Star Trek Debate: How close are we to exploring the galaxy?


How close are we to having a working Enterprise? How close are we to exploring the galaxy?

ICYMI: The best ships of the Federation

The fundamental reason Star Trek has been so successful over the past 50 years is because of the message that it gives us. It is a message of hope; a hope that many years from now, humans and anyone else we might meet can coexist in peace and prosperity. But how close are we to having a Federation of planets? How close are we to exploring beyond our solar system and will it happen within my lifetime?

It could be a great year for spaceflight and it looks like there is one figure single handedly dragging our spaceflight ambitions forward; Elon Musk. Space X is doing wonders for the industry and not just because of the technology. Space X is doing something NASA hasn’t done for a very long time; it is inspiring people. It is getting people interested in spaceflight again and this is the crucial factor in advancing our space travel plans.

Check out the space launch timetable here

So briefly, what are Space X doing?

The bosses at Space X think that the way to get us exploring the galaxy is to make space travel cheaper. The most expensive thing when it comes to getting a rocket into space isn’t actually the fuel; it’s the technology and the hardware behind the launches that costs the money. Their emphasis is to use first stage boosters to get payloads into space and then land the boosters for further use. Despite a few failed attempts, they have nailed the landing of their last 2 boosters on their remote drone ship at sea.

They have 3 launches scheduled for June, launching satellites for private companies. They might use one of the boosters they landed and this would certainly create a big buzz around their efforts. They already undercut most of their rivals and reusing boosters would bring the costs down even further.

What’s next?

Elon Musk’s goal has always been to get us to Mars. He thinks that humanity should be a multi-planetary species, as a form of insurance against a global catastrophe. He has made it clear that he thinks Space X can get people on mars before NASA. He said recently that he wants to send a module to Mars as early as 2018 and NASA have offered technical support in return for data. They are undergoing certification with the US government in an attempt to be able to launch people into space and they are expected to pass this year or next. The future looks very bright for Space X.

Is anyone else getting involved?

Arianespace, Blue origin and United Launch Alliance are all trying to get stuff into space and most have plans to launch new ships into space over the next few years. NASA is working hard, the Russians are interested in space again and the Chinese want a moon base. The Japanese are doing their own work and the ESA have projects in mind but there is one factor limiting everyone; MONEY. Since the global financial crash of 2008, governments don’t want to pump money into risky space operations and it will take public opinion in order to change that. As soon as people start getting excited about space travel again, budgets will go up and plans will arise.

So how close are we to making an Enterprise?

The truth is, unfortunately, that we are a long way from having a functioning Enterprise. Gizmodo ran through a few calculations a while back and estimated the Enterprise would cost around $478,947,711,160 – 478 BILLION DOLLARS. And, much of the technology in their estimations is still in the theoretical stage. Whilst we are making breakthroughs, we are a long way from having fully functioning star ships and warp drive.

A conservative time estimate?

With private companies launching people into space over the next few years, Mars missions planned and other space activity happening in the very near future, it does look promising. I think that a good time frame would be 50 years before we have ships that are capable of travelling around our solar system and exploring. Another 50 years and we will have left our solar system. A few hundred years’ time and we might encounter a race of cybernetic organisms who will tell us that ‘resistance is futile!’

But, whatever happens in space depends on us. If we keep destroying the planet by using fossil fuels we may never see the day our species lives on another planet. If we blow each other to smithereens using nuclear weapons then we certainly won’t see the launch of an Enterprise-style ship. If we keep using pesticides and destroying the bees, chopping down trees and polluting the rivers, we certainly won’t see a future that we hoped for. It is up to all of us.

Recycle – Cutback on fuel usage – Try renewable energy if possible

Next: Fantasy crew for the new Star Trek TV series

How long do you think it will take for us to reach the stars? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments below.