Earlier this month, a NASA researcher mentioned the "Hundred Year Starship," a plan to develop research and technology for one-way human space missions. But since then, all parties have been surprisingly mum on the subject. Why all the secrecy?
During an event in San Francisco earlier this month, Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center, mentioned that Ames is working on a "Hundred Year Starship" program. The program is aimed at developing technology to create a starship, one that could allow for human colonization of other planets. NASA has invested $100,000 in the project and DARPA has kicked in $1 million; Worden says he is looking for private investors — "certain billionaires" — to help fund development of an eventual starship.
Worden describes the project in the video below:
"The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds," he explained. "Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired." [Kurzweil]
But since Worden's talk, there's been little official mention of the project. DARPA released a press release earlier this week, but it offered no information beyond what Worden already said. Fox News has reported that they repeatedly scheduled interviews with Worden, but the interview was postponed twice before being canceled altogether.
So why isn't NASA talking? It may be a question of politics. The type of manned mission Worden is talking about would be one-way, with astronauts settling on Mars — or heading even father from home — with no intention of returning to Earth. Although plenty of astronauts have said they would volunteer for a one-way mission, perhaps NASA and DARPA anticipate some public backlash and are looking to delay that conversation. After all, according to Worden, it wasn't that long ago that space colonization was a verboten topic even within NASA.
But even without more details, the cat is already out of the bag. The US space program is looking to develop technology for human colonization of space, and they're seeking private money to do it.