An Asteroid Starship Proposal: A Reference Plan for a Manned Interstellar Mission

An Asteroid Starship Proposal: A Reference Plan for a Manned Interstellar Mission

Giorgio Gaviraghi (Exponential Design Lab, Milan, Italy, & Montevideo, Uruguay) and Pier Marzocca (Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijstmi.2012070103
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Abstract

The instant asteroid starship is a reference plan for a manned interstellar mission, developed in the wake of the 100YSS program sponsored by DARPA and NASA. This plan consists of a full conceptual design that considers most of the requirements for a manned interstellar mission, including systems and subsystems, strategies, and motivation. For resource utilization, safety considerations, and immediate start of activities, a captured asteroid is engineered as a space settlement. In this article, basic aspects of this plan are summarized; the development is part of a larger effort, sponsored by the group Star Voyager, which should culminate in a reference starship design.
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1. Vision And Motivations

Since the beginning of time, man has wanted to look over the horizon, explore the unknown, and after climbing the first hill, keep moving, extending knowledge and human domain. Man has crossed plains, deserts, rivers, sea and oceans, scaled mountains just to see the other side. Such explorations brought knowledge, advanced technology, and procured wealth. Today, after millennia of long travels, the entire Earth, with the exception of its oceans and internal depths, is known. Space is our next “over the horizon” frontier. The Moon, Mars, and the solar system will be explored and human settlements will expand life, civilization, and culture. We are starting to explore such territories, but we still have an even further “over the horizon” ambition: interstellar space, the Endless Frontier.

Why go to the stars? That’s an old question with many answers; let’s examine the most conventional ones from the positive and negative light.

By keeping advancing scientific progress, interstellar travel will help promote and develop several critical technologies. By exploring other solar systems it will be possible to better define our place in the universe. Interstellar travel can focus scientific research for generations to come and broaden our general horizons.

Interstellar travel can create general enthusiasm and motivate future generations, as happened in the beginning of the space age spurred by the Apollo program. It will also promote scientific education and create a new and endless frontier for those adventurous that want to keep looking forward and over the horizon.

Our economy will expand exponentially, creating several new ones by creating new territories for an expanding human population. Such activity will motivate venture capital initiatives and help obtain high return on investments.

In 1492, Queen Isabel of Spain gave Columbus the necessary financial support to explore the unknown. The funding was not a lot, the crew was composed mostly of convicts, and the three caravels were not much bigger than fishing boats. Despite these limitations, Columbus reached America and changed the course of history. Global empires followed and that small investment was repaid millions of times over.

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