It may sound like science fiction, but after a loose-lipped scientist revealed a NASA/DARPA program to colonize other planets, NASA has confirmed. Some day, your great grandchildren might be driving cars on Mars.
"The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds," the director of NASA's Ames research center, Pete Worden said. "Twenty years ago you whispered that in dark bars and got fired."
You can hear some of Worden's remarks in this video.
Reading quotes like that's, it's easy to get extraordinarily excited about this, but the ambition and fantastical nature of such talk belies an extremely modest budget: NASA's only kicking in $100,000 and DARPA's adding $1 million. Peanuts when you consider that it costs about $450 million just to launch a single space shuttle. Rather than a fully-funded program rapidly finding ways to crush obstacles on the way to Mars, that $1.1 million budget likely indicates that there's simply a small research program collecting data that could one day help with such a mission.
One way to overcome the financing hurdle could be private investment. Larry Page has even enquired as to how much investment it would likely take to kick start such a program and was apparently told $10 billion in response.
The term "100-year starship" is being bandied about because it would likely take a human lifetime or even generations to embark on a journey to another planet or solar system. The prospect of never returning to earth apparently isn't a staffing problem for NASA, an unknown number of astronauts have already allegedly volunteered for such a program.
So, given the proper funding, how close could a journey to another planet be? Well, an entire new propulsion technology such a nuclear fusion would have to be invented and perfected first. Given the energy-to-weight ratio of current fuel sources, transporting humans to another plant is technically impossible.