Tuesday, 15 May 2012

To go boldly (as the adage actually should be)

I know, a little pedantic on the English grammar above, but infinitives were not designed to be split.

Anyway, as well as Victoriana and all things steampunk, you know I love retrofuturism, and I really love space exploration.  The whole Prometheus build up has me so excited I think I'm going to explode.  However, that's not what this posting is about.

This posting is about something dear to my heart. It's about getting off this rock. It's about pushing the boundaries, and getting out there.  It's about picking up the baton laid down with the end of the Shuttle programme. It's about all the broken promises made when I was a child, about my promised holidays on the moon, and my house robot, and all the other stuff we were told would be everyday by the turn of the (last) century. It's about the insane-but-oh-so-could-be-done notion of one self-styled BTE-Dan, whose adage so mirrors my own beliefs on this subject:
"As the second decade of the 21st century rolls along – isn’t it time to expect something much grander for our human endeavors into space? Isn’t it time for something that will truly inspire us again while at the same time definitively giving humanity a sustainable, permanent presence in space?" 

Dan works as a systems and electrical engineer, and is "lucky that in my role I often get to explore new ideas and new technologies when working toward the development of new products."  As he puts it, his notion is a natural progression from this work.

What is this notion?  Well, it's groundbreaking, and certainly visionary.  Put simply, it is to build the Star Trek Enterprise. Now.  Not in 2245, as per the accepted chronology of the Trek Universe. Now. Using current technical knowledge, Dan envisages the building of the largest contruction ever undertaken by humankind, with the aim of completing the first 'Gen1 Enterprise' in 20 years.

Dan has gone into meticulous detail about the specifications:

Powered by three ion propulsion engines which will provide constant acceleration, the Enterprise would be the first in a line, to be replaced every 33 years as technology advances.  Gravity of 1g, the same as on Earth, he argues, is possible inside the 1st generation Enterprise by using a magnetically suspended wheel rotating at 2.0 revolutions per minute.

"As proposed, the Gen1 USS Enterprise will take two decades to develop from the start of full funding to full operational deployment. The first nine years are used for intensive research to find the most suitable technologies. As part of the research during these nine years several different ship designs are created using large design teams of many scientists and engineers. The ship designs are done to pursue a “learn as you go” approach for refining ideas about how to accommodate the various component technologies being researched.  
A total of five ships are designed during the research phase. How much detail is included in each of these ship designs will be a judgment call to be made by project managers and lead technologists. The idea is to use these five designs as tools to bring to the surface issues that might appear during later more mature versions of the Enterprise design. This will enable the creation of detailed lists of the Pros and Cons of each technology regarding its suitability for putting this technology into the actual final ship."
And how would this mammoth project be funded?  Well, Dan proposes that

"the US dedicate .27% of its GDP each year to the NASA Enterprise program... To get some sense of what spending .27% of the GDP each year will mean, consider that between 1963 and 1972, during the Apollo era, the US spent on average .50% of GDP per year as shown in the center column in the table to the right. This is about double the level of spending proposed for funding the Enterprise program. .27% of GDP will be about $40 billion for the year 2012."

Actually, that's not bad, considering what the US has spent on Afghanistan and Iraq - "[b]etween 2009 and 2010, average monthly Department of Defence spending for Afghanistan grew from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a month" according to the Congressional Research Service report.  A brand spanking new starship would cost less than the War on Terror, and probably get us much further - building the Enterprise would likely still get us to Mars quicker than the current plans from NASA...

Check out BTE-Dan's website for more details, including how to help! Up until last week, no-one knew about his ideas or his website.  Now, everyone should!


Anonymous said...

To be even more pedantic, infinitives ARE designed to be split, because English is a Germanic language. The rule comes from a 19th century Latinization of English, and it never made any sense whatsoever. (You can't split a Latin infinitive, because it's only one word.) Splitting the infinitive is quite natural in Germanic grammar, and English is no exception.

Dr Damon Molinarius said...

Thanks - nice to see the notary of King Bela taking an interest. I love pedantry! Whether infinitives should be split or not is apparently the main subject of this piece, and not the possibility of developments in humanity's space exploration as I thought. While English is indeed Germanic in structure, it has obviously been heavily influenced by Latin and Romance languages, as well as Hindi and Afican languages. It was all so much simpler with Old English - curse Middle English! I have no doubt we'll have as much ease understanding C25 English speakers as we do Middle English, especially with the language diversifying across the world. English is constantly evolving, as it should as a live language, but don't get me started on apostrophes!

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