The founder of the Build the Enterprise website, BTE Dan, says he's got an idea to build the starship Enterprise (or a reasonable version of it) to fly in actual outer space in 20 years.
Granted, there will be a few concessions (i.e., no warp speed) but he contends that the technology and know-how to construct an interplanetary space vessel exists--and we can do it in just two decades.
From the Build the Entperise FAQ:
Q: How would building the Enterprise alter our manned space program?He makes a reasoned argument for realizing a spaceship, (I'll give him that!) though I think with it would likely take about twice that time to shake out any technical snafus along the way. Still, that's a mere fraction of the 2 and a 1/2 centuries that the Star Trek series postulates the possibility of the Enterprise. And really, who would give up cruising around the solar system in their own hot rod?
A: The USS Enterprise from Star Trek is a cultural icon, and we should latch part of the US space program on to this icon and build from there. We need a far grander vision of what we should be doing to get humans up into space and how we might gain a permanent foothold there. If we aren’t going to get a sustainable presence up there, then we should stop spending money for putting humans into space and instead focus on robotic missions like sending more advanced rovers to Mars, Venus, and elsewhere. If we are going to ask taxpayers to pay billions of dollars for projects to put Americans into space, it should be for an idea that they can relate to and be inspired by. The general form and characteristics of the spaceship should be inspirational – and building the first generation of USS Enterprise would surely be inspirational.
He also says we could build a fleet of Enterprises by constructing a new one every 30 years or so with that generation's latest tech. Heck, why not build a spare or seven?
Here's a video of a proposed artificial gravity wheel (1g) to accomodate human habitation on long journeys. It's a neat solution that essentially turns the manned areas of the ship on it's side.
Now if we could only get going with building the utopian society of the Federation....
UPDATE: If that guy wants to possibly approach lightspeed in his design, he should take a look at this new rocket design which smashes matter and antimatter (via MSNBC).