With what has to be one of the most extraordinary and geekiest ideas ever conceived, there’s a group of people out there putting a very real amount of hope into plans to construct a full-scale, working Starship Enterprise. The time scale needed? Around 20 years. The cost? A staggering $1 trillion. Totally worth it.
But as crazy as the idea of building such a humongous spaceship based on a science-fiction staple sounds, it's an idea at least partially grounded in some form of logic. According to the site www.buildtheenterprise.org –- which appears to be the starting point for the insanely ambitious petition to get the project off the ground –- we already have the technological reach to build the first generation of the Enterprise, at least one without warp speed.
But if you find the absence of the ability to travel at 140 times the speed of light a little disheartening, then find solace in the promise that the existence of the Enterprise would potentially mean a “permanent and viable foothold in space” and one that the project enthuses could “provide a giant leap forward for the human race when it comes to the task of establishing a permanent infrastructure in space.” Because let's face it, why look beyond our own galaxy when there is incredible potential in exploration within our own solar system? Heck, we haven't even set foot on the red planet yet.
“The Enterprise would be three things in one: a spaceship, a space station, and a spaceport,” the project's description reads. “The ship can be similar in size and will have the same look as the USS Enterprise that we know from Star Trek science fiction. It turns out that this ship configuration is quite functional,” it continues, broaching the subject of making the mind-boggling idea a real-world thing of epic proportions. And I mean epic proportions – the Gen1 USS Enterprise is huge, coming in at 0.6 miles in length and “bigger than any craft or building ever constructed” by man. It's not just the potential capacity of people on board that the Enterprise's size needs to cater for however, it also needs to house a magnetically-suspended gravity wheel of 0.3 miles in diameter that creates 1g gravity through its rotation, it must be able to dock and refuel multiple smaller spacecraft, and have the capacity to haul huge cargo into space.
Featuring an ion propulsion engine powered by a 1.5GW nuclear reactor, those behind the plans reckon the ship would be able to get to Mars in just 90 days and Earth's moon in just three, and imagine the possibility of the Enterprise being used to hop from planet to planet dropping off robotic probes; to map and explore planet surfaces; take humans to Mars; and haul materials mined from asteroids -– kind of like that being approached by the James Cameron-backed Planetary Resources -- back to our own fair planet, something that could eventually add trillions to our GDP.
Alluding to the kind of funding plans that could eventually be used to finance the $1 trillion project in the 'Funding & Politics' section of the site, the site's creators are dreaming big for the future, including making this just the first Enterprise in a long-line of cross-generational builds - they plan to make one new USS Enterprise spaceship per generation, every 33rd year, though the first is on an “accelerated schedule of 20 years.”
“It becomes a ship right out of our futuristic dreams. Yet, strangely, it's a dream we are fully capable of constructing in the real world provided that we set our minds to it,” the site reads. Make. It. Happen.
Sign the USS Enterprise build petition here.