THINK: Could We Build the USS Enterprise in the Next 20 Years?

Star Trek enthusiasts will be thrilled to hear that an engineer has designed a full-sized version of the USS Enterprise that he believes could be built with current technology in 20 years. The engineer, who goes by BTE Dan, has laid out meticulously detailed concept designs and ship specs, including costs of labor and materials. The ship would feature a gravity wheel that would provide 1G of gravity for an Earth-like atmosphere, and would provide a whole new universe of possibilities for exploring space. While the recent J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot has a whole new generation of fans excited about the possibility of exploring the final frontier, the Enterprise project certainly has its fair share of obstacles. So before you start training for space voyages, let’s take a look at this bold idea.

THINK: Could We Build the USS Enterprise in the Next 20 Years?

The USS Enterprise of film and TV has certain features such as warp speed, transporters, and phasers that we are still years away from being able to replicate. However, the Build the Enterprise specs take these limitations into account for a design that is possible with the technology we currently have. According to the spec designs, three ion propulsion engines would power the ship, essentially running on electricity generated by nuclear reactors. It is designed to travel from Earth to the moon in three days and to Mars in 90 days, which would be a huge help on the Mars One mission—a foundation that intends to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars starting in 2024.

The spec designs call for a ship that is over half a mile in length—longer than any ship or building ever constructed—and over 1000 feet in diameter at its widest point—about four times as wide as a naval aircraft carrier. So we’re talking about a pretty colossal piece of technology here. In fact, it would be the largest thing ever built by humans. Build the Enterprise estimates that the cost of the project would be approximately $1 trillion over twenty years. That’s a lot of dough, and that doesn’t take into account the costs required to pay a crew of a thousand people to run the ship.

The good news? New technology is expanding manufacturing possibilities across the board. Plastic welding technology has made its way into almost every area of manufacturing. Because it is safe, cost-effective, and efficient, ultrasonic welding has already replaced many traditional welding techniques in aircraft and spacecraft construction. 3D printing opens up a vast array of opportunities with its ability to craft exact 3D replicas of parts and tools using cross-sectional layers. To put it in terms that a Star Trek fan will appreciate, 3D printers have the potential to be real-life Replicators. So, while the idea of building the USS Enterprise may be farfetched to some, the world is closer to Star Trek-level technology than many people realize. To read up on all the facts and figures of the project, check out the Build the Enterprise website.

While space may be the final frontier, there are plenty of big dreamers out there who are ready to explore it. Between the Build the Enterprise initiative, the Virgin Galactic flights to space, and the Mars One mission, this certainly seems to be the time to get in on the ground floor of privatized space exploration. Or, you could always wait for the next installment of the Star Wars franchise to fulfill your space-age needs.

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