The problem of building a starship is so difficult that DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office director and manager for the project, David Neyland, figures it will take 100 years just to learn how to pull it off, hence the project’s name. But while traveling to the stars is a far-off goal, Neyland says that just working on the problem will allow the Department of Defense (of which DARPA is a part) to reap very practical benefits now. “We literally send millions—millions—of MREs, little packaged foodstuffs, to our troops in the field overseas. Is there a better way? Well, if you solve the problem for long-duration, long-distance spaceflight for food supplies, what could you do in terms of the Department of Defense for forward-operating locations?” Solving the problem of energy production on a starship that will have to remain powered up for a decades-long journey could similarly produce major benefits for the military.
On September 30, 2011, the 100 Year Starship Study Public Symposium opened in Orlando, FL. The opening remarks were presented by David Neyland, then Director of the DARPA Tactical Technology Office, and originator of the concept, study and name.