Nancy Atkinson of space and astronomy news site Universe Today picked up on a website launched by BTE-Dan on May 7, which provides a thorough overview of how the U.S. could build the Starship Enterprise in just twenty years.
His site includes layouts of the proposed ship's size and specs, potential missions it could undertake, a schedule outlining its development and even a backup plan should the ship's creation be thrown off schedule.
According to the site, the USS Starship Enterprise would be able to reach Mars in just 90 days. Compare the Enterprise's travel time to that of the last rover NASA sent to Mars: The Curiosity was launched last November and is scheduled to land in August, nine months after it was sent off.
In addition, as Atkinson points out, the ship would serve as a spaceship, a space station and a spaceport for up to a thousand people and could eventually go on missions to the Moon, Mars, Venus and beyond.
BTE-Dan hopes to have a USS Starship Enterprise built in 20 years and ready to travel to bring humans to Mars by its third mission. Those plans are awfully ambitious by comparison with NASA's estimates. At the moment, NASA's Mars Exploration program is gathering data in preparation to send humans to Mars with the rover Opportunity, two satellites orbiting the planet and the rover Curiosity. President Obama set a vague deadline -- "mid 2030s" -- for sending humans to Mars' orbit, with a landing even further out.
"By 2025 we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first ever crew missions beyond the moon into deep space," Obama said in 2010. "By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to earth, and a landing on Mars will follow."
Founder of space manufacturing company SpaceX, Elon Musk, on the other hand, has vowed recently that the company will send people to Mars in as few as 10 years, reports the New York Times.
So how much would a Starship Enterprise cost? No more than $1 trillion spent over 20 years, according to BTE-Dan.
Regardless of whether or not this concept could become a reality, it seems BTE-Dan's Enterprise plans have been getting lots of attention in the last week: He explained in a May 13 blog post that the site's traffic jumped from 100 visitors to 42,000 visitors from last Tuesday to this past Saturday. And, as of yesterday afternoon, his site saw 100,000 visitors over this past weekend alone; the engineer tweeted:
Goin' viral means? I think I know now. 100k visitors over Sat and Sunday. A freak web event or sustainable?— BTE-Dan (@BTEDan) May 13, 2012
What do you think about his ideas? Do you think it would be possible for the U.S. to build this ship in 20 years? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
WATCH the USS Starship Enterprise's gravity wheel:
[Hat Tip: io9]
The bloon, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/24/bloon-space-balloon-pictures-video_n_935415.html" target="_hplink">a helium-filled balloon</a>, will take a capsule with as many as six people to 118,000 feet -- not quite outer space, but near space. The company expects to make its first commercial flight in 2013. The cost? €110,000, or about $147,000.
NASA announced in September that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/14/nasa-space-launch-system-sls_n_962051.html" target="_hplink">it's developing the Space Launch System (SLS)</a>, a heavy-lift rocket that will one day take humans farther than ever before. The 34-story rocket will carry six astronauts aboard the <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/mpcv/" target="_hplink">Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle</a>. <a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2392960,00.asp" target="_hplink">According to PC Mag</a>, NASA will spend $18 billion over the next five years developing the SLS. With <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/14/space-shuttle-program-qa-_n_861994.html" target="_hplink">the retirement of the space shuttle program</a>, NASA currently pays Russia around $60 million per person to get American astronauts into space. Remember, there's still time <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/15/nasa-to-hire-new-astronauts_n_1095686.html" target="_hplink">to apply to be an astronaut</a>.
Over 450 "astronauts" have already booked a $200,000 spot on Sir Richard Branson's SpaceShipTwo, a craft that will take passengers to an altitude of 110 km (68.3 miles). Branson hopes to begin commercial flights in 2013, but that date could get pushed back. "We want to be sure we've really tested the craft through and through before turning it over to the astronauts who bought tickets to go up," he said in October, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/18/richard-branson-dedicates_n_1017226.html" target="_hplink">according to the Associated Press</a>. "If it takes a bit longer, we'll take a little bit longer." Passengers will experience about five minutes of weighlessness during the 2 1/2 hour sub-orbital spaceflight.
In December 2010, SpaceX <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/16/spacex-international-space-station_n_927916.html" target="_hplink">became the first private company</a> to have a spacecraft re-enter orbit, <a href="http://www.spacex.com/press.php?page=20101208" target="_hplink">when its Dragon spacecraft</a> orbited earth twice and then landed in the Pacific Ocean. Next stop? The International Space Station. A representative from SpaceX told HuffPost that a Dragon capsule carrying supplies to the ISS will launch in early 2012. It will be the first commercial company to berth a spacecraft with the space station. But you're going to have to be a NASA astronaut to hitch a ride to space with SpaceX, as the company doesn't have any plans in the near future for space tourism.
Blue Origin, the notoriously-secretive company underwritten by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, is developing both orbital and sub-orbital launch vehicles to take people into space. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/03/blue-origin-spaceship-fai_n_947731.html" target="_hplink">The company recently released video</a> of a test of its New Shepard rocket, a three-person capsule and launch vehicle that the company is planning to use to take space tourists "to the edge of space." The cost and timeline of the completion of the New Shepard is unclear. <a href="http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nasa-awards-next-set-of-commercial-crew-development-agreements-120113774.html" target="_hplink">In April, Blue Origin was awarded</a> $22 million from NASA "to advance commercial crew space transportation system concepts and mature the design and development of elements of their systems, such as launch vehicles and spacecraft."
Space Adventures, a company that has sent seven private citizens to the International Space Station, <a href="http://www.spaceadventures.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.viewnews&newsid=791" target="_hplink">announced in 2010</a> that it would partner with Armadillo Aerospace to provide suborbital spaceflights. The <a href="http://www.spaceadventures.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=suborbital.Vehicle_Design" target="_hplink">two-passenger rocket</a> will land and take-off vertically and allow for a 360-degree view of the earth below. According to Jaunted, the rocket will travel 62 miles above the earth. <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2010/05/13/space-adventures-undercuts-virgin-galactic-announces-100-000/" target="_hplink">Engadget reports</a> that a flight to space will set you back $102,000.
Of course, you'll need somewhere to put your bags once you're in space. Orbital Technologies, a Russian company, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/21/space-hotel-pictures-video_n_931951.html" target="_hplink">is building a space hotel</a> where 7 guests will be able to dine on veal cheeks and wild mushrooms at 217 miles above the earth. The company is planning to open the hotel in 2016. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/19/russia-space-tourism-idUSLDE77F0PF20110819" target="_hplink">According to Reuters</a>, a five-day stay will set you back a cool $1 million.