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FIRST GLIMPSE: Interstellar ark spaceship made from hollowed-out asteroid unveiled

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AN INCREDIBLE interstellar “ark” spaceship made from a hollowed-out asteroid has been debuted by a group of international scientists.

Delft University’s DSTART group in the Netherlands has premiered a blueprint for a “Evolving Asteroid Starship” that will travel to other stars, as well as addressing the issues that will inevitably arise from keeping people cooped-up together in a single ship for several generations.

Such “generation” starships are considered to be the best option for exploring the universe if warp drive technology isn’t achieved, meaning speeds of 1-to-2% of light speed would have to maintained for exceptionally long periods.

“We need self-sustaining and evolvable space technology capable of enduring the many decades needed to journey from our Solar System to another,” said Angelo Vermeulen, the leader of DSTART.

“As part of that, we are looking at the kind of regenerative life-support system pioneered by the European Space Agency (ESA) led Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA) programme.”

“We need self-sustaining and evolvable space technology capable of enduring the many decades needed to journey from our Solar System to another”

DSTART leader Angelo Vermeulen

The 11 nation MELiSSA project consists of a special type of algae that traps carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, creating a rudimentary “bioreactor”.

3D printers will print new parts to expand and repair the ship, which needs to accommodate a growing ecosystem.

Bacteria can break down human waste and convert this into carbon dioxide for plants that will, in turn, provide oxygen and food for the space travellers.

The research team have outlined the three-fold benefits of using a carved-out asteroid as the basis of a spaceship.

Its immense bulk will act as a shield interstellar radiation shielding, and part of the asteroid can be fired out, to gain thrust and acceleration.

Additionally it will provide space for explorers to eat, exercise and work for several millennia.

DSTART

PREMIERE: An interstellar “ark” spaceship made from a hollowed-out asteroid has been debuted
(Pic: DSTART)

“In light of our insatiable appetite for exploration, it is inevitable that the human species will ultimately travel outside of the known solar system. It is the next step in human evolution,” Vermeulen said.

“My research concerns solutions that unite the biological, technological and social dimensions. And it is about spaceships that evolve during their journey.”

However several key obstacles are acknowledged by the team.

The crews’ immune systems could waste away over successive generations, and humans could even evolve over long periods in ways unanticipated by the project’s creators.

Additionally, breakdowns in social structures could lead to a mutiny.

And finally, technological progress is likely to mean that in the time a ship spends travelling to a distant star, a better ship may be later developed that can reach its destination in a quicker time.

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