Sunday, August 21, 2011

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – DARPA – To Throw Away Money into Outer Space

Don't We Need That Money in Inner Space?

Somewhere in the bowels of the Federal government is an agency called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and apparently it is called DARPA by all of those in the know.  They are credited with helping invent the Internet, so they cannot be all bad.

Their latest project includes starting the process of manned space travel to anther star.  Really, it does.

An artist's rendering of a hypothetical interstellar craft
on a test flight near Jupiter
How Much Does An Artist's Rendering Cost These Days?

In what is perhaps the ultimate startup opportunity, Darpa, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, plans to award some lucky, ambitious and star-struck organization roughly $500,000 in seed money to begin studying what it would take — organizationally, technically, sociologically and ethically — to send humans to another star, a challenge of such magnitude that the study alone could take a hundred years.

One amazing thing is that there are actually people out there who take this sort of thing seriously.

“If you want to have a hobby, why can’t it be designing an interstellar spacecraft?” said Andreas Tziolas, who teaches at the University of Alaska and directs Project Icarus, a worldwide volunteer effort to design a spacecraft that could carry a scientific probe to a nearby star — perhaps Alpha Centauri, 4.4 light-years from here — in a trip that would take less than 100 years.

Well Andres, you can have a hobby.  The Dismal Political Economist has a hobby (guesses, anyone?)  But maybe in your research you can determine why the Federal Government needs to pay for your hobby.  That might be worth a $500,000 grant.

The reaction in NASA

NASA Scientist Befuddled by
DARPA Project

The Darpa plan has generated buzz as well as befuddlement in the labs, pubs, diners and Web sites that ring NASA centers both physically and virtually, where the dream of space travel has never died and where a few stubborn bands of scientists and engineers, fueled by science fiction dreams and prophecies, are designing spacecraft that could cross interstellar space, incubating a technology and preserving it for the day when it will be used.

Ok Deficit Commission, do you see where some government spending could be cut without any loss of benefits to the economy?  Do you?  Can it be more obvious?

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