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Firefly Pilobolus crystallinus spores flying through space 64233.jpg


DCF: The Joke That Changed Everything

Radcliffe Burns  |  August 9th, 2085  |  The New York Standard

Ingested, crewed with the cud, and ultimately passed through the bowels of the average bovidae, the remarkable pilobolus crystallinus waits patiently to be deposited on the ground in a literal dung heap (scientific name: cow pie). This curious fungus, once “planted,” will grow to a maximum 4 cm in length, ultimately completing its life cycle by ejecting its spores out of the feces and into the surrounding vegetation at an incredible distance of up to 2 meters.


Ladies and gentlemen, the dung canon fungus.


If you tapped on this article to learn about space travel, and are now wondering just what twilight zone you’ve fallen into, have no fear; that 2 meters is accomplished via an acceleration of 0-45 miles per hour in the space of a mere 1 millimeter of distance. Folks, that’s a 20,000 g acceleration, which makes the dung cannon fungus literally the fastest accelerating organism in the universe–fitting inspiration for an engine capable of acceleration fast enough to get you to mars in less than a day when she’s close. Which brings us to the DCF ultra heavy thruster.


Dr. Timothy Feldman laughed when he said it, but the name stuck (much to the chagrin of Feldman-Cooley’s upper management, or so I’m told), and now the Dung Cannon Fungus thruster (named simply as the acronym on the patent applications) is set to power the new age of stellar exploration. Biological inspirations aside, the engine is pure physics; while the exact mechanisms will likely remain classified for some time, this electrothermal drive is a quantum leap beyond all previous ion propulsion technologies. Rather than using increasingly scarce Xenon gas as propellant, a synthetic xenon derivative is used in very small quantities to create  a “starter” reaction, which is used to drive an even more powerful reaction from a larger amount of iodine based propellant. “It’s a bit like a giant, electrical afterburner,” Feldman said. Indeed, this propellant must also be “superionized” with an eye-popping 2,100 megawatts of electricity—almost the entire output of a modern Hellbeck liquid sodium reactor—delivered in thousands of pulses every second, micro-timed to build on each other in a snowball effect. The effect requires the most precise control of any current-day engine. This means that, barring a sudden breakthrough in fusion, any spacecraft powered by the engine must be powered by a fission reactor.


“I’ve insisted for decades that the future of green energy is nuclear,” Feldman said during the initial announcement. “Coincidentally, the future of space travel is also nuclear. Without it, there is simply no way to consistently generate enough power to do what we’re doing.”


That announcement was three years ago. Many of us have watched in frustration as government oversight and budget issues continually stalled the practical implementation of this incredible technology. However, with India’s recent announcement of a manned mission to Mars, in addition to several other country’s announcements, a fire now seems to have been lit under DC’s collective bottom. Reportedly, copycat engines have sprung up all over the world in the past six months, which has led to speculation that Feldman-Cooley might have leaked the design themselves via private sales during overseas conferences. Feldman-Cooley has vehemently denied these rumors; if true, the company would be in violation of the Sensitive Technology Transfer Act, originally passed in 2031 to prevent technology leaks to China. The possibility of industrial espionage has not been ruled out.


Yesterday, Congress approved the D2084 Act authorizing NASA in partnership with Space 3.0 and Associates to forge ahead with the original $120 billion Daedalus program, in crash mode. Due to supply concerns, fuel procurement is the first goal; Daedalus I will launch on January 23rd and head to the asteroid Leichtman, which is suspected to contain significant deposits of uranium. (France announced the Pesquet with a competing mission, but has become mired in negotiations). In two years, Daedalus II will be launched on a trajectory for Venus to collect Xenon from the atmosphere. In tests, pure Xenon has proved more effective than the more readily available systetic derivative. Materials harvested rom these missions over the next 10 years are expected to fuel at least two decades of further missions.


Meanwhile, India’s Vidya Lakshmi is scheduled to arrive in Mars orbit as early as December 31st, mission objectives unknown. China's mission is similarly being kept under wraps, but rumors persist that it will involve Jupiter’s moon, Europa, sparking references to the 1984 film 2010, in which Russian and American cosmonauts make a similar journey. Russian President Vitaly Orlov, however, has been candid about his country’s intent to establish an outpost in Saturn’s orbit. “The crew of the Novikov station will study the composition of Saturn up close, and will act as a hub for further missions, including the first manned efforts to journey to the outer reaches of our solar system,” Orlov said. “The first living creatures to leave Sol will not be American Monkeys, but Russian cosmonauts.”


Digs from foreign leaders aside, The United States has regained it’s ground with remarkable speed. Daedalus III is scheduled to launch in three years for the asteroid Ceres; the mission’s objectives are classified, but Ceres is believed to contain nearly 200 million cubic kilometers of water–more than the Earth itself–prompting rumors that the mission is meant to begin harvesting it in support of American colonization operations further into the solar system.


All this from Feldman’s little “joke.”


Incidentally, the dung cannon fungus is also sometimes known as a “hat thrower.” But where is the fun in that?




Fun fact: the first living creatures in space were actually a bunch of fruit flies strapped to a German V2 rocket. 42 miles up is technically in space.



As of now, we are a spacefaring species. Prayers for everyone, regardless of their nation. What a time to be alive!



How can this even be real? I grew up reading stories like this and now it’s happening.



This is taking place in my lifetime, straight up. This will change our species literally forever. Peak evolution, people.



Don’t wake Cthulhu.



When do we get the first commercial flight to the moon?



Nu said:

This is taking place in my lifetime, straight up. This will change our species literally forever. Peak evolution, people.

This post is dragon energy.



The author is entirely too preoccupied with feces.

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