White House Petition: Could we Build the Starship Enterprise?

Could we build a version of the Starship Enterprise over the next 20 years? Credit: BuildTheEnterprise.org

Earlier this year, an engineer who goes by the name of BTE Dan proposed building a full-sized, ion-powered version of a Constitution-Class Enterprise – from the original Star Trek – saying it could be built with current technology and could be completed within 20 years. Now, BTE Dan has started a White House petition — not to build the Enterprise but to just do a feasibility study and conceptual design of the USS Enterprise interplanetary spaceship. As of this writing, the petition has 1,414 signatures of the 25,000 needed by January 21, 2013 to be considered by the Obama administration.

The petition reads:

We have within our technological reach the ability to build the 1st generation of the USS Enterprise. It ends up that this ship’s inspiring form is quite functional. This will be Earth’s first gigawatt-class interplanetary spaceship with artificial gravity. The ship can serve as a spaceship, space station, and space port all in one. In total, one thousand crew members & visitors can be on board at once. Few things could collectively inspire people on Earth more than seeing the Enterprise being built in space. And the ship could go on amazing missions, like taking the first humans to Mars while taking along a large load of base-building equipment for constructing the first permanent base there.

See the petition and sign it here.

BTE Dan told Universe Today earlier this year that what he really is hoping for is to find a segment of scientists and engineers in the space industry to take an active interest and contribute to the ideas on his website, BuildTheEnterprise.org to help move the concept forward.

“I have been getting many offers of help from engineers outside the space industry, and that’s great,” he said via email. “But also what is needed are some experienced space engineers who adopt a can-do attitude about the concept of the Gen1 Enterprise.”

BTE Dan prefers to remain anonymous at this point, and his biggest concern has been that the scientists and engineers at NASA and their space contractors were going to be hostile about the idea, as his first brush with them did not go well.

Diagram of a proposed current generation of a Starship Enterprise. Credit: BuildTheEnterprise.org

“I am an outsider poking around in their sandbox, and human nature is that people don’t like that,” he said, noting that he knows his design may have fatal flaws, but that is why he is looking for assistance.

“There is a lot of waste heat to get rid of, today’s ion propulsions engines need major advances, and perhaps stability problems will be found with the gravity wheel,” he said.

When Universe Today broke the story of the BuildTheEnterprise concept in May of this year, it went viral and BTE Dan’s website crashed under the traffic.

“I really did not expect this at all,” he said at the time. “I did not plan for this level of web traffic!” He has since made upgrades to handle more traffic.

His website is complete with conceptual designs, ship specs, a funding schedule, and almost every other imaginable detail of how the Enterprise could be built. It would be built entirely in space, have a rotating gravity section inside of the saucer, and be similar in size with the same look as the USS Enterprise that we know from Star Trek.

The White House takes petitions on many topics at the “We the People” website and will consider them if they receive 25,000 signatures. Earlier this year, a petition to build a Death Star space station by 2016 received over 32,000 signatures, but so far there has not been an official response about it from the White House.

35 Replies to “White House Petition: Could we Build the Starship Enterprise?”

  1. I enjoy Star Trek and anything science fiction, but as per William Shatner, some people really need to get a life!

  2. I admire the guy’s imagination and would love this to come true. But by any definition his designs are so undercooked they are as useless as a child’s scribblings. Any kid who loved science fiction growing up did similar pseudo-science / engineering diagrams.

  3. Why limit it to an ion drive? A starship should be capable of flying to the stars. Also why build it in a configuration that isn’t really useful; just a copy of a movie prop. Use the Orion project system of nuclear pulse propulsion and the plans that have already been created.

    Now everyone will say, no nukes in space. However, nuclear and antimatter are the only two sources of energy that will ever (unless some new physics is discovered) make covering light year-types of distances possible so eventually we will have to change our view on using nuclear energy in space. Even for solar sails, which could also be used for interstellar flight, would require a gigantic laser that would pretty much have to get its energy from nuclear power. Never mind that a laser powerful enough to push a solar sail at interstellar distances would also make a very powerful weapon. Even a ship moving at relativistic velocities would be an incredible weapon. Therefore, allowing nuclear weapons (antimatter bombs if we could build them) in space (for propulsion) must happen to move forward. One Orion class ship could explore more of our solar system in 5 years than every spacecraft flown in the past 50 years; and the next 25 years to come at least.

    Some links if you want to read about Project Orion:

  4. The Obama Administration would never put the time nor the effort into creating it – I admire him, but unless he gains an overwhelming public majority support (What will not happen in the next 20 years AT LEAST) Nasa will never consider it.

    The private sector, however… Well – you never know these days. Probably not until technology has somewhat advanced a major-bit more, perhaps by the end of 2100 – then the plans can begin getting drawn up for the next few hundred years

  5. Warp engines ,tejeportation ,this is not Science fiction it is fantasy fiction . Unless somebody has anything to show Einstein incorrect in his understanding then there is no faster than light travel and anybody claiming to be an engineer should know this. That this shows up in a science based web site is not promising either. Are you staff writers 14 years old ? The expense of building this useless craft would be ridiculous and what use would it be except to fulfill some adolescent fantasy .Ion power will really make the thing motor but calling it a star ship is dubious , File under comedy

    1. As 100 years ago when they would laugh about going to the moon . . . . science is meant to push the limits, even when the limits seem insurmountable . . . . many of the limits that were called insurmountable 100 years ago are no longer so.
      Are we ready for a starship? Probably not yet, but we will not get there by sticking our heads in the sand.

      1. Show the physics first, Shawn. And if you can do that, you may find that a ship using them need not (or indeed, cannot) be forced to fit a fictional notion of what a starship should be (and only on the outside, at that). We reached the Moon with an architecture that didn’t look like the pulp magazines of the 40’s. (And for that matter, some people can’t let go of the idea that the next manned Lunar space system need not look like Apollo/Saturn, either…)

        I’m open to surprises, but there’s no reason to assume the results of them need look like the USS Enterprise…or Fireball XL-5. You go where the physics, engineering and design philosophy take you.

      2. 100 Years ago they couldn’t show the physics of space flight. Hell they even said a man could never fly. Then he could never go to the moon. People that believe like that, have no business on pages dealing with science, even if it seems like it is out there, you have no business here.

      3. You know…Carl Sagan once said something to the effect of; “They laughed at Galileo. They also laughed at bozo the Clown.”

        Some things truly aren’t possible. You hear no celebration of triumph for those things that continue to be unsupported.

        Having said that, it’s clear that you paid absolutely no attention to my point. You demonstrate heavier-than-air flight before you fly. You demonstrate rocketry, before going to the Moon. (and to repeat, when it did finally happen, it didn’t *look* like earlier notions of what Lunar flight would look like)

        You demonstrate that some kind of faster-than-light phenomena exists (at this time, we have no evidence of that…encouraging though the observations at CERN seemed for a time) before you seriously talk about starships requiring them…and don’t assume they’ll look like any particular fictional starship if it does happen.

        Extraordinary claims still require extraordinary evidence. Today, FTL falls into the category of an extraordinary claim. Demonstrate the physics that this sort of starship requires. If you can do that, wonderful. That’s what I want. ‘How do you know that?’ is the most basic question in science. I have business here, because I’m asking it. But do not make the mistake of confusing ‘show me’ with ‘could never.’

        You also seem to not understand the difference between science and engineering. I very deliberately worded my last sentence as I did.

        If you really paid attention to my post (Especially the “I’m open to surprises” part), you’d see that mine is actually the most generous one you’re likely to find here on a matter like this.. Being radical is not a virtue in itself. Supporting a seemingly radical notion is what matters. Quantum physics is an excellent example. no one would’ve made that up, it’s where experiment and observation took us…

    2. Technically the fictional Enterprise doesn’t go ftl although it does traverse superluminal distances.

      Also he doesn’t propose that this Enterprise have a warp drive. IIRC where the fictional ships warp nacelles are this ship would use those protrusions to cool the ion drive I believe? Its been a while since I read over this guys ideas on his website and I’m not arguing that this is a practical, feasible, or effective design.

      That said before taking the writer of an article to task for being “a 14yr old” it would be advisable to take 5 minutes and put in the due diligence of your average 12 yr old and possibly keep yourself from looking foolish in the bargain?

    3. There are solutions to the Einstein field equations that correspond to warp drives. The standard one called the Alcubierre warp drive compresses a region of space in from of a spacecraft or warp bubble and correspondingly expands a region behind. If this compression factor is F < 1 then if the craft travels a distance D the effective distance in the frame of the craft is F*D < D. There is a problem however. The matter-field that acts as the source of the spacetime curvature has negative stress-energy or T^{00} < 0. This means the quantum field is not bounded below with a minimal energy state in its spectrum. This causes all sort of havoc with quantum physics. In particular with no minimal energy state the field can jump down each level and emit a boson or photon. The system then can emit an infinite amount of radiation.

      It is generally thought these solutions are not physical. However a formal proof of this is outstanding. There are some correspondences between solutions to Einstein field equations and the solutions of the Navier-Stokes equations for fluid flow or hydrodynamics. The prohibition against these solutions like warp drives or wormholes is equivalent to a certain existence of continuous solutions of the Navier-Stokes equations.

      As for teleportation, there is quantum teleportation. In this case quantum states of an EPR pair may nonlocally occur with ancillary states. I am not confident that this will lead to a "beam me up Scotty" type of transporter system.


  6. ‘The Enterprise’ has already been built… it now lives at the Intrepid Space Museum in New York. THAT my friends is as close as this preposterous idea will ever come to reality. Besides, I don’t think the Klingons would allow it!

  7. I don’t see anything wrong with entertaining the idea, right on dude and good luck. If nothing else the whole science fiction to science reality is pretty cool if for no other reason then to get more people into science. And i think a permanent vessel in space is a great underlying theme. Just maybe not the actual Star Trek Enterprise 😀 I think his website will do more good then harm.

  8. This guys lost his mind. How the h**l are we suppose to pay for it. People the goverment are already screwed cash wise. He needs to wake up and get his head out of his ass

  9. I can see a use for the saucer section . . . . place a cylinder that rotates rapidly, near the outer edges of the saucer, and you have artificial gravity . . . a loop that occupants can run around to get exercise.

  10. “[The Gen1 Enterprise] would be … similar in size with … the USS Enterprise that we know from Star Trek.”

    Maybe with the USS Enterprise in the J. J. Abrams movie “Star Trek”. The proposed Gen1 Enterprise would be over 900 meters in length; The original series USS Enterprise, a Constitution-class starship, was just 289 meters.



  11. There is a lesson to be learned here. As a scientist I am by default a practical realist. There is no way this kind of ship should be built in this era. It is useful conceptually to look at where we are at with our technology and engineering capability in order to see what we are going to need in order attempt interplanetary, much less interstellar travel. The real value of this story and one that scientists far often are ignorant of is the power of popularity. The sci-fi drama of the Star-Trek franchises past and present are tremendously popular and reaches out to the main-stream public. Why should this amount to a hill of beans to a scientist or engineer working in the field or the lab? With popularity comes power and with power comes funding. Federal funding means more and likely better job opportunities for you. A lack of popularity means no government interest and less funding in your field. So I would strongly suggest as a shrewd scientiest looking after his or her own best interest to become a Star-Trek or Star Wars fan if you are not already one, since it helps you in the long run by promoting your field in the eyes of the public. The mythos draws people into fields that otherwise people (and especially school kids) would call “Boring!” Look at the inordinate amounts of money that atheletes and sports franchise owners get paid despite the fact that their work does nothing to advance the state of humanity or make life easier. Popularity is the reason a mediocre professional athlete makes more than a highly trained physician who saves hundreds of lives a year.

    1. I’m as much a Trek fan as anyone else. but perhaps it’s because I read/watch other kinds of science fiction before and alongside it, that I’m not married to the idea that an FTL starship, if possible at all, need look like any particular fictional depiction of today,

      And the more this proposal departs from the capabilities we expect from a Federation starship, the less I see the point. If warp drive and/or impulse drive (which appears to be reactionless, currently as much a stretch of physics as FTL) and/or ‘generated’ internal gravity and/or shields aren’t there…why bother to force (and it is a matter of forcing…efficient radiative cooling in vacuum needs something with significant, wing-like surface area. That’s not the appearance of a warp nacelle) today’s technology into a familiar looking shell?

      Give me a practical deep space concept like ‘Nautilus-X’ that actually *does* something (that where any ‘inspiration’ comes from, seeing new things really accomplished) anytime.

      And *name* it ‘Enterprise,’ if you like. We all know there’s ample precedent for ‘all these ships…’

  12. Science fiction has inspired people to carve out stellar careers in science for decades, if not longer. Star Trek itself has been a catalyst for many dreamers to become astrophysicists, planetary scientists, rockets engineers, and astronauts. Capturing the public imagination is a vital part of lighting the fire that will inspire the next generation of highly-skilled professionals to take us the next step of our journey.

    It’s sad to see people nay-saying ~anything~ that has the remotest chance of raising the profile (and therefore funding) of space science on a site dedicated to exploring the wonders of the universe around us. Get on board or get out of the way.

    1. I’d be fine with a starship that could do what the Enterprise and her sisters do, even if it didn’t look like them.

      I’ve little interest in something that merely ^looks^ (and only externally, at that) like a full-scale Enterprise in orbit, but does none of the things it does. (look up the expression ‘cargo cult.’)

      There are other ways to get ‘inspiration,’ which is secondary to the reasons we actually go into space, in any case.

  13. This would actually be a nearly perfect Keynesian stimulus. It doesn’t matter what the money is spent on or even that the end product is worth something. What matters is that the federal government spend lots of money on something that people actually will have to build and which otherwise would not be built. Think about WWII: we spent massive amounts of money on gear of war that was destroyed, in the process employing millions of people and utilizing resources in far more efficient ways. It wouldn’t have mattered, stimulus-wise, whether the planes and ships and boats and guns and bombs and ammunition were used to defeat Germany or whether they were all taken and dumped into the sea. It’s the spending that matters.

    As for this design, sure, it’s fanciful. But it gets people thinking, and I’m sure that’s the point.

    1. The war and the post war era (which included the space race) is a splendid example of what greatness human beings are capable of when facing anihilation. What the Russian people accomplished was particularly amazing in turning back the Nazi juggernaut and then leaping ahead in the space race, all while a totalitarian dictator was purging millions of their own citizens. The U.S. in turn rose from destitution to help defeat the juggernaut, face down the Soviet menace, and land men on the moon, a feat not since duplicated. Human behavior in times of peace, however have not been inspiring. The “key” to a Keynesian economic approach is that the investment is spent on infrastructure. FDR understood this. The infrastructure left behind is what continues to stimulate the economy. I had issues with the Obama version since it spent most on government infrastructure which leave no economic stimulus behind. It would have been far better if the Obama stimulus was spent on modernizing the power system or the interstate bridges or the crumbling sewage and water pipelines or an oil pipeline from North Dakota or a long overdue interstate artery connecting Northern New England with Quebec, as just some examples. By the way, those bombs did make the U.S. lots of money as they were in desperate demand by our allies, particularly Great Britain. After the military industry was converted to civilian uses, such as GMC making cars instead of M10 tank destroyers. In our era, history has proven that great projects and achievements require a great need or threat, otherwise the default behavior is the usual greed and corruption.

  14. The Enterprise starship in Star Trek reflects some aspects of the 1960s. Back then the Boeing 707 was at the height of technology. The Enterprise then looks a bit like a cross between a flying saucer, giving the spaceship appearance, with a 707. It looks as if it would fly in the air. The design is more about what was stylish at the time. The general design has remained of course in the Star Trek franchise. However, the Borg cubes can fly through space just as well.

    As a practical matter the Discovery spaceship on “2001 A Space Odyssey” is probably a more realistic concept for an interplanetary spaceship.


  15. The guys own costings put this white elephant at $1 trillion, and I’d guess he’s being extremely generous.

    I absolutely think that money should be put towards space exploration but…this isn’t how it should be done.

  16. The unbelievers who think we can’t build the ship are the same people who said we can’t go to the moon “its a fairy tale”. However, today unlike any period in history we have wireless communicators, internet, R & D of nano technologies (like nano fiber perfications systems in the Astronauts suits) scanners of the human body, computers that can run at speeds of 3.4 terra bites rather than 56k when we went to the moon. It is not only possible its realistic, since today we reap the benifits of going to the moon with items inspired by research done by NASA of the last 30 years. This includes the personal computer as the intergrated circuit was created by research and experiments put on by NASA. Over 8,000 products we use everyday in our lives today came from the space program, so why should we not do it again like we did in the 60’s and create jobs for those unemployed, and create a true vision for the future, rather than war and a one world government.

  17. This is laughable.

    However, I strongly suspect this idea is not completely groundless. It probably has some meat to it, but not enough for it to ever fly. You know?

    The thing that’s good about this is that it’s better than a lot of things we do. We spend billions of dollars every year on fruitless pursuits like movies, sex, drugs and sport. People waste ungodly numbers of hours playing games which offer no benefit to them or anybody else. And yet here we have a concept that while unfeasible still pushes people to learn science in order to either debunk the idea or to support it.

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