Building the USS Enterprise - a realistic vision?
Wed, 13 Jun 2012 5:00a.m.
By David Farrier
Last week my attention was drawn to the website www.buildtheenterprise.org. The purpose of the website was summed up by this quote from website creator BTE-Dan: "Building the USS Enterprise (the real ship - over the next 20 years)".
As any Star Trek fan will know, the USS Enterprise - or Starship Enterprise as it's otherwise called - is a fictional spacecraft from the Star Trek films and TV series.
What BTE-Dan is proposing is to build a functioning replica of the fictional craft - a project costing billions of dollars, various technological advancements - and a lot of man/woman-power.
At first it sounds like an elaborate joke, but as you browse the website it becomes apparent that perhaps it isn't. I wanted to find out more, and after a few emails back and forth, Dan agreed to be interviewed, even though he'd declined to speak to the press in the past.
I'm sure not sure why he agreed to talk to me; perhaps it was the fact he's noticed a lot of traffic from down under, or maybe he just likes the concept of a New Zealand journalist taking an interest.
BTE-Dan wouldn't give away many personal details, preferring to stick to the ship. I don't really blame him - as an American friend commented to me, "I wonder how long it takes before this guy is either quieted or shut down by the US Department of Space Warfare." He wasn't joking.
I did learn that his first name really is Dan, and he has a pet dog named Tank. As for the rest of our interview - here it is:
First up - and I have to ask this as people want to know: are you 100 percent serious about this, or are you making a point of some kind? Put it this way - if I was president of the US, and the US Congress would go along with my proposal, I would start the Enterprise program tomorrow. So in that sense I am 100 percent serious. Of course I realise that this ever all happening is a very long shot. If some people regard this all as a speculative exercise, that is okay too. But like I said, if I could make it happen I would.
I know from reading your website you've got 30 years-plus of experience in engineering, but what is your background? I have a college degree in engineering and 30 years experience. I have about 20 patents.
Of course none of what is proposed on the BTE site has been reviewed in detail by NASA or space experts. In my day job as a systems engineer I’m an outsider to the space industry. I have simply applied the things I know about to arrive at the conclusion that it's possible to build the Gen1 Enterprise.
However, I think that it will be very difficult for someone to prove that it can't be done. You can argue about how powerful the ion propulsion engines can be, for example, but you can't say that the ship can’t be built using them. So if the engines must be lower in power than I propose, then instead of getting to Mars in 90 days it might take say 120 days. In other words, you can argue about the ship’s performance, cost, and schedule - but given the money and will to see it through, the ship can be built.
Why use the Enterprise as a base for your quest? Because it is a cultural icon, both in the US and internationally.
What do your friends and family say when you explain your mission to them? They think it’s great and get a kick out of it.
So you're leading this. Who else is involved? It’s been only me, but now some volunteers are getting involved. Some people run a companion Facebook page. And I am going create a wiki site where experts in each area of ship design will be involved.
Obviously this is going to cost money. Millions. Billions. How is this thing going to be funded? It requires diverting 1.3 percent of the US federal budget.
Twenty years. On one hand that seems like a lot of time, and in others ways, not much at all. How can you achieve your goal in this time? With US$50 billion per year a lot can happen. Also, there will be a couple of years needed for a feasibility study. So that gives 22 years. Also, there is a backup plan to go up to 33 years if there are problems.
Are you going on board when this thing takes off? If I am still alive, sure.
Like me contacting you, I can only imagine the responses you've gotten to your website and plans - why are the most inspiring, and conversely, annoying responses you've gotten? Responses have been 99 percent positive. People get extremely excited about this. I seemed to have tapped into some deep longing for a desire for a stronger human presence in space.
I have to go here: who's your favourite Star Trek captain and why? Captain Kirk I guess because I grew up watching him.
Are you surprised news of your mission has spread as far as, say, New Zealand? How does that feel?There has been a lot of international attention. Many people have emailed that it should be an international project instead of just based in the US. I will have to think more about that. I am sure it would be international to some extent, so at some point I will revise my site to reflect this. The reason I focused on the US is because I am afraid of US taxpayers are not on board, then the chances of the ship happening go down a lot. It is an expensive program. Regarding New Zealand, I have had a lot of readers from there and many emails too.
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13/06/2012 8:21:36 p.m.
Oh nah i don't think anyone beleaves this craft would go to space or even fly, real crafts shapes would be determined by the inner workings not a popular movie edition.
@ BRUCE, you accuse me of using pretty words but i dont understand what im talking about? varying types um um oh you wont understand, what alpha beta or gamma, whoow thats alot, more like you dont have a clue. Alpha wouldnt even penetrate flesh where as in space there is gamma radiation everywhere because as you cleverly pointed out theres obviously no atmosphere etc, and you need a material as dense as lead to stop it. Its not complicated at all,its just know it all know nothings like BRUCE here have to make it seem it so they look like they understand! But like Einstein said, The most complicated explanations will make sense to a baby if it is correct and properly understood! And lastly you are more then foolish to say something is imposible, especially something like re-entries which nasa and russia have already achieved. Gravitomagnetic fields might also give us the benefit as a shield to gamma radiation aswell as safe speed controlled exits and re-entries!
13/06/2012 6:27:42 p.m.
If humanity does ever build a real starship, the deign will be dictated by the technology. I surely will not look like the Enterprise. How about an Eagle from Space 1999? The Eagle was a far more practical design. The modular construction means it could be used for real space transport of personal, materials etc.
13/06/2012 11:12:55 a.m.
paul gale wrote:
THIS IS OLD NEWS AND ITS JUST WASTE OF MONEY YOU IDIOTS I ASK WILL IT FLY IN SPACE FOR REAL . YOU SILLY PEOPLE OF LOW INTELLIGENCE .
13/06/2012 11:00:52 a.m.
@James, your wording looks pretty, but your obvious understanding is somewhat lacking. First, there are different.. umm what words can I use that you will understand? oh yes. there are varying (types) of radiation. Most are not harmful to humans. Radiation levels at 40 thousand feet above Earth are a thousand times higher than the surface of earth. Have you ever wondered why aircraft passengers, pilots, flight crew etc are not dying in the thousands every day?. thats because of varying degrees of..... oh. never mind. you believe all radiation is harmful, so you won't understand any other explanation. @Shane. getting such a craft into space won't pose too many problems, with modern technology. it is possible.. Re-entry how-ever will pose many many problems. Re-entry would be impossible.
13/06/2012 10:30:16 a.m.
@ SHANE; you might want to look into Gravitomagnetic fields for propolsion! Also radiation will be your biggest risk once in space, and thats a tricky one!
13/06/2012 10:26:30 a.m.
Kin Chang wrote:
That's wonderful that people might go to space, what a dream, I have been dreaming for 40 odd years. I would like to travel out to space if I have a chance, because Earth is so boring at the moment and wars and fighting, killing everywhere, I call this kind of people old head, ( mind )nothing new,' LOL'.I better go out to space and have a look out there rather than watching people killing each other, what a chaotic world we have. If I can find another planet to live peacefully, I definitely move to that planet and have new adventure as we are heading to a complete new generation and advance research for live and beyond as our universe are so vast. This is my dream, but I'm not qualified because I have little education as all this plan are usually, PHD, engineer and so on professional. Hope for the best future.
13/06/2012 9:29:44 a.m.
We need more people in the world like this, i have made afew plans my self to make a spaceship, but not as big as what this guy is planning, my is a one to two person shutlle and at this point it only would have basic life support systems, i would be interested in how he plans to get it off earth, it would be easyer to build it in space.
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