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An Open Question on Priorities for Interstellar Efforts

At the 2012 100YSS Symposium, Heath Rezabek presented what he calls the ‘Vessel Archives’ proposal, a strategy for sustaining and conveying Earth’s cultural and biological heritage that was directly inspired by Gregory Benford’s Library of Life proposal (preprint available here). Heath tells me his major concern is in “improving the prospects for Earth-originating life through the longevity of our interstellar aspirations and through the application of advanced discoveries to enhance life’s prospects on Earth.” Independent of his role as Outreach and Collaborations Coordinator for Icarus Interstellar’s Starship Congress 2013, he is also an accepted presenter for that conference. Recently Heath contacted me about a research project he is conducting with implications for the interstellar community, as explained below.

In his non-interstellar work, Heath Rezabek (MLIS) is a futurist librarian, technology grants coordinator, writer, and systems designer. He lives in Austin, TX, where he serves as the Teen Services Coordinator within Youth Services at the Austin Public Library, focusing on digital literacy initiatives for at-risk youth.

by Heath Rezabek


If you’re interested in space and space exploration, or if you’re interested not only in space but in long-term efforts to achieve interstellar travel in the fullness of time, I would like to survey your thoughts and feedback for a research project. The survey data collected will be presented in an accepted session at the 2013 Starship Congress (August 15-18, Dallas TX). Results will be fully documented online and reported for the benefit of all stakeholders in the future.

Through the use of the open source surveying platform at allourideas.org, I am asking long-term space exploration advocates the following question:

What do you see as a priority for interstellar efforts over the next 10-20 years?

The survey is stocked with priorities submitted thus far, running the gamut from the very specific to the broad and general. Skeptical or constructively critical submissions are also welcomed! I am gathering as many new or additional ideas as you are willing to submit.

Because of the way a wikisurvey works, the system can handle a very large number of ideas, and individuals can vote as many times as they like. This inclusive approach yields nonchaotic results because of the way a wikisurvey strictly limits poll matchups to two randomly drawn ideas per round.

The resulting data and polling set will be designated CC0 (public domain), so that the ideas this open question yields can be of open benefit to others who may explore this same question in the future. This project is an experiment in a new series of such surveys on a wide range of challenges, called Open Questions: Questions of priority whose answers may be developed and used by all.

If you want to know more, feel free to email me at heath.rezabek@gmail.com — and if you are interested in Starship Congress, join us at —


And register at —


Thanks for participating and passing this on.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • James D. Stilwell May 28, 2013, 10:01

    Six Enzmann starships orbit Altair IV and I’ve remained back on earth, what good would the six do me if we DIDN’T HAVE TWO SUBSPACE RADIOS?
    Wishing God, Destiny, or Someone would resolve the Bell Theorem….One Transmitter on earth sending billions of trillions of spin right and spin left signaling instantly across 16 light years might be converted by a Receiver on Altair IV to produce a human language….pick which language you prefer to encode….you can do it….the code needn’t be any longer than the human genome….a string of 800 million GATTACA letters is all….let the currency of optimism reign here….Or are we doomed to remain in the Star Trek fantasy for centuries more…..

  • Heath Rezabek May 28, 2013, 13:28

    Thanks to Paul for helping out, and thanks in advance to any who can spare some time voting and submitting additional ideas to this survey. In case it wasn’t clear from my note above, the direct URL is:


    I am also monitoring here and happy to answer questions.

    First off, actually, someone who is voting on the poll has flagged one idea as possibly inapplicable. The idea in question is:

    ‘Focus on creating a backup of Earth’s biodiversity, regardless of whether a starship is crewed.’

    The user that flagged this idea provided the following text as explanation:

    ‘Its a good idea in general, but it really doesn’t address interstellar efforts anymore than other noble ideas.’

    I appreciate this, although I would debate the judgment for the following reason: When compared to another noble goal, such as — say — eliminating hunger on Earth, I’d deem that creating a backup of our biosphere does relate more fully to interstellar aspirations, particularly if that archive is sent (as several other related ideas in the pool suggest). The backup becomes cargo in those cases; even if it remained only on Earth, it would provide a reference point for any future interstellar travelers that might encounter it.

    The other reason is that the question is about priorities for an undertaking which suggests aperture massive, extended outlay of resources. If some of he ideas submitted have to do with questioning that priority, or routing some of its energy towards more immediate tangents, I’d prefer to see if those ideas fare well in the overall voting before discounting them out of hand. If they do fare well, then we gain insight into a conversation we might need to be having.

    For now I’ll reactivate that item, but I absolutely welcome further debate, especially if it comes in the form of alternate ideas submitted to the poll in the process of voting. As the tool has some interesting properties (such as the encouraged ability to vote many, many times), I also welcome discussion of the wikisurvey platform or format.


    Let me know of questions or thoughts,

    – Heath

  • Bob May 28, 2013, 13:43

    Is anyone doing research on the Warp Drive concept at a sub-atomic level, meaning being able to create a so-called warp bubble at least on a minuscule level but allowing just a signal to be warped?

  • Marc May 28, 2013, 20:39


    When the feedback has subsided, are you going to distill/merge these into fewer choices? As it is now, there are too many items listed and several of which are similar. And then… run the survey again?


  • A. A. Jackson May 29, 2013, 7:04

    That page has me totally lost I have no idea how to vote!
    Or contribute ideas.
    Al Jackson

  • Heath Rezabek May 29, 2013, 10:09

    Marc – In its current form it’s a proof of concept, so up through the Starship Congress, it’ll remain a free for all. There, I’ll spotlight the top scoring ideas, and open up the possibility of more rigorous surveying based on a more limited set. If you’re there, I’d be happy to talk about it in the Q&A.

    A.A. – The tool takes some getting used to, but is easy once you know how it works. Basically, when confronted with two blue rectangles, click the one that seems a higher priority over the other. Two new ones will arise, and you repeat as many times as you can stand to. All the sorting happens behind the scenes, and the pairwise voting helps eliminate some common problems with open polls (ballot-stuffing, etc).

    To submit, simply type any new idea into the text entry box below any given pairing and hit [Submit]. Hope this helps!

  • Astronist May 29, 2013, 18:03

    Hello, Heath. I find your survey question ambiguous. It could mean: what is the priority for astronautics in general, which if solved will move us forward to an interstellar future? (A debate on this is currently being discussed at the BIS.) Or it could mean: what is the specifically interstellar priority, which will move us forward to an interstellar future if and only if more local astronautical problems get solved first?

    I would like to suggest answers to these, but I can’t because I can’t see how to access your complete range of existing possible answers to see whether you have them covered yet.

    Oxford, UK

  • Heath Rezabek May 29, 2013, 19:47

    Polling is going great; many thanks to those voting, and here’s to hoping you vote may more times besides.

    A quick note regarding those items people flag as Inappropriate. If an item relates directly to, or mentions, interstellar efforts, I’ll likely reactivate it. I will leave Deactivated those items which use profanity or vulgar language (as Inappropriate was originally intended), and those items which seem to be complete nonsequiters, totally unrelatable.

    The platform is getting a good workout. Many thanks.

    – Heath

  • Heath Rezabek May 29, 2013, 21:08

    Stephen, thanks for the feedback. The question is meant to be deliberately evocative, and the poll is very much an informal catalyst to further thinking. The meaning should be interpreted, however, as broadly as possible: ie, closer to your interpretation #1.

    To view all responses at any time however, click the upper right tab titled View Results, and then at bottom, View All.

  • Astronist May 30, 2013, 19:07

    Heath, thanks, I’ve now identified an existing option which I’d like to vote for, which closely matches my view. How do I get it to appear in a blue box that I can click on without first having to vote for a whole lot of other things that I don’t want to vote for?


  • Marc Millis May 31, 2013, 10:24

    To ALL;

    This just occurred to me (Doh!). We are implicitly assuming something that is probably wrong. We are assuming that some funding source is standing by, waiting for us to make up our mind about our one highest-priority theme (and as if we can come to that agreement).

    Instead, we should be asking ourselves; “Which activity would YOU support with YOUR money and time?”

    This is the same error that has plagued the next-step space folks (Moon-Mars), who burn their time arguing over which approach is best, when there is no funding for any of those grand approaches. Those in that community who have been more productive just plug away at advancing the small technology steps that they can, instead of waiting for a ‘fairy space mother.’

    Note that the folks with serious funds (their OWN funds), make headway doing what THEY think is right: SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Bigelow, etc. They are not asking for the community’s guidance or opinion on how to spend their money.

    THEREFORE: I recommend that in the next survey we should ask our readership where they would put their own money and time.

    AND, for those of us that work the sciences and technology, I recommend we put our attention on making progress on our specialties at whatever rate we can, instead of burning our time on advocating to inaccessible funding sources.

  • Eniac June 2, 2013, 23:27


    How do I get it to appear in a blue box that I can click on without first having to vote for a whole lot of other things that I don’t want to vote for?

    Making an idea appear on demand would allow ballot-stuffing and will not be possible in a well-designed system (which this one appears to be).