Building the Spaceship Enterprise for Real

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A systems engineer for a Fortune 500 technology company who calls himself "BTE Dan" has a rather modest dream. He would like to build the space ship Enterprise within the next 20 years, according to the Build the Enterprise website.

Dan's Enterprise will not be the star ship that conveyed Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and company to those strange new worlds on Star Trek. Warp drive and anti matter reactor technology has not been quite developed enough to enable that. This version of the Enterprise would be able to fly to Mars in 90 days. It would contain three nuclear powered ion engines and a "gravity wheel" that would provide a facsimile of Earth gravity for interplanetary voyages.

Dan's interplanetary Enterprise would be .6 of a mile from stem to stern. It would look almost exactly like the iconic star ship, with a cylindrical main hull, two nacelles astern, and a saucer section. The nuclear powered ion engines would be in the main hull and the nacelles. The saucer section would contain the "gravity wheel" where the crew would reside during interplanetary voyages. The interplanetary version of the Enterprise would carry a "universal lander" that would touch down on celestial bodies such as the moon and Mars.

Several questions come to mind, including that of cost, infrastructure, and whether a replica of the USS Enterprise is an optimal design for a first generation interplanetary spaceship. However, imagining a spaceship that looks like the Enterprise, which Dan proposes to actually build, is a first rate marketing ploy. Ever since the original Star Trek series, the vision of a ship filled with humans and aliens exploring space and having adventures has been more real to many people than the actual space missions that have not yet gone beyond the moon. Dan is trying to tie the fictional TV and movie vision to voyages back to the moon and beyond which he thinks can really happen in a couple of decades.

The idea of a spaceship dedicated to flying about the inner solar system on multiple missions is not a new one. A group of NASA engineers developed a concept called Nautilus X, one version of which would be an interplanetary spacecraft capable of going to Mars, albeit on a more modest scale than Dan's Enterprise.

At the very least, Dan's Enterprise is an interesting and creative contribution to the discussion over the burning question, what next in space?