What holds back ISRO (or NASA) from building a Starship?

Defence News (Opinion): Yes we know that ISRO just experimented with a reusable shuttle pod and it’s too far fetched to talk about even NASA building a reliable space ship. Then why are we talking about the possibility of a starship? Read on and you will know how fear of failure holds humanity back into darkness, unaware of the universe, meddling with small petty things on a little blue planet.


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When fear of failure is bigger than our dreams!

Do you know how many meetings, analysis, reports, obscure logic and people pushing is required to get a project approved anywhere? Especially if a few billion dollars are at stake? It’s as big as moving a mountain, that too: alone! Fear that a project will fail is always bigger than the returns we expect, we analyze to find faults and not look at the beauty of the dream. We dont work at it, till every problem is resolved but instead we give up before the start. For example, if we need a new gravity engine, who shall invent it? It’s not the project manager who takes up inventions! It’s the crazy scientist, often working on pretext of something else, or on his own. What we lack is serious research (of a quantum leap kind). Sure we research incrementally, in small steps and sure it yields results. But it’s seldom revolutionary and when it is, it’s mainly because of a very capable brain behind the project, not the risk appetite of the project itself. So in other words, “we went to invent¬† a better needle but invented a sewing machine” moment is rare and if it is, its because of the inventor’s persistent efforts and abilities.

Technologies required.

There are host of technologies required for a large spaceship, here are some:

  1. New propulsion system, who can go far on smoking rockets. (read anti-gravity drives, ion thrusters, plasma engines)
  2. New alloys and materials to withstand the stress of space, extreme temperatures and repeated torture.
  3. Better deep space communication, using quantum physics probably.
  4. Modular space construction architecture, for final ship assembly in earth orbit.
  5. Space tugs and ancillary ships for earth to port transportation using new engine technology.
  6. Space medicine advances, Space food and sustainable space agriculture.
  7. Waste recycling technology for space.
  8. Airlock and air sealing methods and materials for seam sealing, quick repair systems, firefighting techniques and disaster management for Space.
  9. Most important is plating and shielding system against high kinetic particles and asteroids.
  10. Extreme 3d printing for construction work.

Most of these technologies may help in other projects as a spin off. Who will invent them? The list is scary (if you draw up a detailed one) and technologies sound exotic. That scares away everyone and the best they can do is laugh it off! Heck even a scooter engine sounded like unbelievable way back in steam days. But someone invented it, it could have sure been done earlier.

Why this absurd (to many) article?

The reason for this whole story is that why are we not competing for new and completely innovative, unheard, unseen research? What are we doing to radically change and improve human life and our ability to connect with the bigger universe?

Most of our research is centered around what the world has already achieved. When will we stop becoming the 4th country to do so & so… The 5th country to join the elite club of so & so…. When will we start inventing what the world has never seen or heard of? When will our scientific community look beyond the limits of what has been achieved.”to go where no man has gone before…”?

We should expect our research agencies and labs to invent what’s not been invented before. Expect more from them, teach our kids to be great scientists, inventors and encourage them to think beyond what the world has. Next time DRDO comes up with a new toy, ask them what technology they are using in it, which was never seen in the world before? Expect more, that’s when we do more as a society.

Wherever you are, whoever you are! Let us make a promise to do something completely different in our own areas. Let’s make sure our kids think higher than what any man has achieved, only then we will make real scientific progress.

Written by Baldeva Singh

Baldeva Singh is a tough talking nationalist who has a flair for writing. Defence matters, technical details on weapons and war scenarios are his key expert areas. Baldev is known to walk the talk in his personal life. He is from Patiala (Punjab). His friends call him a “blunt weapon” but he is often found reading old books when free!

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Today is the National Technology Day (Pokhran 1998)