I was asked a few days ago by a colleague if I could think of a good unit from a coursebook on project management, and off the top of my head I couldn’t. So I have started to fetch around a little to frame some lessons on different aspects of the problem.
There has been a lot of talk about the feasibility of such a mission, and even some experimentation into the psychological effects of long-term isolation. Now a team at Imperial College London has helped the BBC produce a documentary in which they sketch out an entire project, including the development of a ship generating artificial gravity (you can see a short summary film here).
The problem remains of solar storms – great bursts of radiation thrown out by the sun to which any space ship would be vulnerable, and against which there is no protection – coupled to a very high general risk, akin to that of the moon missions of the late 1960s and early 1970s, but augmented by greatly increased distance and time.
The team at Imperial seem to have decided that the risk of solar storms (run also by the moon missions) is a second-level problem (“fingers crossed there is no solar storm”). This aside, the general feeling is that all the technology for such a mission already exists, bar some tweaking; it is just a question of will, resources, and in the end, organisation.
I’m tempted to leave my students locked in a classroom for a week with the task to work out the details for such a project. But I’d begin by asking them to have a look at the whole documentary, so you can get a head start and watch it here (if you are in the UK).