Making Progress on Star Trek Physics is Marc Millis’ foray into crowdsourcing, a just announced project on Kickstarter. For those new to the concept, Kickstarter allows the general public to make donations to projects that are described on the site. A deadline is established and so is a minimum funding goal — if the goal is not reached by the deadline, no funds are collected. $275 million have been raised for various Kickstarter projects thus far and Millis is hoping to catch this wave in support of a new book on breakthrough propulsion concepts that is aimed at a broad, general audience.
Centauri Dreams readers will recall that Millis and Eric Davis co-edited 2009’s Frontiers of Propulsion Science, published by the AIAA. The first compilation on topics Millis analyzed as head of NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project, Frontiers was lengthy (22 individual essays in 739 pages) and written specifically with a graduate-level and professional audience in mind. The new project does something equally unusual, explaining recent research on these matters from the ground up, supported by the diagrams and artwork of the graphic designer Alexandre Szames.
From Millis’ description on the Kickstarter page:
Contrary to popular belief, NASA and other organizations do NOT routinely fund such far-future work, since this research appears to be beyond foreseeable returns on investment. Another impediment is that potential sponsors find it difficult to tell the difference between those crazy ideas that might become breakthroughs and the more numerous, genuinely crazy ideas.
The funds will be used to write enough material to secure a publishing deal and to assist some of my fellow practitioners to deliver fresh content and produce new graphics. I need to know by mid-late September if I’ll have the resources to do this. At that time, I will have to choose between various options for my future. My top wish is to do this book as my next step.
Let’s see how crowdsourcing works for this kind of project — small contributions can add up fast when seeded on the Internet. In addition to Millis’ book concept, the idea is being explored by a number of space-minded organizations, as Alan Boyle points out in a recent Cosmic Log article. Michael Laine’s LiftPort Group, for example, has been using Kickstarter to raise funds for work on space elevator technologies. SkyCube is an attempt to launch a CubeSat on a SpaceX booster, as is the crowd-sourced ArduSat. Let’s hope this smaller fundraiser on BPP ideas can be equally effective.