100 Year Starship

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The 100 Year Starship (100YSS) is a joint U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) grant project to a private entity. The goal of the study is not to have the government fund the actual building of spacecraft, but rather to create a business plan that can last 100 years in order to help foster the research needed for interstellar travel.[1][2][3]


The 100 Year Starship effort was announced by NASA Ames Research Center director Pete Worden in a talk at San Francisco's Long Conversation conference in October 2010.[4] In a DARPA press release officially announcing the effort,[5] program manager Paul Eremenko, who served as the study coordinator, explained that the endeavor was meant to excite several generations to commit to the research and development of breakthrough technologies to advance the eventual goal of interstellar space travel.[6]


The 100 Year Starship study is the name of a one-year project to assess the attributes of and lay the groundwork for an organization that can carry forward the 100 Year Starship vision.[7][8] American physician and former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison made the winning bid as leader of her own foundation, the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, partnering with Icarus Interstellar and the Foundation for Enterprise Development.[9][10] The consortium was awarded a $500,000 grant for further work. The new organization maintained the organizational name 100 Year Starship. Neither Icarus Interstellar nor the Foundation for Enterprise Development are any longer involved in 100 Year Starship although initial grant negotiations took place.[11]

100 Year Starship Symposia[edit]

Before the solicitation for the foundation, the 100 Year Starship project was preceded by a conference held in Orlando, Florida, from September 30 to October 2, 2011, co-sponsored by DARPA and NASA, organized by DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office director, David Neyland.[2][3] The conference included presentations on the technology, biology, physics, philosophy, sociology, and economics of interstellar flight.[7] Selected papers from the conference were published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society.

After the Jemison Foundation was named as winner of the solicitation, a second symposium was held in 2012 in Houston. Papers on a number of subjects related to interstellar flight and organization of the foundation were presented.[7] 2013 and 2014 Symposia were held in Houston and a fifth announced for September 2015.[12]

Canopus Awards[edit]

In 2015, the 100 Year Starship project hosted its first annual Canopus Awards for excellence in interstellar writing.[13] The winners were announced Oct 30, 2015 at the Symposium:[14]


The challenges of interstellar travel dwarfs all the accomplishments of manned and unmanned space travel.[15] While the Solar System is huge compared to Earth, it is tiny compared to interstellar distances. Even though exoplanets and new stars are discovered nearly every day, they are vastly beyond the reach of exploration. At the rate of the farthest spacecraft from Earth, Voyager 1, travel to the nearest star would take 70,000 years, so developing a higher speed spacecraft would be necessary.

If the time needed for a mission to reach another star takes longer than a human lifespan, it may require many generations to finish the journey. The many challenges of interstellar travel may include the vessel to remain on course, react to unpredicted events, communicate with people on Earth and on the way, and expand technology capabilities and knowledge. As well as, the accommodation of spacefarers by keeping them happy, engaged, healthy, and working.[15]

The most important challenge is possibly what is unknown. It is impossible to see all the dust and other matter out there that does not emit light, making the knowledge of it all more desirable. Energy is needed to move or propel a vehicle and to power the systems of the spacecraft such as lights, navigation, agriculture, computers, environmental controls, etc. Energy can be generated in multiple ways, but the methods used on Earth such as burning fossil fuels produce little energy, and there is not enough material on Earth for the collecting and storing of the massive amount of energy required to power interstellar travel.[15] Thus, another huge challenge, is to develop the technology required to produce more efficient and effective sources of energy production and storage. Solar energy is an efficient means of generating a good amount of energy when the Sun is close, but not nearly as efficient when far away. So using solar energy is not efficient when travelling between stars.

However a solution for the energy challenge is the use of nuclear sources for rapid interstellar and interplanetary travel. Nuclear sources are far superior to chemical sources in terms of energy generation. First of all, nuclear fission energy generates electricity and heat with the splitting of atoms and is already in use on Earth. Fission is used for the powering of spacecraft instruments, but it must be developed further in order for it to be safe for use in larger systems for launch and people on board. Fusion is another form of nuclear energy that uses the same process that powers the Sun and can generate more energy than fission. This energy can only be controlled and generated in large quantities when using weapons such as thermonuclear bombs at present. Finally, antimatter is the source of the most powerful form of energy generation in the modern day and energy in immense quantities is released with the meeting of matter and antimatter. Very little amounts of antimatter have been generated for short periods of time currently.[15]


The 100 Year Starship was named by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn as one of the 100 most wasteful government spending projects. Coburn specifically cited a 100 Year Starship workshop that included one session, entitled “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?” that debated the implications for Christian philosophy should life be found on other planets.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Overbye, Dennis (August 18, 2011). "Offering Funds, U.S. Agency Dreams of Sending Humans to Stars". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b Chang, Kenneth (October 17, 2011). "Not Such a Stretch to Reach for the Stars". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Belfiore, Michael (September 30, 2011). "To Infinity and Beyond at DARPA’s 100-Year Starship Symposium". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Brandon, John (October 29, 2010). "Is NASA Covering Up the 100-Year Starship?". FoxNews.com. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  5. ^ "DARPA/NASA Seek to Inspire Multigenerational Research and Development". Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Page, Lewis (November 3, 2010). "DARPA, NASA team on '100-Year Starship' project: plan to invent Heinlein style miracle nonprofit first". The Register. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c "100 Year Starship Study™ 2012 Public Symposium" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 27, 2012. 
  8. ^ "The 100-Year Starship Study" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 3, 2011. 
  9. ^ Weinberger, Sharon (5 January 2012). "Former astronaut to lead starship effort". BBC News. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  10. ^ P. Gilster, "100 Year Starship Winner Announced", Centauri Dreams Blog
  11. ^ http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/02/project-icarus-laying-the-plans-for-interstellar-travel/253335/
  12. ^ "100 Year Simposium 2014". 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-25. 
  13. ^ http://100yss.org/news/press
  14. ^ "Locus Online News » Canopus Award Winners". www.locusmag.com. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  15. ^ a b c d 100 Year Starship""100yss". Retrieved 29 March 2014. 
  16. ^ http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2012/nov/15/pentagon-wants-know-did-jesus-die-klingons-too/
  17. ^ http://www.cnbc.com/id/49844670

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