How to save the space program? Build the Starship 'Enterprise'

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There's no shortage of ideas on how we can revitalize our flagging space endeavors. Neil deGrasse Tyson says we should invest in NASA. Planetary Resources plans to mine asteroids. And one systems and electrical engineer wants us to build the Starship Enterprise by 2032. BuildTheEnterprise, launched last week, is an audacious call to construct a working version of the first-generation USS Enterprise within 20 years. The proposed ship would have an artificial gravity wheel, three ion propulsion engines, and nuclear reactors; it would be able to reach Mars within 90 days. The author, known as "BTE-Dan," isn't an expert in the field, but he's put together a huge wealth of information on current research that could be used to build the ship, how much it might cost, and what would have to be changed or scrapped to turn Star Trek's vision into reality.

Building directly from science fiction is not necessarily a good idea — the differences between what's required for compelling storytelling and what works in real life are vast. But that's in many ways beside his point. "We need a far grander vision of what we should be doing to get humans up into space," says the author. "If we are going to ask taxpayers to pay billions of dollars for projects to put Americans into space, it should be for an idea that they can relate to and be inspired by." So far, his site has apparently prompted quite a response: it's been intermittently overloaded for most of the weekend, and he's already begun fielding questions on his blog.

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