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On Foundation-Building and Starflight

by Marc Millis

Welcome to the birth of a new foundation. Using the dream of reaching other worlds as a long-range goal and a catalyst for near-term progress, the Tau Zero Foundation supports incremental advancements in science, technology, and education. As a private nonprofit (501c3) corporation, supported mainly through philanthropic donations, the Foundation seeks out and directs support to the best practitioners who can make credible progress toward this incredible goal and educate the public during this journey of discovery.


The enormous benefits of practical interstellar flight should be obvious. Not only would this free humanity from having just one safe haven, Earth, but the technological spin-offs would be profound. Imagine the consequences, where breakthroughs in transportation, energy conversion, and sustainable habitats would be realized on Earth as well as for expanding human presence beyond Earth. These technologies could answer a wide range of human needs.

Presently however, some of the world’s most reputable thinkers deem practical interstellar flight to be impossible, and they might very well be right. Conceding defeat, however, does not inspire progress. Even if the ultimate challenges are impossible, there is value in the attempt. Aiming for impossible goals forces thinking beyond mere extrapolation of existing achievements. It presents a provocative challenge to spur discoveries that others aren’t even looking for. It provides a different perspective from which to ponder the lingering mysteries of science. It gives an inspirational theme around which to educate the public about the opportunities and methods of reasoned discovery. And culturally, it helps remind us that we share a common humanity, temporarily stranded together on our one small planet Earth, to encourage us to behave more responsibly. Finally, given the indefinitely long time scales of interstellar flight, it gives us a role model for breaking away from the trappings of instant gratification.


The Tau Zero Foundation will establish itself as the dependable venue through which the visionary goals of interstellar flight can be advanced through imagination coupled with intellectual rigor. The allure of undiscovered breakthroughs will be used to inspire and educate the public, and in turn, these educational ventures will promote the Foundation. To advance science and technology, the Foundation will channel financial support to credible risk-takers within legitimate establishments, selected largely through competitive processes. To stay poised for capitalizing on ancillary benefits, the most promising developments will be aimed toward revenue-generating products and services.

Although academia advances the underlying science and technology, it seldom risks exploring the highly speculative ideas of interstellar flight. Even though various organizations advance space exploration, these typically cater to near-term challenges. While science fiction inspires, it is conveyed as entertainment rather than for deliberately provoking progress. And finally, although there are Internet groups touting spaceflight breakthroughs, these lack credibility and correspondingly degrade the overall legitimacy of the pursuit.

Regarding the philanthropic model, there are precedents. Both the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and Biosphere obtained considerably more funds through philanthropy than from the expected sponsor – government. In fact, SETI, a canceled NASA project, has been faring better since it became independent. Furthermore, there is evidence of a cultural change underway with regard to space exploration. Wealthy individuals such as Paul Allen, Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are supporting their own space ventures. While they focus on near-term gains, this Foundation provides a reliable outlet through which wealthy individuals can support the far-future quests as well.


The creative driving force behind this effort is Marc G. Millis, who co-founded “Vision-21” within Lewis Research Center (1990-1994), served as an advisor and editor for the Interstellar Propulsion Society (1995), and founded and led NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project (1996-2002). This Project looked at such controversial topics as gravity control, space drives, faster-than-light travel, and vacuum energy, and did so in a credible and efficient manner. For a total investment of less than $1.6M spread over 7 years, this project produced 14 peer-reviewed journal articles, addressed 8 different research approaches, posted an award winning web site, and garnered over 100 positive press articles for NASA. As a normal part of his operating strategy, Millis routinely pursues collaborations wherever possible. Such a strategy and the established network of collaborators will make for a more efficient and effective Foundation.

The following accomplished scientists, engineers, and journalists have already committed to contributing their talents. As the scout for the nearer-term interstellar options, Gregory Matloff, of the New York City College of Technology and a Hayden Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History, will be participating. Matloff co-authored the seminal book The Starflight Handbook (1989) followed by Deep Space Probes (2nd ed. 2005) and consults for NASA and others on the technologies for interstellar probes. An antimatter and nuclear propulsion expert is Steven Howe, Director of the Center for Space Nuclear Studies in Idaho Falls. Another propulsion expert is Martin Tajmar, author of Advanced Space Propulsion Systems (2003) and Head of Space Propulsion research for ARC Seibersdorf Research in Austria. The lead journalist for the Foundation is Paul Gilster, who recently published an overview of interstellar ambitions, Centauri Dreams (2004), and who continues to post interstellar news on his Centauri Dreams website.

Dana Andrews (Andrews Space, Inc.) brings to the Foundation expertise on space sails and numerous contributions in aerospace engineering. Geoffrey Landis (NASA GRC) is a physicist and science fiction writer with extensive background in interstellar issues. Space scientist Claudio Maccone (Alenia Spazio) has long championed interstellar studies and is the creative force behind FOCAL, a mission concept to reach the Sun’s gravity lens. Both Jean-Luc Cambier (Propulsion Directorate, Edwards Air Force Base) and Brice Cassenti (Pratt & Whitney) are experts in advanced space propulsion, while Eric Davis (Institute for Advanced Studies, Austin) brings expertise in exotic concepts like the warp drive. Physicist Bill Harter (University of Arkansas) is a specialist in special relativity and wave mechanics.

Other names key to the foundation’s success include antimatter specialist Gerald Jackson (Hbar Technologies); physicist Jordin Kare (Kare Consulting); Frank Mead (Propulsion Directorate, Edwards Air Force Base); astronautical engineering consultant Gerald Nordley; aerospace engineer Mike LaPointe (NASA MSFC); physicists Ed Zampino (NASA GRC) and Bill Meyer (GRC and Scattering Solutions LLC); physicist Jordan Maclay (Quantum Fields, LLC); Lt. Col. Tim Lawrence (US Air Force Academy); engineer Sonny White (NASA Johnson Space Center) and information technologist Jon Hujsak (Neotopica Inc.).

The Foundation also draws upon the work of graphic artist and journalist Alexandre Szames, along with journalists Ian Brown, Larry Klaes and Leonard David, to bring its work to the public. For fundraising and entrepreneurial guidance, Walter de Brouwer is participating. Founder of more that 40 companies including 2 international IPO’s, Time and CNN dubbed him a ‘serial entrepreneur.’ Walter also served on the program board of MIT’s Media Lab, but his most applicable adventure was Starlab, which brought together accomplished risk-takers from a variety of disciplines to collaborate on problems of infinite horizons. Legal council is provided by Frank Nagorney, a specialist in small business and a principal of Cowden Humphrey Nagorney & Lovett Co.


Much of the groundwork is already being set. Some research and outreach is already happening in small fragments scattered across the world, albeit to a very limited degree. But is this enough? On something as important as giving humanity a future beyond the bounds of Earth, shouldn’t we be doing more? By using the daunting challenge of a seemingly impossible goal, we could very well discover what mundane researchers will overlook. And what if the impossible is possible? If so, it is certain to happen sooner than the pessimists believe. That is the way of pessimists. The Tau Zero Foundation is being established to support a network of rational visionaries who are willing to tackle the impossible and produce value along the way. When our Web site is ready and we are ready to accept general memberships, we hope you will join us and support this work. We all have a common goal: To give humanity a future worth working toward.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Peter Henry Cheasley June 29, 2006, 10:01

    SETI proves itself daily to be an exciting journey.The time is right for your project.
    Lifetime member The SETILeague , Argus Project radiotelescope FN35dm ,VE2TPR Amateur Radio

  • Kurt June 29, 2006, 12:59

    From what I have read, Heim theory is more likely to be successful than any other approach for achieving intersteller travel. It appears that Heim theory competes with String/M-brane theory and Loop Quantum Gravity and that there is no other “competition” at this time. Heim theory also appears to be incompatible with Supersymetry as well as the existance of the Higgs boson.

    This means that we simply just sit back and wait for a few years for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to come on line and for the experiments to be done to detect the Higgs boson and the lightest of the hypothesized supersymetry particles. The LHC comes on line in full implementation in 2008, with these experiments taking an additional 2-3 years to complete. If they fail to detect the Higgs boson (which is actually quite likely), the Standard Model will be falsified UNLESS the Heim theory is accepted (the Heim theory predicts the existance of all of the currently known sub-atomic particles without the need for the Higgs boson). Similarly, if the lightest of the hypothesized supersymetry particles are not found, this also has serious implications for current physics. Both of these results would significantly increase the chances of heim theory being real, without people like us spending any money or doing any work (the Europeans do this for us).

    If these results are obtained, then it may be worth spending some money to work through the mathematics to clarify Heim theory, then do the experiments to confirm the existance of the photo-gravitational forces.

    I have my doubts about string theory. Since there is no currently known way for testing it, it is essentially untestible, which makes it not a scientific theory as far as I’m concerned.

  • JD June 29, 2006, 14:34

    “Presently however, some of the world’s most reputable thinkers deem practical interstellar flight to be impossible, and they might very well be right.”

    Perhaps interstellar flight is impractical at our current stage but I would not deem it impossible. As alluded to by Kurt what we have yet to learn is tremendous in scope so the impractical today may be the common place in a few decades. The effort is well worth undertaking.

    P.S. I’d love to see a darkhorse like Heim theory take the lead. String theory has turned into an institution (my son is finishing up his degree in physics and has been given the impression he must have the proper mindset if he wants to find work).

  • Marc Millis June 30, 2006, 8:01

    Regarding the enthusiasm for Heim or whatever your favorite approach… It is far too early to pick a winner. Although Heim has received more press, many researchers are still waiting for enough detail in the peer literature to allow objective assessments and understanding. In addition, there are many other theories and experiments that have not yet been resolved.

    The strategy of the Foundation will be to cover the whole span of ambitions, but with cycles of short-term, affordable investigations that target the most important questions. This span includes the seemingly simple concept of solar sails to the seemingly impossible goal of faster-than-light travel, to hedge the bets. By “most important questions” it is meant those research questions that will have the greatest impact. Long-range progress is achieved by iterating cycles of these short-term investigations. Eventually, and with ancillary benefits along the way, it will become clear when humanity is ready and commit to an interstellar mission. Since this eventual stage is beyond the foreseeable future, this incremental and multifaceted approach is a practical strategy for years to come.

  • pfdietz June 30, 2006, 8:44

    Folks latching on to speculative physics should keep in mind that such theories are, by necessity, almost always wrong. Theoretical physicists have produced huge numbers of theories, the vast majority of which cannot be correct, since they are typically mutually inconsistent. This is not a reason to avoid investigating them, but the usual outcome will be their disproof (if they can be tested at all).

  • Frank June 30, 2006, 11:49

    Maybe this foundation should prod Sandia National Labs to perform the test suggested in an AIAA article dated January 5, 2006.

    Expert from article:

    The AIAA is certainly not embarrassed. What’s more, the US military has begun to cast its eyes over the hyperdrive concept, and a space propulsion researcher at the US Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories has said he would be interested in putting the idea to the test. And despite the bafflement of most physicists at the theory that supposedly underpins it, Pavlos Mikellides, an aerospace engineer at the Arizona State University in Tempe who reviewed the winning paper, stands by the committee’s choice. “Even though such features have been explored before, this particular approach is quite unique,” he says.

    In its present design, Dröscher and Häuser’s experiment requires a magnetic coil several meters in diameter capable of sustaining an enormous current density. Most engineers say that this is not feasible with existing materials and technology, but Roger Lenard, a space propulsion researcher at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico thinks it might just be possible. Sandia runs an X-ray generator known as the Z machine which “could probably generate the necessary field intensities and gradients”.

  • Lubo April 27, 2007, 6:19

    I have a question to Marc Millis. Why didn’t the US Government grant funds for building hyperdrive or warp drive? Round 100 billion dolars would be enough to create such kind of propulsion in 5 years! Why haven’t they done it??? They have money for army, but not money for technology that will make them 100 times more wealthy! That is paradox!!!

  • Administrator April 27, 2007, 11:58

    I’ll let Marc speak for himself, Lubo, but I will say that this kind of propulsion is nowhere near five years away, no matter how much we spend. The basic theories are still being worked out; no one knows at all whether warp technologies will ever be developed. Before anyone spends that kind of money, they’ll have to have a solid theoretical basis upon which to begin experimenting.

  • george scaglione April 27, 2007, 13:26

    paul, thank you very much for the above answer to lubo.i was tempted myself to say something along those lines.but you my friend put it in a nutshell!!! respectfully george lubo – i do want to respectfully ad one more thing.marc millis was the head of nasa’s breakthrough propulsion physics project which did take a serious look at several of the ideas which we discuss here.he would be in a position to know about many of the ideas we so frequently talk about here.yet i most certainly continue to agree with the administrators comments above.keep thinking about these subjects my friend that is the purpose of this group! thank you yet again george

  • Lubo April 28, 2007, 0:32

    All that have to be done is gather 100 of the best physicist, give them billions of dollars, —/— well equipment(just like Manhattan Project) and after a decade or more we will gain fruits

  • Robert McGowan May 12, 2007, 8:31

    I am searching for support for the develpment of a enique propulsion system. Is this somthing that this group may consider?

  • Administrator May 12, 2007, 9:10

    Robert, the Tau Zero Foundation is always interested in good ideas, but do be aware that TZF is looking for funding only for work that has already gone through the peer review process. If you have had a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal, then it would qualify. This requirement is necessary for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the sheer number of funding requests. If you have any questions, feel free to write me directly.

  • Matt Urschel June 28, 2007, 21:03

    Concerning the Heim propulsion papers by Dröscher and Häuser’s:

    I am no physicist (although my brother is :)). In fact, upon reading Dröscher and Häuser’s papers, I quickly came to the conclusion that I understood almost none of what they were writing about, beyond the basic concept that this “Heim torus” device would somehow create particles called “gravitophotons” that would produce a propulsive force without the need for large amounts of fuel, and that all of this particle production had something to do with multiple dimensions that some might refer to as “hyperspace”, if they were so inclined. However, I am a biologist, and as such, a scientist. As I scientist, I don’t need to fully understand the specifics of a paper to recognize whether it contains the 2 crucial elements of the scientific method: a testable hypothesis, and a clearly described experimental method by which to test the hypothesis. So, given that Dröscher and Häuser’s papers clearly possess both of these elements, and given the undeniably gigantic implications the results of such an experiment might have for the human race, my question is: why does no one seem interested in trying this experiment? I mean, maybe Dröscher and Häuser are completely wrong. Maybe these “gravitophoton” things are just a bunch of fantastic BS that could no more propel us to other stars than a good fart could propel me across the room to change the channel on the telvision, but don’t we at least have to TRY the experiment and FIND OUT?

    I, for one, vote a RESOUNDING YES!


  • Matt Urschel June 28, 2007, 21:44

    Hmm… well, perhaps I should have read Kurt’s June 29 message before writing this, but that doesn’t mean I retract my positive vote :).

  • RT LaMonda September 7, 2007, 14:49

    Read the book Centauri Dreams by Paul Gilster and loved it. It was full of great information and spoke of a great vision for mankind. I just hope that all the other future thinking people are in contact with each other so that a united efforts can be created. Would like to see you and kind at a conference here in FL. The thing that I keep thiking during the reading was, “Could the gravity of the universe be effecting our view of the stars, so that what we see isn’t actually occurring?” I think that nanotech is the future and the solution to space travel.

  • Administrator September 7, 2007, 15:06

    Thanks for the nice comment on my book, RT. Much appreciated. The Tau Zero Foundation (see link at side of page) hopes to pull together people interested in this research and create a viable philanthropic organization to support credible studies in advanced propulsion. More on that as events unfold.

    As to nanotech, I’m in agreement. It’s one thing to push a massive payload of Cassini size to Centauri, quite another to talk about nanotech-enabled probes like Robert Freitas’ needle probes. Imagine such packed with artificial intelligence and the ability to deploy assemblers in a target system to create an observing post. We should have remarkable capabilities coming our way as nanotech continues to develop.

  • george scaglione September 7, 2007, 16:01

    rt – yes it was a great book i read it a couple of times myself!and yes it is nice that all of the people who consider the future of space flight have a place like this on line to share ideas! i too would enjoy going to a meeting like that myself. i live in new jersey and wonder if a seminar like that could ever be arranged in say one of the atlantic city hotels. now that would be fun! give the trek conventions a run for their money,lol!…..also,paul, i agree 100% would’nt it be nice if the above suggested atlantic city forum could be the meeting place for tau zero and all of its fans! respectfully to one and all,your friend, george

  • Adam September 7, 2007, 23:17

    Hi Guys

    You Yanks have all the fun.

    Us Antipodeans have to either cross the Pacific to visit or make do with vicarious means of “being there”.

  • Hugh October 2, 2008, 7:44

    I don’t think it’s been mentioned, but extended Heim theory as described by Droscher & Hauser is acknowledged by Martin Tajmar as one of a handful of possible theoretical explanations for his ‘mini-Podkletnov’ experimental effect. The other theories are arbitrary additions to the Standard Model. Tajmar’s effect appears to have been confirmed by Graham et al. in Canterbury, NZ and the Gravity Probe B ‘ anomalous’ gyro findings. They both also see a signature of a possible artificial gravity force of a size similar to that of Tajmar. The extended Heim theory of Droscher & Hauser also predicts that a somewhat different superconducting set-up to Tajmar’s should give a vertical force and not a tangential as Tajmar & co. saw. This is crying out for funding, as it is a much cheaper experiment than the previous Z-machine type ones, and would test another Heim prediction, this time a-priori.