A new endeavor (no pun intended) is aiming to build the USS Enterprise within the next 20 years. The project is the brainchild of systems and electrical engineer “BTE – Dan”.
The specs of the real life (or modern) enterprise are as follows:
“The real ship” would include a magnetically suspended gravity fly wheel to help propel its 55 million pound frame. Its main engine and reactor power would be 1.5 gigawatts respectively and would allow the ship to travel to the moon in 3 days and to Mars in 90.
But how much would it cost? According to Dan, over a 20 year span, less than a trillion dollars.
According to the engineer, that’s a small price to pay given how much the United States has put off its missions into space:
America is an affluent nation with 27% of the world’s GDP. We can afford to dream much bigger…We need to think in terms of a sustainable human presence in space.
From this point of view, a mission to take humans to Mars would simply fit into our human-supporting infrastructure in space where humanity has a permanent presence. We need a profoundly different strategy. And in fact there is something entirely different to consider – and it’s sitting right in front of us – inspired by our science fiction.
Could science fiction INSPIRE us to create REAL advancements in our society?
From a fan standpoint, the natural question may be, why not? We’ve discussed how much science should influence science fiction, if a series does its job, it will introduce realistic concepts and elements which translate to the real world.
Why would we be reluctant or ignore the possibilities of physically creating them?
Many episodics, from procedurals to crime dramas to sitcoms, are meant to mirror society -- why can’t the inverse be possible? Why can’t real life mirror an episodic?
'Twilight Zone' creator Rod Sterling is famous for stating:
"Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible."
Perhaps it's time we re-define our understanding of what is and isn’t probable? Is it science fiction's role in making this happen?
Brian Johnson’s original Eagle transporter inspired the designs of countless other space ships, most prominently those of the Star Wars series.
The Eagle had four nuclear powered engines which allowed it to surpass the speed of light and travel a distance of several light days. Given what we know about current forms of nuclear propulsion, how possible could this be within the next 20 years? 30 years? By 2099?
Before the United States made its launch to the moon, Project Nerva was put in place to take 150 humans to Mars in 124 days via nuclear powered rocket ships (i.e. Nuclear Engine Rocket Vehicle Applications). The program was deemed a success despite it inevitably losing political and subsequent financial support.
But the technology proved to be possible, perhaps not at 15% faster than light speed or travel in and out of planets atmospheres within interplanetary range, but it provided a foundation for future NASA missions.
The most audacious concept came in the form of the “interstellar ark” Super Orion, which was reportedly thought up to combat The Bozanian Empire (a “Skull City” the United States had “intercepted” signals from).
At 8 million tons and roughly a third of a mile wide, the ship would travel at roughly 8 to 10% of the speed of light.
The cost of generating and building a structure like the Orion was estimated in the 360 billion range (in the 1950's), which in today’s dollars is about equal to the United States national debt. The huge costs and the tremendous power flow needed to generate such a thrust would be tantamount to nuking a small city, not to mention severely damaging the o-zone layer.
So given this, is the idea of turning fictional elements into reality a matter of feasibility and/or cost effective resources?
Or is it a lack of imagination and/or desire that is to blame for keeping our feet on the ground?
Is it too much to ask science-fiction to re-define the boundaries of probability? Or does the idea in and of itself go against the basic principles of the genre.