The annual New Trends in Astrodynamics and Applications conference meets for the third time this week in Princeton, with Ed Belbruno calling the house to order on Wednesday. From an interstellar perspective, this year’s conference is packed — last year we had but three interstellar papers, whereas the 2006 meeting will feature two complete sessions and no fewer than nine papers on topics ranging from collecting antimatter from natural sources in the Solar System (James Bickford) to spacecraft miniaturization (Mason Peck) and antimatter/nuclear hybrids (Gerald Jackson). You can find the list of speakers and their topics at the program site.
This year the focus on near-term precursor concepts is robust. Greg Matloff will report on interim missions as a way to ‘prep for Centaurus,’ while Les Johnson and Sandy Montgomery (NASA MSFC) will present the latest solar sail developments, and Claudio Maccone will examine the FOCAL mission to the Sun’s gravity lens. I had been looking forward to renewing conversations with both Matloff and Maccone and haven’t seen Johnson or Montgomery since researching my book in 2003, but unexpected developments scuttled my travel plans.
Nonetheless, Centauri Dreams should be able to report on many of these papers after the fact, and from what I’ve seen already, they should make for fascinating reading. Marc Millis’ presentation on the “Incessant Obsolescence Postulate and Practical Interstellar Flight” makes shrewd points about mission times and targets that will provide fodder for lengthy discussion, and Jordin Kare will be on hand to talk about his ‘Sailbeam’ concept for probes moving at a tenth of lightspeed.
All this good material reminds me that two years have gone by since I first talked about making the re-creation of a yearly interstellar bibliography a prime goal of the Tau Zero Foundation (which in those days was being developed under a different name). I say ‘re-creating’ because the first interstellar bibliography was produced by Robert Forward and Eugene Mallove over a quarter of a century ago. Its last appearance was in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society in 1980, with 2700 items in 70 subject categories. That a working bibliography is a basic tool for research in these disciplines is obvious, and my hope is to begin work on the new one before year’s end.