|The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA's Ames Research Center announced a new feasibility study to determine what it would take to launch long-distance, manned space flights to Mars. (NASA)
Humankind may finally walk upon the Red Planet - in about 100 years or so.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA's Ames Research Center jointly announced this week a new feasibility study to determine just what it would take to launch long-distance, manned space flights a century from now.
"The 100-Year Starship study is about more than building a spacecraft or any one specific technology," said Paul Eremenko, DARPA co-ordinator for the study.
"We endeavour to excite several generations to commit to the research and development of breakthrough technologies and cross-cutting innovations across a myriad of disciplines such as physics, mathematics, biology, economics, and psychological, social, political and cultural sciences, as well as the full range of engineering disciplines to advance the goal of long-distance space travel, but also to benefit mankind."
At a conference in San Francisco last week, the director of NASA's Ames Research Center in California, Simon Warden, said the goal of the study is to send astronauts to Mars or beyond, but the trip would be one-way.
"The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds," Worden is quoted as saying during the event. "Twenty years ago you whispered that in dark bars and got fired."
Worden estimated a one-way trip to Mars would cost $10 billion US. The 100-Year Starship study is being funded with $1 million from DARPA and $100,000 from NASA.
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a Washington State University geobiologist, and Paul Davies, an Arizona State University cosmologist, penned an article earlier this month in the Journal of Cosmology, promoting the idea that astronauts should settle permanently on the Red Planet.
"A mission to Mars is technologically feasible but hugely expensive, requiring enormous financial and political commitments. A creative solution to this dilemma would be a one-way human mission to Mars in place of the manned return mission that remains stuck on the drawing board," the article says.