The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) selected an organization headed by former space shuttle astronaut Mae Jemison to develop a project to launch humans to another star a century from now, a program known as 100 Year Starship.
“We can confirm that the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence has been selected for negotiation for a grant award for the 100 Year Starship effort,” DARPA program manager Paul Eremenko said in a statement emailed to Discovery News. “We have no further comment until the grant is awarded.”
Jemison, who became the first African-American woman in space during a 1992 shuttle mission, set up the non-profit educational foundation with her brother and sister to honor their late mother, a long-time Chicago Public School system educator.
The $500,000 DARPA contract is intended to serve as seed funds to begin building the technical, cultural, legal and financial frameworks for a human mission to another star system. Reaching Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system, would take 100,000 years using today’s technology. The goal of the 100YSS project is to cut the travel time to a century or less.
Seeded by DARPA with assistance from NASA, the 100YSS seeks to “develop a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel viable,” the solicitation for proposals said.
“The goal is to develop an investment vehicle—with the patronage and guidance of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and technology visionaries—which provides the stability for sustained investment over a century-long time horizon, concomitant with the agility to respond to the accelerating pace of technological, social, and other change.”
Jemison’s partners in the project reportedly include Icarus Interstellar and the Foundation for Enterprise Development. The BBC reports that Jemison’s proposal was titled “An Inclusive Audacious Journey Transforms Life Here on Earth & Beyond.”
Image: Mae Jemison, from space shuttle astronaut to starship planner. Credit: NASA