Sure, it'll take 20 years, cost a trillion US dollars to construct and weigh 85,000 tonnes, but engineer "BTE-Dan" is convinced we could get a real Enterprise-like star ship trekking through space using present-day know-how and materials. Call me a little sceptical.
BTE-Dan, a systems and electrical engineer with 30 years' experience at an unnamed Fortune 500 company, outlines his idea including (admittedly vague) specifications, infrastructure requirements and even a few whimsical mock-ups from DeviantArt, on his website Build The Enterprise.
The finished product would journey to the Moon in three days or Mars in 90, using ion propulsion fuelled by argon or hydrogen. A "magnetically-suspended gravity wheel" would provide a G of gravity (equivalent to Earth), while a nuclear reactor of unspecified size and power would deliver energy to the ship's systems.
BTE-Dan is so sure that an Enterprise facsimile is possible, he says he'll make an announcement on the site if anyone can prove otherwise:
If someone can convince me that it is not technically possible (ignoring political and funding issues), then I will state on the BuildTheEnterprise site that I have been found to be wrong. In that case, building the first Enterprise will have to wait for, say, another half century. But I don’t think that anyone will be able to convince me it can’t be done.
My position is that we can -– and should -– immediately start working on it. There is a forum on the BuildTheEnterprise site where anyone who wants to try to prove that the ship can’t be built over the next twenty years is welcome to state their case.
Of course, it's not at all like the actual Enterprise — there are no phasers (just a 100MW laser that would likely overheat after a minute), photon torpedoes or transporters and I doubt the hull shape of the fictional Enterprise is appropriate for a space vessel limited to sub-light speeds.
That said, if, like Project Hieroglyph, all it does is inspire real engineers working in the relevant fields to, literally, reach for the stars, then it's already accomplished a great deal.
Images: Paramount Pictures