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Build the Enterprise
May 14, 2012 8:39 AM   Subscribe

One week ago, anonymous engineer "BTE Dan" put up a website called Build the Enterprise. He envisions a $1 trillion spaceship modeled on the USS Enterprise. There are highly detailed plans for constructing and funding it. It quickly spread all over the news to GizMag, DailyMail and other places. The BTE website is slow to load, while waiting why not Build the Starship Enterprise from useless office supplies.
posted by stbalbach (35 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
We should come up with some annual TMTOTH awards.
posted by Melismata at 8:42 AM on May 14, 2012


The office supply Enterprise is so very awesome. I'm in awe.
posted by jb at 8:47 AM on May 14, 2012


This is hare-brained to an extent previously unseen in trekkiedom (if that's even a word).

The FAQ is particularly interesting.

When completed, and given the missions that it will be capable of doing, it will be as inspirational as putting astronauts on the moon in 1969.

But it will take 90 days to get to the moon. Apollo 11 took 3 days.

A proposed round-trip time frame for a manned mission to Mars is 450 days. Assuming spacecraft technology hasn't improved speed since 1969, multiplying 450 by 30 gives us around 36 years.

By all means, make it so.
posted by flippant at 9:05 AM on May 14, 2012


Turns out that was 90 days to Mars.

I'll get my coat.

still a bad idea for numerous reasons
posted by flippant at 9:08 AM on May 14, 2012


It's dead Jim.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:08 AM on May 14, 2012


I just read Mary Roach's Packing for Mars, which is mostly about how terrible going to space is, but damn if I'll let that stop me from trying.

Put a casino in ten-forward and this thing will pay for itself.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:10 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the GizMag link:

However, Dan claims that the Gen1 would be capable of reaching Mars from Earth within ninety days, and reaching the Moon in three

Where are you getting 90 days?
posted by dubold at 9:10 AM on May 14, 2012


oops, crosspost, sorry.
posted by dubold at 9:10 AM on May 14, 2012


Floppy disk Enterprise.
posted by mazola at 9:10 AM on May 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


KHAAAAAAAAN......

I'm thinking this plan is right up there with my sekrit plans for assembling plastic casts of submarine hulls, in orbit, for use as starships...
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:10 AM on May 14, 2012


He envisions a $1 trillion spaceship modeled on the USS Enterprise. There are highly detailed plans for constructing and funding it.

Ok, but: the design of the Enterprise, to stay true to canon, is predicated on those two big nacelles hanging off the back being massive field generators. The people are all in the disc in the front because being near the cells in the back is supposedly really bad for you. That design makes less than zero sense for the throw-mass-out-the-back inertia-based drives we use now. Rockets are rocket-shaped for a good reason.
posted by mhoye at 9:11 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Link's dead, so I have to ask: which version of the Enterprise is he looking to build? It damn well better be the movie-refitted TOS version, because for $1 trillion I want some art deco in space.
posted by COBRA! at 9:11 AM on May 14, 2012


"Assuming spacecraft technology hasn't improved speed since 1969"
Aside from the number error, the point of this sort of thing is that it provides constant acceleration. A rocket to the Moon has relatively short bursts of acceleration followed by basically coasting along the trajectory.
A constant acceleration might lose out in a short journey against something with a short burst to higher speed, but it wins out over a large enough distance.
posted by edd at 9:14 AM on May 14, 2012


No, quit having dumb ass nerdgasms.

Get real. Build the the Nautilus-X.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:19 AM on May 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


I was wondering what possible reason he could have for building a ship in the form of the USS Enterprise. From a cached version of the FAQ:

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. The general form and characteristics of the spaceship should be inspirational – and building the first generation of USS Enterprise would surely be inspirational.

Given the inspiration provided even by the cramped tin can aesthetic of the Apollo era, I'm thinking BTE Dan might be putting his cart before his warp core.
posted by audi alteram partem at 9:27 AM on May 14, 2012


This guy should know that if you build the Enterprise, some big threat to earth will suddenly appear. Of course, being the only ship in range, it will have to go and deal with it - BUT NO! It's a fake! This sucker doesn't even have warp drive! How can it save Earth?!

The threat approaches -- Enterprise opens fire with its "phasers" (old laser pen pointers). The mysterious intruder disappears, giggling to itself. Well done Enterprise!
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 9:49 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


First I demand a proof-of-concept in Kerbal Space Program.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:53 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's five year mission, to refill the salad bar. To seek out loose slots and non-smoking table games. To go slowly where no one has gone before!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:54 AM on May 14, 2012


I want to go. I don't care how long it takes, just let me use the holodeck whenever I want.

But I don't want that wimpy Picard to be in charge. I want Kirk. 7/9 and T'Pol can come, too.

No Ferengis.
posted by mule98J at 10:02 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't trust anyone to build a spaceship who can't build a damn website properly.
posted by inturnaround at 10:05 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Assuming spacecraft technology hasn't improved speed since 1969, multiplying 450 by 30 gives us around 36 years.

Well, to some extent it has imoroved significantly (ion drives are quite efficient) but it's not clear to me that any mature technology could do better for human exploration of the solar system than a 1965 Orion.

Orions were designed for nuclear pulse propulsion. They'd throw a micronuke out the back door, let it bounce a big hit of plasma off a thick copper/steel pusher-plate, let a gigantic shock absorber cushion the hit, then do it again three seconds later. It was surprisingly sane. Nuclear bombs aren't magical death-rays; early tests showed that the pusher plate mightn't have suffered any ablation at all if it had a thin layer of protective oil on it. You'd want to have a thick layer of lead shielding, but with that much thrust the weight wouldn't have been a problem. Unlike an Apollo-style chemical powered spacecraft it didn't need to be made of made of gold foil and aluminum. Having a drive that powerful means the thing could quite literally have been built like a battleship (heavy steel, bulkheads). The estimate was that on a lunar mission the 4000 ton version could have taken a crew of 150 and a small moonbase. There was serious talk of sending one to the moons of Jupiter in the early 1970s.

They had a little 125 ton baby-Orion design that was built to launch from orbit, boosted to LEO by a Saturn-V. It would have been inefficient at that small size, but still far more powerful than any other available option at that time. 30 ton payload to the surface of moon with a crew of 8. NASA's plan for an Orion Mars shot involved 4-9 Saturn-V launches to build a bigger ship in orbit. It would have been ~200 days to Mars, 50 days in Martian orbit then 200 days back again. There was serious talk of missions to the moons of Saturn and/or Jupiter.

The even larger scale plans involved ground launched versions, 4000 tons on the small end. the 4000 ton model would have had a fairly serious fallout problem (about 1% of annual 1961 era above-ground nuclear testing just to get to low earth orbit, which is to say extremely bad), but it was designed to bring an 800 ton payload to Martian orbit. The bigger the ship, the more efficient it would have been. Freeman Dyson was taking about interplanetary colony ships the size of small cities designed to hit 0.1c.

MagOrion is the best update to the concept so far, but seeing as it requires a 2km diameter superconducting ring it's still quite a bit more hypothetical than the old fashioned design. Minimag Orion would be great if they could get it to work. The plan there is to use a Z-pinch induced pure fusion pulse for propulsion. That would make it possible to use much smaller pulses and would require no plutonium. It's realistic near future technology.

As far as I'm aware the closest tech we've got to Star Trek is still Orion, but I think I'm glad we never launched one
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:06 AM on May 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


It damn well better be the movie-refitted TOS version, because for $1 trillion I want some art deco in space.

The images used on the GizMag link seem to be the Constitution Refit. It's my favorite, too.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:17 AM on May 14, 2012


It's a shame things need to get out of the gravity well, or this would be a swell idea.
posted by dethb0y at 10:37 AM on May 14, 2012


things need to get out of the gravity well

I think it'd be okay if they just did it competently. I'd even take fair-to-middling.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:46 AM on May 14, 2012


inturnaround: "I don't trust anyone to build a spaceship who can't build a damn website properly."

"You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn't it?"
posted by zarq at 10:52 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a Kickstarter waiting to happen.
posted by bendy at 11:02 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can it be built before mankind has harnessed GNDN technology?
posted by Guy Innagorillasuit at 11:17 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I notice his plan calls for a 100MW death ray laser but explicitly precludes bringing along mining or manufacturing gear. I'm beginning to think his plan is not entirely practical.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:43 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am still pissed about the Star Trek reboot's idea that the original Enterprise was built somewhere in the cornfields of Iowa instead of up in space. I get it, all the better for Rebellious Kirk to gaze upon while he's motorcycling and being rebellious, but STILL.
posted by incessant at 12:06 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's ok. Literally nothing about that movie made sense anyway.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:54 PM on May 14, 2012


Has anyone been able to access it yet, or has the site succumbed to visitor overload?
posted by Scottie_Bob at 2:12 PM on May 14, 2012


DIY space program = awesome. But why the Enterprise? That's just silly. (NCC-1701 recreations should go in downtown Las Vegas, like the good lord intended.) Actual space ships should be built... what's the engineering term? Realistically.

The Nautilus-X might be the way to go. But if we're starting from scratch, why not build something that's simple and sustainable? Buzz Aldrin wrote a novel with John Barnes where he hypothesizes a revived space program that's based on improved Apollo era technology. In the book they build larger versions of the old Apollo capsules, and stick them on larger versions of Russia's venerable Soyuz rocket family. Something like that would be easier to maintain for trips to the Moon, and way more reliable than untested new designs.

Stick with proven technology until we've got some industrial capacity above Earth's gravity well, then we can get to work on the fancy stuff.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:40 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to figure out why you'ld stick the engines and all the thrust so far away from the center of mass for the ship- how on earth do you fly it straight?
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:01 PM on May 14, 2012


I'm trying to figure out why you'ld stick the engines and all the thrust so far away from the center of mass for the ship- how on earth do you fly it straight?

On the make-believe Enterprises, the impulse engines are generally mounted towards the back of the saucer section, towards the top of the "neck" that connects the saucer to the engineering hull. That's pretty close to the center of mass. The pylon-mounted nacelles generate the warp field, and don't really need to be anywhere near the center of mass, just away from people.

On the DIY Enterprise, you'd stick the engines back there because it looks cool.
posted by COBRA! at 6:08 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


>As far as I'm aware the closest tech we've got to Star Trek is still Orion, but I think I'm glad we never launched one

I'd say the now defunct Project Prometheus was closer. Essentially it was a platform for a nuclear powered ion drive that had many times the power of an RTG. They even tested their ion engine. The future is already here, but the political will and funding isn't. Back in 2003 we had other priorities like freeing 150,000 Iraqis souls from their bodies.

I sometimes wonder what 8 years of President Gore would have gotten us. Something tells me we'd be on Mars by now or at least launching novel missions like Prometheus. Oh well, its not all bad, I'm looking forward to the new Prometheus movie in a couple of weeks. Maybe now we're just destined to be the world's storytellers while private industry finds a way to democratize space.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:03 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


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