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Wrapping Up the Houston Starship

Because I utterly lack their skills, I have huge admiration for practical-minded people who can organize things well. Eric Davis’ work as track chair for the ‘Time and Distance Solutions’ track in Houston is a case in point. The challenge is in coping with a key fact of interstellar studies: We are so early in the game that we have not remotely figured out which propulsion method makes the most sense for journeys of this magnitude. Discussing time and distance means culling papers to find a balance of ideas, from what could be near-term (fusion, although it always seems near-term) to highly speculative (antimatter and nanotech).

Image: Physicist Eric Davis, a highly visible figure at the Houston conference.

Eric nailed the composition of the track, and it was because of that that I stayed in it through the conference. The temptation of getting involved with alternate tracks on ‘Becoming an Interstellar Civilization’ and especially ‘Destinations and Habitats’ was huge, but it was the time and distance problem that first drew me to interstellar studies so that is where I stayed. I’m hoping that Eric as well as several other track chairs will be able to offer their thoughts in future Centauri Dreams articles on how their sessions went.

Sleepless in Houston

Mae Jemison, who runs the 100 Year Starship organization, was everywhere, and I was beginning to wonder if she ever slept. She was in meetings all day Wednesday with the advisory council and later the track chairs, then in constant motion afterwards, a highly visible figure who never seemed to run out of energy. Gordon Gould and I asked her at lunch on Thursday about her flight aboard Endeavour in 1992, curious about what it is like to actually be blasted into space. We’ve all seen Shuttle launches and know how impressive, noisy and fearsome they can be.

But Mae said the effect was actually quite different. “You’re so wrapped up in padding and shielded from the noise that from inside, it’s just like being in the simulator. Remember that you have to hear all the communications inside the craft, so the noise seems very far away.” I had the same reaction a few months back when I asked Shuttle astronaut Drew Feistel, a veteran of Hubble Space Telescope repairs, whether that sweeping roll the Shuttle used to perform on liftoff was as dramatic from inside as it appeared to spectators. And the answer was no. Drew said you mostly felt acceleration, and that the roll maneuver felt very gradual and unobtrusive.

The job ahead of Mae’s group is, of course, enormous, and a huge part of that job will be to connect to a public that is both hamstrung by economic concerns and largely out of the kind of space mode we saw back in the Apollo days. My thought on that is that an organization like the 100 Year Starship can do a world of good by helping to get the word out about what interstellar issues really are. It’s surprising how few people realize the distances we’re talking about — when I first arrived in Houston, I cited in these pages the person who had emailed me with the question: “We’re already going to Pluto. How much harder can it be to go to a star?”

I gave a flip answer to that question in my earlier post, but it’s indicative of the mind-boggling nature of the time and distance conundrum and how little it is perceived by the public. I think we need to communicate how enormously challenging it will be to go to the stars at the same time that we provide a sound rationale for methodically looking at the problem. It is not using scare tactics to suggest that Earth’s history has been violent and that asteroid or comet impacts are not necessarily all in the past. And it is not being overly sanguine to say that the kind of solutions that will enable a crewed starship — maintaining sound ecologies, for example — are solutions that will have resonance on our own green planet and will help us to preserve it.

Spinoffs are always a touchy subject in spaceflight terms because they’re so easily ridiculed, and the average citizen is more likely to think of Tang than of GPS as a result of space research. But this is simply a hurdle that must be cleared for an organization with a 100-year mission to succeed. Learning how to propel a payload at a small percentage of lightspeed could have enormous ramifications for our production and use of energy on Earth, while the demand for autonomous systems will propel us into major advances in artificial intelligence and robotics. As one speaker noted, whether manned or not, a starship will demand autonomous systems.

Image: Mae Jemison addresses the crowd at Saturday night’s gala.

Into the Cosmic Sea

Let me close my Houston coverage with some thoughts about Jill Tarter. The SETI legend spoke to the symposium at large on Saturday in a short, inspiring talk outlining the search for Earth 2.0. We have yet to detect proof of an extraterrestrial civilization after 50 years of searching, but Tarter is doubling down on the need to keep looking given the small sample in our searches:

“Think about an Earth ocean as an analog. We’ve sampled the equivalent of one eight ounce glass out of that ocean in 50 years. Now you might get lucky and scoop up a fish when you do something like that, but chances are you wouldn’t. So our sample is small, inadequate. A cosmic ocean is out there beckoning us — the monumental task of sampling it remains… Our search must be audacious and inclusive. SETI trivializes the differences among us, and if it does nothing but expose every human being on the planet to this perspective, it will still have been one of the most significant events in human history.”

What might we pick up? Tarter said we will discover that Earth 2.0 in short order, meaning an Earth-mass planet in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star, but added that for it to truly be Earth 2.0, it will need to be inhabited. A technology we might detect could be anything from a beacon to a vast communications network, or perhaps huge shields against asteroid impacts or a completely unforeseen technology that could be generating radio or optical signals. “If we find technology, we can infer intelligence,” she added. “We can’t directly detect intelligence.”

Tarter’s message resonated with a crowd that, like her, believes we are a very young technology in a very old galaxy. A key question: Is it possible for a technological civilization to last for cosmic lengths of time? If the answer is no, Tarter believes SETI will fail, but of course we all hope the answer is yes. It was Philip Morrison, co-author of the first major paper on SETI, who called the idea “the archaeology of the future.” Sifting through the faint signals that impinge upon our dishes from the galaxy around us, we hope, unlike archaeologists, to find not just enigmatic remains but a living presence whose very existence will add meaning to our place in the cosmos.

In going forward, both in SETI and in the 100 Year Starship initiative, I’m reminded of Mae Jemison’s quote from Bashō, the greatest poet of the Edo period in Japan. Bashō’s wanderings into unknown country made him a legend, giving him material for his work and renewed purpose. He had learned from experience the lesson he conveyed here: “Seek not to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought.”


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Paul Titze September 19, 2012, 10:12

    Hi Paul,

    Interesting thoughts on SETI there and wish them luck in finding the proof as it may convince governments to invest a modest budget towards interstellar propulsion research (we’re not asking much $1000000/year just to cover the basics, a drop in the pond compared to other budgets). We know there is life on one planet in our Universe. Given the number of galaxies in our observable Universe and the number of stars with planetary systems per galaxy, the probability of there being life elsewhere whether the life form be microbial, primitive or intelligent is 100% (an educated guess). What next? Build a starship and introduce ourselves if they are a mature civilisation or send a signal and hope for a reply decades/centuries later? Do nothing business as usual?

    Cheers, Paul.

  • MattJ September 19, 2012, 10:33

    Paul, I spent Friday morning in the Destination and Habitat track, it did indeed have interesting talks. I spent the rest of the symposium in Time and Distance, which was fascinating. I look forward to the proceedings to catch up on talks I missed.

    You may be underestimating the challenge ahead of 100YSS. It looks to me like they are struggling to meet the basic organizational challenges, just getting themselves off the ground. I hope they work it out. It looks like there is so much interest in interstellar space now that it would continue with out them. However there is a lot to be gained by having 100YSS as an advocate and organizer on interstellar space. Dr. Mae Jemison seems like a great person to lead it.

  • Paul Gilster September 19, 2012, 10:36

    Matt, you’re right, it’s a huge challenge to get an organization like this into gear — there is much to be done. It’s also heartening to see the growing interest in the interstellar idea among the public.

    Great to meet you in Houston, and hope we’ll have the chance to talk again.

  • Quiet Professional September 19, 2012, 12:13

    I don’t believe that we will attempt manned interstellar travel absent the development of an economical “warp drive” or other mode of FTL travel. (And absent the lure of an extrasoloar planet that we are certain is habitable by humans.) Who would want to embark on a long interstellar journey, only to arrive at the destination having been beaten there by decades — or centuries — by FTL voyagers?

  • ljk September 19, 2012, 12:54

    Quiet Professional said on September 19, 2012 at 12:13:

    “I don’t believe that we will attempt manned interstellar travel absent the development of an economical “warp drive” or other mode of FTL travel. (And absent the lure of an extrasoloar planet that we are certain is habitable by humans.) Who would want to embark on a long interstellar journey, only to arrive at the destination having been beaten there by decades — or centuries — by FTL voyagers?”

    People wanting to escape Earth (aka human society) and not wanting to wait around for FTL propulsion.

    Being aboard a Worldship roaming the galaxy may be a bigger lure than an Earthlike exoplanet, of which there will probably be none close enough to our world to live upon without some level of planetary engineering.

  • Darth Imperius September 19, 2012, 13:20

    Men of old sought conquest and power above all. Your vision will only succeed if you incorporate this aspect of human nature. These sterile Star Trek Federation futures are pure fantasy; seek instead to build a Galactic Empire and an army of Khans, and your enterprise may yet have some hope of success.

    “Man needs what is most evil in him for what is best in him.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

  • ljk September 19, 2012, 14:04

    I don’t know how much Jill Tarter talked about the state of things with The SETI Institute and the ATA, but Frank Drake was recently interviewed and he reveals that all is not well with the institute:


    Among other things, the data they are collecting is not being analyzed properly due to lack of funding and staff.

    SETI could be the answer to where we aim our first interstellar probes, but it won’t be if it does not have support.

  • ljk September 19, 2012, 15:23

    Should Humanity Take Religion on Interstellar Space Voyage?

    by Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Assistant Managing Editor

    Date: 19 September 2012 Time: 07:00 AM ET

    Sending people to another star will be a monumental undertaking, and the challenges will be not just technological, but human. One thorny question, experts say, is whether to involve organized religions in the effort to mount an interstellar journey.

    Religious leaders argued the issue Sept. 14 in Houston at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, a meeting to discuss the prospect of sending a space mission to another star within 100 years.

    The church has the resources, funding and reach to garner support for an interstellar mission, said Jason Batt, group life director at Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, Calif.

    Batt said there is “spiritual potential” in space travel and that the church should begin preparing an organization for an off-planet ministry.

    Full article here:


    I predict that the first groups to attempt to leave our Sol system in person will be religious organizations, or cults. They will do it for freedom of expression, to find new converts, etc. Religion may also be the glue that binds together a multigenerational starship crew long enough to reach another star system.

    Humans like to think they are civilized and rational. But ignore the emotional needs and they may find themselves cropping up in a place and time in ways that will be detrimental to a group. So until the day we start acting like angels, our species better have a plan to keep in touch with the angels’ boss when it comes to organized religion aboard a Worldship.

  • ljk September 19, 2012, 15:38

    Paul Gilster said in the main article:

    “It’s surprising how few people realize the distances [on interstellar scales] we’re talking about — when I first arrived in Houston, I cited in these pages the person who had emailed me with the question: “We’re already going to Pluto. How much harder can it be to go to a star?”

    “I gave a flip answer to that question in my earlier post, but it’s indicative of the mind-boggling nature of the time and distance conundrum and how little it is perceived by the public. I think we need to communicate how enormously challenging it will be to go to the stars at the same time that we provide a sound rationale for methodically looking at the problem.”

    LJK replies:

    One way to get Joe (or Josephine) Citizen to grasp the real distances between stars in our galaxy is by introducting them to the literally down-to-Earth method of scaled models of our Sol system, of which a fair number exist all over this planet (but never enough, apparently).

    To give one example, the Carl Sagan Planet Walk in Ithaca, New York is just under one mile long from Sol to Pluto (yes, it was made before the IAU decision on that remote icy world in 2006).


    At this relatively small scale, the Alpha Centauri system would be located in Hawaii, five thousand miles away!


    The average person should be able to appreciate that. Then you can hit them with the fact that warp drive and hyperdrive are naught but fantasies for now. Hopefully they will be awed by all this and not depressed and turned off once they realize how small we are on the cosmic scale.

  • Rob Henry September 19, 2012, 17:21

    “A key question: Is it possible for a technological civilization to last for cosmic lengths of time?”

    So… those who still which to cling to the idea that the emergence of life in general and technological civilisation in particular is common, have begun to realise that having a low average L in the Drake equation is insufficient. Note that Jill Tater is implying that it is possible that any technological civilisation (most of them very different than us) would self destruct within a few millennia under any circumstances that are remotely likely to occur.

    This may be a solution to the Fermi Paradox, but it does not seem a reasonable one to me. If we find that it is then a corollary is that we are doomed even if we are abnormally harmonious as compared to ETI’s.

  • Kathleen Toerpe September 19, 2012, 20:48

    I very much enjoy your blog and am sorry that I missed you in Houston. I stayed mainly in the Interstellar Civilization track (I’m a cultural historian). Thought you might be interested (if you don’t know already) that there’s now a Friends of 100yss page on Facebook as well as a Reddit page. Might be a LinkedIn one by now, too. We’re looking to keep the conversation going among people who attended the symposium and others who are interested or intrigued. We are also looking to post as many of the presentations on Facebook as possible (mine was on tapping into the shared cultural memories of the moon landing, among other things, to jumpstart public awareness and support). Some of these are already on Slideshare. There were so many intriguing presentations and I wish I could have cloned myself to see them all!

  • James Salsman September 19, 2012, 21:00

    One particular applied field we could be working on but are not is cryogenic vitrification, which has dual use applications for organ transplants. Research on small mammals was suspended in 1957 after most of the galagos monkeys in an experiment died terrible deaths one day after being resuscitated. Since then, however, safe vitrification freezers have progressed into the several kilogram range, most notably in Japan where they are used to freeze soybeans without ice crystal damage or dehydration.

    Both this year and last year’s 100YSS symposiums had nothing on cryopreservation work.

  • Paul Gilster September 19, 2012, 21:00

    Kathleen, thanks for the information! I’m sorry we didn’t connect in Houston, but I’ll check out the Facebook page right away. Good to know about this, and I hope the idea of posting the presentations works out. Keep us posted.

  • lurscher September 19, 2012, 21:32

    I think that the lack of funding of SETI is a problem that needs to be addressed. If the are having problems to analyse correctly the collected data, i presume the problem is related to seti@home mantainance?

    In any case, I have some thoughts to share on the subject of the Fermi Paradox itself: People use the term great silence to denote the so called absence of communications from other civilizations

    But such silence is assuming civilizations will broadcast their signals more or less isotropically. In my opinion, that is a huge waste of energy resources, since signals would drop as the square of distance. If there are intelligent civilizations they might incur in unintentional isotropic broadcasting like we do, but if we are to be taken as an example, the energy-distance and time window these might be observable can be very narrow. But civilizations might communicate to each other using highly directional radio signals that make more effective use of the emitted power.

    Also, as it is known, gravitational lensing astronomy like the FOCAL mission is proposing, will achieve amplifications of 8 orders of magnitude on detail and signal resolution. It has been suggested that using gravitational lensing you can communicate with extremely low power, comparable to a cell phone

    If other civilizations have encountered similar technological and energy limitations as we have, this implies that they will be extremely picky about where they choose to send signls, meaning that is extremely unlikely we will catch signals not directed toward us.

    Also, there might be as well an analog Goldilocks region for the galaxy; not too far from the edge of the galaxy that heavy elements might be too rare, but not too close to the center, so we are relatively safe of the intense gamma sources in there. This implies that SETI might have to focus on stars that are perpendicular to the galaxy radial direction.

  • Kwan September 20, 2012, 5:53

    Humans are animals. Intelligent animals but animals none the less. Now whats the number one rule of nature? Survival of the fittest.
    This is why I do think any civilization with technology even similar to ours would be predatory and maybe they’d destroy themselves before we could detect them.
    James Salsman brings up a good point about cryopreservation too.

  • ljk September 20, 2012, 9:13

    Jill Tarter talks about the film Contact fifteen years later:


    My article/review of the 1997 film and 1985 Sagan novel here:


    Fifteen years – oy!

  • Tom Mazanec September 20, 2012, 10:52

    Perhaps a few of those who are thinking “We are going to Pluto, how much harder can the stars be?” are thinking “It took less than half a century to go from men at 25 miles (stratosphere) to the moon (4 orders of magnitude) and now less than half a century later there is a probe to Pluto (another 4 orders of magnitude), maybe we can get the 4 more orders of magnitude to Centauri in a century.”

  • Gerry September 20, 2012, 13:12

    On the question of religion, I wonder if human or post-human star-travelers, inspired by the direct experience of the vastness and beauty of the cosmos and the deepness of time, might be rather more mystical or contemplative in their outlook, and less focused on the worship of supernatural beings. Conversly, packed together for decades or centuries on a slow boat between the stars, might they become even more authoritarian and dogmatic than what we see here on Earth, today?

    The first migrants might indeed be those fleeing religious persecution or what they view as a corrupt Earth, but would the Earth-developed belief systems they sought to protect survive such a journey unchanged, or unchallenged?

  • ljk September 20, 2012, 13:56
  • JohnHunt September 20, 2012, 14:56

    So long as there is freedom and so independent action, people will organize themselves along any number of philosophical lines. One would have to assume a one-world dictatorship that prevents people from having or starting their own religion in order to prevent people from organizing their own interstellar Mayflower taking religion to the stars. People around the world seem more inclined to be free of dictators so I have a hard time imagining a one world government preventing religious groups from heading to the stars.

    However, the first true manned interstellar mission will probably be expensive enough that only governments could marshal the necessary funds. In this scenario, it would be the government that would then choose the people who would go and perhaps their education upon arriving at the exoplanets if the colonists were frozen during the journey. It would be highly inappropriate for a government to either ban or choose the religion of the colonists. Yet the government would choose the colonists and perhaps their education. What to do?

    I would think that the solution would be one of three possibilities. If the travelers were hibernating, then they would have been selected without regard to their religious beliefs. So, it would be approximately a cross-section of society’s religious beliefs. If frozen embryos, their education could be chosen by their (biological) parents or their religious upbringing could match that of the sending society. Finally, “evangelists” could make their case by video to the exochildren upon becoming adults so that they could choose for themselves.

  • JohnHunt September 20, 2012, 15:08

    Lurscher, your argument for narrow-beam communication as an explanation for Fermi’s Paradox is fine except for several points. If they wanted to communicate to emerging civilizations, they could and would likely set up beacons that could be detected from any direction. Secondly, their ability to detect biosignatures at great distance would probably be considerable. So they could target emerging intelligence using narrow beams. Finally, in a million years, any intelligent civilization could send self-replicating, communicating probes to all parts of the galaxy with enough intelligence to detect emerging intelligence and to communicate with them in a way that they could understand. The inability for an intelligent civilization to communicate is not an adequate explanation for Fermi’s Paradox IMO. Choosing not to communicate perhaps but not inability.

  • ljk September 20, 2012, 23:44

    What Would a Starship Actually Look Like?

    Science fiction likes to imagine interstellar vehicles as sleek, aerodynamic ships. But there’s no air in space, and voyaging to the stars will require something that looks much different than an oversized jet.

    By Erik Sofge

    September 20, 2012

    Imagine a starship—a vessel capable of ferrying human beings from one solar system to another. Would it have wings and a cockpit? Or would it look like an aircraft carrier hauled out into the void and fitted with flame-belching rockets and glowing ion drives?

    Science fiction has offered us all sorts of visions of interstellar spacecraft, from avian-inspired Klingon birds of prey to hulking masses such as the Borg cube. In general, sci-fi leans toward sleek designs with lines borrowed from planes or cars, since those are the kinds of looks we’ve been conditioned to think of as “fast.” But if there’s no air in space, why make things aerodynamic? Does it matter what a spacecraft looks like?

    Yes, it turns out, and it depends upon what kind of space travel you’re looking to undertake. The reality of starship design is more complex than anything Hollywood has dreamed up and implanted in our collective unconsciousness.

    While a manned interstellar mission isn’t exactly on NASA’s upcoming schedule, researchers haven’t abandoned the topic to science fiction. In fact, the 100 Year Starship initiative—which began as a DARPA-funded contest to lay the foundations for a flight across the stars, gathering physicists, entrepreneurs, and anyone seriously interested in long-distance space travel—just finished its annual symposium this past weekend.

    One of the participants of the 100 Year Starship project is Marc G. Millis, founder of the Tau Zero Foundation. The foundation has proposed candidate technologies and designs, including the Icarus unmanned fusion-powered probe, which would accelerate (theoretically, of course) to one-tenth or one-fifth the speed of light.

    Icarus, as it’s currently envisioned, isn’t the sleekest space ride. The skyscraper-size behemoth is comprised almost entirely of rows and clusters of spherical fuel tanks. But according to Millis, Icarus isn’t a definitive, catch-all prediction of what an interstellar craft might look like. It’s simply the design that might make sense to build first.

    We asked Millis, who once led NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project, to take us through the basics of starship design.

    Full article here:


  • ljk September 22, 2012, 23:15

    The 100 Year Starship Symposium

    by edward wright

    We attended the 100 Year Starship Symposium mostly out of curiosity. There’s not a lot of commonality between 100 Year Starship and Citizens in Space. We focus on making low-end, near-term applications of human spaceflight available to the average citizen. 100 Year Starship, on the other hand, is about as high-end and long-term as you can get. Still, we were curious to see how the 100 Year Starship organization was planning to approach such an audacious challenge.

    Full article here:


  • ljk September 22, 2012, 23:19

    This is by the Rev. Dr. Alvin L. Carpenter:

    In September 2012 I delivered a paper to the 100 Year Starship symposium held in Houston Texas. My position was that earth bound religions are unsuitable for export to the stars.

    The following is my notes from my presentation: I challenge anyone to make a case that religion should be introduced to a multigenerations interstellar starship.

    Presentation: 2012 100YSS Symposium

    Rev. Dr. Alvin L. Carpenter

    Pastor, First Southern Baptist Church West Sacramento CA


    Title: The Non-promise of Earth bound Religions into Space.

    The incompatibility of earth bound religions for an interstellar community.


  • Rob Henry September 24, 2012, 19:52

    Ljk, Wow that’s one confused preacher.

    For a start, it seems strange that he chose a Christian ministry as his career, when he doesn’t seem to understand that empowering the poor to be benefactors of equal status to the rich is one of its central tenants, thus the tithe. Governments also cast a wide net for taxation, but here they take away any power of choice, and so give no such empowerment in return. Sir Bob Geldolf though it wonderful that some impoverished Africans that were among his major beneficiaries were collecting their pennies and, in turn, donating them to a western orphanage, even though it make no ECONOMIC sense.

    I suspect that a similar attitude of obsessing over what is a fair amount to take from fellow colonists (as approach implicitly favoured by the reverend) would be very harmful to the crew. If all took the second approach it would certainly be beneficial to the cooperative spirit.

    That minister was, however, correct in stating that morals are not just derived from religion. Religion’s benefit to society here is to synchronise moral values, such that society does not fractionate into sectors that are in deadly conflict.

    In the modern times, three concerted efforts have been made by parts of the West to dump religion: the French Revolution, Communism, and Nazi style fascism (this last case being particularly relevant and it can be directly compared to the contemporary Italian style fascism, which differed largely in just keeping the religious element). All three cases have resulted in internal bloodbaths among the new emerging atheist power factions followed by extensive wars of external conquest by the victorious factions.

    Lastly the relationship to Christianity and science is not as simple as he portrayed. Science has historically only ever flowered in Christian countries, and when imported to a country such as Japan – it has so far had much more limited success – despite the Japanese having higher IQ’s and spending a far higher proportion of their GDP on research and development.

    It could well turn out better if there was no religious element to our starship crew but, if so, it seems highly unlikely that it will be for the reasons given by Rev. Dr. Alvin L. Capenter.

  • ljk September 25, 2012, 9:12

    DailyDirt: Interstellar Travel — ‘To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before’

    from the urls-we-dig-up dept

    If only interstellar travel were as easy as it is depicted in movies and TV shows like Star Trek… While we won’t be traveling beyond our solar system anytime soon, there are already plenty of efforts underway to develop the technologies needed to make interstellar travel a reality.

    Here are a few examples:


  • ljk September 25, 2012, 9:22

    ‘Astronaut Teacher’ Mike Mongo gives presentation at 100 Year Starship Symposium

    Florida-based author/space advocate declares “Children: The Future of Space…”


    PRLog (Press Release) – Sep 24, 2012

    HOUSTON, TX—Last weekend, along with top scientists, engineers, astronauts, and quantum physicists from around, the world ‘astronaut teacher’ Mike Mongo was in attendance as a Presenting Author at 100 Year Starship—a three-day symposium presented by Defense Advanced Research Project (DARPA) focusing on the process of humankind’s construction and launch of an interstellar space program within the next 100 years.

    “Being from Florida, I’m a life-long advocate of space. It is one of the reasons I am such a dedicated supporter of the field of astronautics. This is my 2nd 100 Year Starship symposium. I was present for last year’s inaugural 100YSS in Orlando,” says Mongo. “And it just so happens I wrote the book for kids who want to become astronauts. This year when I submitted a paper to 100YSS, I was invited as a Presenting Author.”

    Mongo is the Florida-based author of HUMANNAIRES! Mike Mongo’s Astronaut Instruction Manual for Pre-Teens. His paper for 100YSS was titled, “Children: The Future of Space is Presently 8-12 Years Old.”

    “Whenever I speak with students,” says Mongo, “what I do is remind them that in their very near-future being an astronaut is a career choice and it will mean working and living off-planet. That’s what it means to be a “humannaire”. It’s our next-generation of astronauts—human beings who leave Earth to go live and work in outer space.”

    Full article here:


  • ljk September 25, 2012, 9:42

    Video of Dr. Eric W. Davis speaking on on New Light-Speed Breaking Science:


  • ljk September 25, 2012, 13:49

    Building a starship’s foundation

    Developing a starship, even over the course of a century, sounds like a wild thing to do given the challenges of spaceflight today, but DARPA awarded a $500,000 grant earlier this year to an organization led by a former astronaut to do just that. Jeff Foust checks out the status of the 100 Year Starship as discussed at a recent symposium.

    Monday, September 24, 2012


    To quote from the article:

    Many of the conference attendees might be best classified as enthusiasts: people interested in the concept of developing a starship, but have, at most, only ideas for research topics. But then, one of the issues of the project overall is that there aren’t many people who think about interstellar travel on more than a causal basis.

    “I know I’m the only full-time starship physicist,” quipped Eric Davis of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, who chaired the “Time-Distance Solutions” track of the conference, which included propulsion.

  • ljk September 29, 2012, 17:32


    100 Year Starship Symposium Results Begin to Trickle Out?

    By Charles Phillips | Yahoo! Contributor Network – Fri, Sep 28, 2012

    The Latest in a Series of Conferences and Symposiums was Held in Houston to Begin a Massive Effort

    Very recently, the latest in a series of meetings that blur the distinction between science and science fiction took place. The second “100 Year Starship” symposium was held in Houston — a city with a dwindling number of people involved in space exploration. The symposium was put on by a group that has been given seed money by the Defense Department to create a group which can get humanity ready to travel to another star within a century. After three meetings, directions for research and likely early results are still just trickling out.

    * The project was started with $500,000 in seed money from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and another $500,000 from the NASA Ames Research Center as reported by Space.com.

    * The first conference was held in Northern California on January 2011. The press release from the Defense Department says it was a joint meeting between DARPA and the NASA Ames Research Center .

    * The second conference, which was the first public Symposium, was held in Orlando, Fla., from Sept. 30 through Oct 2, 2011. After the second meeting, a group led by a former astronaut was selected to take over the project. Mae Jemison formed the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence to run the initiative.

    * The third conference was held in Houston from Sept. 13-16. No one from DARPA was on the schedule so they appear to have handed the project over.

    * The Symposia are organized into Tracks – area of study for the future, and Workshops. Tracks were areas such as “Time And Distance Solutions” while Workshops were areas such as “Research Priorities For The First 100 Years.”

    * Mae Jemison said in an interview in the Houston Chronicle that the Symposia are not limited to scientists since they have included celebrities, artists, and a variety of people. For instance one subject of discussion is what sort of religion might be taken along on the journey.

    * The task ahead is very difficult, since the nearest star is more than four light-years away — meaning that light takes more than four years to reach Earth from that star.

    * The fastest moving spacecraft ever launched, Voyager, would take 75,000 years to get to Alpha Centauri from Earth.

    * The foundation running the project, according to Space.com, plans to innovate in propulsion technologies, life support systems, and habitat design.

    * The most recent news report, seen in Space.com, reports on what people might be wearing on the proposed starship and says that research into clothing might benefit people on Earth.

    * We are still awaiting interim results from the Symposium. Not even the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence web page mentions the 100 Year Starship initiative.

  • Rev. Alvin Carpenter September 29, 2012, 21:18

    Naïve to believe for one moment that religions can participate in a cooperative environment on a starship when they have failed to do so on earth. Religions are inherently exclusive; that is why they have creeds. Creeds reveal who is in and who are the hertics. You have to understand all extremism draws from the same well the conservatives and moderated do. It will be impossible to bring a bible or a koran or any other holy book and not have extremism rear its ugly head. iT has hear on earth so why would it not on a starship?

  • Rob Henry October 1, 2012, 17:17

    Alvin Carpenter, your expression of the difficultly inherent in a comprehensive cooperative effort among different religions seems better founded that your other objections, and I would agree that it is one significant argument in favour of our starship population starting out with either an atheist crew or one that shares a single religion.

    But if this ever does prove a significant problem (say, if it turns out to be more important than personality clashes or power struggles) then how are we to guard against subsequent generations acquiring a new religion. Offhand, it seems to me that if they start off sharing a common religion, this would make them more resilient to such potential for future division.

  • Rob Henry October 1, 2012, 17:44

    Also, Rev Carpenter, I am not entirely sure that the moderates versus extremists problem has much to do with religion (though I can see how from your personal experience, from the circles in which you would move, it would look very much as if they do). I strongly suspect that the role of religion is once again to synchronise outlook such that a population would have far fewer or far more extremists than its equilibrium level.

    Animal rights activists caused much havoc, and frustrated much important research, and, a couple of decades ago seemed to me to be the main cause of idealist friction in the West

    It is not religious fervour that makes the “greens” want to destroy GE crops even though they know that the price paid for their victory might be mass starvation in the third world.

    Secular Tamil rebels started the modern trend for suicide bombing, but one particular religion accentuated that beginning.

    Anyhow, extremists within any religion that makes killing others a deadly sin have always had more difficulty carrying out their most extreme plans than atheists or those of other religions, so I do not see that religion could only exasperate this problem.

  • ljk October 15, 2012, 8:58

    CBC Radio program on the 100 Year Starship Symposium:


    A blog report that pretty much just summarizes the symposium:


  • ljk October 18, 2012, 9:18

    Scientists aim to send humans to the stars within 100 years

    100 Year Starship initiative researching all technology and knowledge required

    CBC News Posted: Oct 16, 2012 4:24 PM ET

    Last Updated: Oct 17, 2012 12:42 AM ET

    Although NASA has ended its space shuttle program and the latest mission beyond our planet involved a robotic Mars rover, rather than astronauts, a group of scientists and dreamers is working out how to send humans to the distant stars.

    The initiative, called 100 Year Starship, has initial funding from the U.S. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It’s probing what would be required to take a ship and crew beyond our solar system within the next century.

    Dr. Mae Jemison, a retired astronaut and physician leading the 100 Year Starship initiative, says there are a myriad of elements beyond travel technology required to send humans to the stars. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

    The scope of the project goes far beyond space travel technology and engineering. Scientists are examining everything from growing food in outer space, to how to keep law and order on a ship that may never be able to return to Earth, said Dr. Mae Jemison, who is leading the initiative.

    “All of those things that we need to learn how to do to get to another star successfully with humans are all the things that we really need to know to live successfully here on Earth,” said Dr. Jemison, a retired astronaut and physician, in an interview that aired on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks on Oct. 13.

    Challenge to keep people interested

    The biggest hurdle isn’t technological, said Dr. Jemison. It will be keeping people interested and committed to the long-term mission of going where no one has gone before.

    “It’s the most difficult challenge, and in some ways it can be the easiest challenge because all of us have looked up at the stars,” she said. “We’ve all wondered about them.”

    Full article here: