Remember how you saw your first 'Star Trek'-style flip phone in the '90s and thought it was just a matter of time before we would all be yelling "beam me up Scotty" and getting instantly transported to work? Well, forget it, that's not happening any time soon. But one engineer believes we can build a working Starship Enterprise within 20 years, and he's laid out the physics, technology, and financial requirements to make it happen.
Is it possible? We're no scientists, but the engineer, BTE Dan, makes a compelling case (the BTE stands for "Build The Enterprise", naturally). The Gen-1 Starship Enterprise would be longer than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and would feature an Argon-fuelled ion drive, an on-board laser for searing through the moon's ice crust, and a centripetal-force gravity wheel, all for slightly less than $1 Trillion.
Dan even has a plan for the U.S. Government to raise the money, via tax increases and budget cuts in defense, health and human services, among other departments. All that's missing are the warp drive, photon torpedoes and, yes, the matter transporter. Not to mention any sort of social safety net, but the astronauts won't care because they'll be in SPACE!
So is BTE Dan a visionary with a bold plan to revitalize space exploration? Or an enthustiastic techno-geek with too much time on his hands? Check out buildtheenterprise.org, and decide for yourself (the site's been crashing a lot, so you may have to be patient - looks like Dan's struck a chord). In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the proposed gravity wheel in action to whet your appetite:
Related stories on Strombo.com: