Lifetimes of Aerospace Hardware Preserving the viability of complex machines and electronics for extended periods: Is it feasible with today’s technology to design equipment that will be capable of withstanding interstellar space for a period up to 150 years? One example that illustrates some of the problems with obtaining long lifetimes is one museum’s frustrating attempts to preserve astronaut’s suits. They had difficulty preserving the rubber gaskets that were no more than a few decades old. Some other examples that illustrate how short equipment lifetimes are: “Imagine parking your car in the garage for 20 or 30 years-or even 50 years-and then one day, you need to drive it. You would not expect it to run if you had not replaced any of the aging parts. Even if it were to remain parked in the garage, you would need to make sure it was stored safely, without leaking hazardous materials. This is what we ask of our nuclear weapons stockpile-the Energy Department's life extension programs for nuclear weapons recently have proposed stockpile lifetimes of more than 50 years. Yet these weapons originally were designed for a 20-30-year lifetime, which means we need more understanding of how their materials and components age so that we can continue to store them reliably and safely.” “Spacecraft engineers are normally proud if a multimillion-dollar satellite can survive in space for more than a decade.” “It took a little extra effort, but NASA this weekend bridged a nearly seven-and-a-half billion mile span to make contact with Pioneer 10, a plucky space probe that first left Earth's gravitational pull more than 30 years ago.” Mar 4, 2002 “Design lifetimes of wind turbines are around 25 years. Experience of operating modern wind turbines is limited to around 15 years.” “Fuel life spans depend on how much the ship is operated, and how accurately one can predict reactor performance. Current cores for the NIMITZ Class aircraft carrier, LOS ANGELES Class SSN, and OHIO Class SSBN last on average about 20 years. Efforts to extend the lives of operating reactor plants are resulting in longer ship lifetimes; NIMITZ-Class carriers are now expected to last 50 years, and OHIO-Class submarines 40 years, versus their original design lifetimes of 30 years.” My problem: Imagine a robotic spacecraft cruising at 0.1 C on a 150 year mission. Somehow it has been designed to withstand particle and small asteroid and comet collisions. It has robotic equipment that can keep the spacecraft functioning as long as the robotic equipment remains functional. On board is other stored equipment and electronics destined for use on a extrasolar planet. This will include robotic devices designed to establish a base camp and other devices designed to explore and utilize the planet’s resources. The problem is a bit more complex than this, but I think what I’ve described will be challenging enough for any engineer. Am I correct in assuming that with today’s technology that such a mission will be impossible? A more challenging question is what has to be learned to make such a mission possible? Discussion of the challenging questions of how to keep spacecraft intact while flying through an interstellar mine field and the challenges of propulsion and flight planning are to be saved for another time. Currently I’d like to keep the focus on the preservation and maintenance of the materials and composite artifacts required for such a mission. I am also wondering if humanity has enough time, resources and interest to meet the challenges of interstellar space travel. Too much is going on around the world that makes be believe we may never put together a mission somewhat like the mission I described. So there are two sets here. One that deals with the physics and another that deals with world resources, society and political realities. Please give primary focus to the former despite my concerns about the latter set.