Star Trek fans know this well. The fictional, futuristic Starfleet Academy based in Sausalito, which has long been a staple of Trekkie lore—a place where Starfleet cadets have their mettle tested time and time again.
In real life, we’re probably centuries away from starship commanders and starfleet admirals, if there ever is one. But here are a few reasons why establishing a starship academy in the current era would serve humanity well.
First, it would be a private, non-governmental, not-for-profit enterprise that would seek funding and research grants from global, public and private sources. Like the United Nations, the land on which it is established would be autonomous within the country in which it was built.
The only condition would be to find a site with sufficient infrastructure, political stability and close to a major international airport. This would ensure easy access to the facility for visitors, instructors, administrators and cadets.
Teach the history and philosophy of space exploration and space travel. It would be an area of interdisciplinary research at the Academy that would give cadets a grounding in the philosophical reasons for space exploration. This could help Starfleet cadets and administrators in their de facto role as defenders of global space. They might even convince those who only advocate devoting time, energy, and societal resources to earthly “challenges.”
Serve as a space technology transfer and adaptation center for both incoming technology and outgoing adaptation. It would resemble the technology transfer offices that already exist within the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. But Starfleet Academy’s technology synergy with the private sector would hopefully be more ambitious and fluid.
Such technology transfer efforts could also help appease those who continually object to money being spent on space research of any kind.
To serve as a research facility for real-life training in long-duration spaceflight and colonization. This part of the Academy would encourage research in everything from radiation shielding to artificial gravity generation (en route to and on the surface of other worlds). He could study the physiological and psychological stresses that these journeys will place on the human body. Cadets could even volunteer to participate in research trials.
Serve as a research center for advanced and groundbreaking propulsion studies. Major space agencies and a few non-profit non-governmental organizations such as the Tau Zero Foundation have recently attempted to expand on this research. But one Starfleet Academy would serve as a central incubator for new propulsion technologies in a way that others did not.
Serve as a research center for human space exploration technologies. This would include everything from the latest waste disposal and recycling technology to life support.
A Starfleet Academy would not aim to replace or usurp ongoing research at existing space agencies, universities, aerospace companies, or other similar entities. Rather, its aim would be to try to fill in the necessary gaps that continue to elude existing research groups. The goal would be to nurture and inspire a whole new generation of aerospace leaders and future astronauts without the political constraints imposed by major space agencies and academia or the substantive considerations of most space entrepreneurs.
With the right champions, such an idea could take root and grow. Funding must be global and take several forms . There is currently no shortage of potential funding sources, but it would take a relentless and innovative approach to bring such an undertaking to fruition.
The ultimate hope is that such an academy would give humanity a head start on realizing dreams of flight to the outer solar system and beyond a real possibility.
At least it would inspire the first generation of Starfleet cadets to create a true multi-generational effort to explore the nearest stars.