No stranger to these pages, Richard Obousy is president and senior scientist for Icarus Interstellar, which among other things is engaged in the ambitious redesign of Project Daedalus. But the organization has more on its plate than a fusion-powered starship. From worldships to lightsails, Icarus Interstellar is probing the possibilities both near-term and far, all of which will be discussed at an upcoming gathering of the interstellar community that Richard now describes.
by Richard Obousy
Starship Congress is the interstellar summit that Icarus Interstellar is hosting this summer in Dallas, August 15-18. As an event, Starship Congress will play host and give voice to a wide variety of interstellar organizations and distinguished proponents from the interstellar community. Registration for Starship Congress is now open on Icarus Interstellar’s website. A call-for-papers has been made with selected presenter’s papers to be published in a special Starship Congress-dedicated issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society.
The event is split into three days, with each day advancing progressively in terms of its focus on the future of science and technology.
Day 1—Interstellar Now
Day 1 will examine what we can do today and for the next twenty years. The aim is getting the interstellar community to think about critical building blocks needing to be addressed in the near term in order to establish the correct social, economic and technological conditions leading to the building and launch of a starship before the end of the century.
Day 2—Interstellar This Lifetime
DAY 2 will be focused on semi-realistic targets for what we may see accomplished from 20-to-50 years from now. Likely areas of discussion will be technologies that are presently considered to be at low-technology readiness level (TRL). On the propulsion side of things this will include fusion and antimatter rockets. There will also be discussions on the human exploration and colonization of our own solar system as a plausible next-step on way to becoming an interstellar civilization.
Day 3—Interstellar Future
DAY 3 will be focused on topics that are deemed speculative by today’s standards. Warp drives, wormholes, the extraction of energy from the quantum vacuum, are examples of the kinds of talks and discussions that are planned. In addition, papers and presentations are anticipated on ‘mega-engineering’ projects such as space elevators and terraforming. The consideration of social aspects of long distance space exploration will be talked about. (For example, how do closed communities evolve in space, and how do we ensure the protection of minorities on such a mission while limiting religious extremism?) Similarly, another interesting topic can be the degree of autonomy an interstellar crew have from the population that funded their mission.
Speaking for myself, as president of Icarus Interstellar I’m deeply cognizant of the relatively low interest there is globally in putting money into space exploration, and therefore the questionable assertion that we’ll be ‘going interstellar’ anytime soon. As an example, the annual budget of the US Department of Defense is about equal to the sum total of money NASA has ever spent since its inception in 1958. However, I’m also mindful of the unpredictable effects of disruptive technologies and the profound social and technological advancements humanity has seen in the last century. So Icarus will stick to its ambition of launching an expansive campaign of interstellar exploration and colonization to commence by the end of the century.
Idealistic? Undoubtedly. Possible? Yes.