philosophers, writers, sociologists and engineers gathering to discuss ideas and bring proposals to a conference in Houston.
Any endeavour is likely to be a strictly one-way trip: it would be likely that the original travellers would not even reach their final destination – but the hope is their children, or children’s children, or even later generations will make it, and send humanity on an eternal quest through the galaxy.
Jemison, 55, from Alabama, played a key role in setting up the 100 Year Starship symposium organised last year by NASA and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Florida.
That led to the award by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of a $500,000 contract to study what is needed for long term projects such as interstellar space missions.
With the money in the bank, Jemison’s group, the Houston-based Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, now has to take on the challenge of building a programme that can last 100 years which hopefully will result in a starship.
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The foundation has teamed with Icarus Interstellar and the Foundation for Enterprise Development.
Adam Crowl, director of Icarus Interstellar, said: ‘Project Icarus will be producing designs and doing basic research with the common goal of building the technical foundation required for eventual successful interstellar flight.
‘Together we’ll be working towards an organization that will last 100 years and produce a viable interstellar technology, with benefits for all humankind.’