NIF has conducted more than 1,000 laser "shots" and set multiple
records for laser power -- including a 500-terawatt shot on July 5, 2012
-- the latest goal of achieving ignition by October 1, 2012 (set in
2009) came and went. For reasons unknown, the laser's energy is only
generating pressures in the target of 150 billion times the Earth's
atmosphere -- about half of what is required for ignition. Moses told
the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month that he cannot predict
when -- or if -- ignition will ever be achieved. "Our goal is of course
ignition," he said. "The goal is to get there or understand why you
don't." Moses estimates that total costs have reached $5 billion,
although a local grassroots watchdog organization asserts costs are
closer to $7.5 billion, because the laboratory has been allowed to
charge some of NIF's costs to other programs. NIF's current annual costs
are at least $400 million. (By comparison, the estimated budget for
Star Trek Into Darkness was $190 million.)
weapons-related role may be fading, thanks to growing congressional
frustration with slipping deadlines, a failure to achieve its primary
objective, and the budgetary effects of sequestration, Star Trek has
given some NIF personnel a brief bit of glory, albeit in a way that
foreshadows a less than rosy future. As Simon Pegg, who plays Chief
Engineer Montgomery Scott ("Scotty"), explained to io9.com, "All of
those guys with red shirts in the warp core [are] all just guys from NIF
who just wanted to be in Star Trek. Bruno [Van Wonterghem], the project
leader there, who is the guy who will discover fusion and will go down
as the next Edison" is in the background. If Moses, Van Wonterghem, and
their colleagues are true Trek aficionados, the irony won't be lost on
them. In Star Trek lore, anonymous crewmembers wearing red shirts are
usually the first to die.
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