DARPA, believe it or not, has a request for information on what they call the 100 YEAR STARSHIP™ STUDY.
Neither the vagaries of the modern fiscal cycle, nor net-present-value calculations over reasonably foreseeable futures, have lent themselves to the kinds of century-long patronage and persistence needed to definitively transform mankind into a space-faring species.
The 100 Year Starship™ Study is a project seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible….
We are seeking ideas for an organization, business model and approach appropriate for a self-sustaining investment vehicle. The respondent must focus on flexible yet robust mechanisms by which an endowment can be created and sustained, wholly devoid of government subsidy or control, and by which worthwhile undertakings—in the sciences, engineering, humanities, or the arts—may be awarded in pursuit of the vision of interstellar flight….
Responses should describe the:
• Organizational structure;
• Governance mechanism;
• Investment strategy and criteria; and
• Business model for long-term self-sustainment.
The best model we have of such an organization is a religion. Business organizations such as the Hudson’s Bay Company have occasionally lasted hundreds of years but more by accident than by design. Universities have lasted hundreds of years, although often with government support and vague missions. A few foundations have lasted for a long period of time but often with big mission changes.
Many religions, however, have maintained themselves more or less intact for over a thousand years. Even in the modern age, new religions appear to be quite capable of forming and maintaining themselves for long periods of time. Mormonism has been on-going for nearly two centuries, the Unification Church and Scientology (n.b. started by a science-fiction writer) have been on-going for over half a century. A religion with a million or so adherents can easily last for hundreds of years while generating substantial revenues and while maintaining focus.
Humanity was born of the stars, our very atoms forged in the heart of a million suns. It is in the stars that we lost travelers will find our true home and our true destiny. The twinkling lights of the yawning sky gently call to us each night to return to the place of our birth. We must answer that call. Star-children, return to home.
(See what I mean? This could work. )
Hat tip: Daniel Kuehn.