Simon “Pete” Worden, the director of NASA’s Ames Center, has announced that we may be closer to interstellar travel than we thought.
All well and good. But what I want to know is how a guy named Simon ended up with the nickname Pete. You may find this hard to believe, but no one at NASA would respond to my calls when I left that question on several voice mails at 4:00 this morning. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll be getting another one of those pesky restraining orders.
I don’t know about you, but I frame mine.
In keeping with the fine tradition of trotting out projects that aren’t completely thought out and have no money even if they were, Worden’s press conference offered details that ranged between vague and contradictory. However, since we’re only talking about a few billion dollars at this point, no one’s concerned.
Jason Rhian, of the National Examiner, took notes and was kind enough to share with the class.
The Ames Director went on to expound how these efforts will seek to emulate the fictional starships seen on the television show Star Trek. He stated that the public could expect to see the first prototype of a new propulsion system within the next few years. Given that NASA’s FY 2011 Budget has had to be revised and has yet to go through Appropriations, this time estimate may be overly-optimistic.
One of the ideas being proposed is a microwave thermal propulsion system. This form of propulsion would eliminate the massive amount of fuel required to send crafts into orbit. The power would be “beamed” to the space craft. Either a laser or microwave emitter would heat the propellant, thus sending the vehicle aloft. This technology has been around for some time, but has yet to be actually applied in a real-world vehicle.
Okay, so they’re going to use a technology that could possibly fry all of the crew on the ship based on a hunch from a guy who’s never actually done this before. What could possibly go wrong?
On the other hand, if they do ever get this right, you and I know that Hippos In Space will be coming to a TV near you.