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Modeling an Interstellar Future


The bet between Tibor Pacher and myself continues to draw emails, proving that my friend Tibor was right when he saw an interstellar wager as a teaching opportunity. I still maintain that an interstellar mission will not be launched anywhere near as early as 2025, but Tibor does have his advocates, as you can see on the Long Bets site. Moreover, it’s been useful to plug in distances and velocities for a 2000-year mission to a place like Proxima Centauri when I speak to audiences about how large the distance between the stars really is. 2000 years is a long time, but we’re still talking 650 kilometers per second, and just 20 years to the Oort Cloud!

And as a guy who used to build model airplanes back in my youth, first in plastic and then from balsa wood (wonderful memories of working with kits of World War I and II aircraft from Guillow), I can relate to Tibor’s latest venture. MiniSpaceWorld is an attempt to create, at a European site still to be determined, a wide-ranging exhibit covering the state of the art in rocketry and pointing toward a future that encompasses missions to extrasolar planets. Tibor’s inspiration for this was the amazing Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, an exhibition that may be the most spectacular gathering of model railway talent ever assembled in a single place.

With content ranging from the experiments of Galileo up to existing space installations worldwide and extending to showcase potential exoplanetary environments, MiniSpaceWorld aims to cover the gamut of space exploration, all in a miniaturized format that can pack an enormous amount of material into a small space, roughly 3500 square meters in two levels, with a potential for growth. The design contest soliciting ideas in all categories can be accessed through the MSW site, where details of contest entries and the format to be used are also provided. A jury including Tau Zero’s Marc Millis will judge the winners, with an award ceremony to be held in December in Budapest, organized in conjunction with Galaktika, the award-winning European science fiction magazine.


Image: One aspect of MiniSpaceWorld will be modeling of existing space installations around the world. Credit: Ferenc Gál.

The contest is open now and will run until October 15, a chance to contribute to a scale model world for space exploration that, Tibor hopes, will help to promote public interest and funding for future ventures. It’s an ambitious project that deserves support. I notice that the Miniatur Wunderland venue in Hamburg draws 700,000 visitors a year, a demonstration that small scale modeling can grow into a significant opportunity for education over time. Building the intellectual framework now — especially for the kids — can help us down the road once we emerge into a time of more robust funding for deep space missions.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • george scaglione June 13, 2009, 13:54

    hello everybody!!! fantastic topic! i am glad that it is here.read recently,as i recall in the book centauri dreams that it had been predicted in about 1975 that if we really “got on the stick” then it would be possible to have our first starship by 2025! my own thoughts in the last few months followed more closely to 2075. a beginning has been made.witness two studies by the united states air force i have recently had the opportunity to read online : the usaf study of quantum drive and the teleportation physics study. i know that serious scientific breakthroughs will be needed first.respectfully as i see it at this time the name of that game is and will be quantum physics! especially good to see those air force studies.respectfully to all with the sincere hope of reading alot more under this topic,your friend george scaglione

  • george scaglione June 30, 2009, 9:26

    well,lol,on this the last day of june.i still find it hard to believe that my one response to this great topic still stands alone.guess it happens. i realize we have here an extremely bright audience that must certainly have multiple other concerns to deal with.respectfully your friend george

  • ljk September 2, 2009, 2:16

    Though I am sure this may be nothing more than the equivalent
    of geopolotical boasting and a show of prowess, this is the first
    time I have seen mention of a Chinese plan to send a probe
    beyond our Sol system.


    China to begin construction of orbital space station in 2020

    13:54 31/08/2009

    BEIJING, August 31 (RIA Novosti) – China will begin the construction of its own orbital space station in 2020, the Sina news service said on Monday, citing a top official with the country’s manned spaceflight program.

    Gu Yidong said that China would sent two or three space labs into orbit in 2010-2015, while the basic module of the space station is to be orbited by 2020.

    The spacecrafts will “form the basic orbital complex of the Chinese space station” when docked together, he said.

    According to earlier Chinese media reports, China plans to send a manned mission to the Moon by 2030 and subsequently build a lunar base to send missions to other planets in the Solar System, such as Mars.

    By 2050, China plans to develop and launch a research probe to space bodies outside the Solar System.

    A Chinese astronaut conducted the country’s first spacewalk last September, making China the third country in the world after Russia and the United States to send a man into open space.