Recently in the Interstellar Travel Category


The Breakthrough Starshot initiative aims to launch a gram-scale spacecraft to a speed of v∼0.2c, capable of reaching the nearest star system, α Centauri, in about 20 years.

Last month The Breakthrough Foundation announced its plans for humanity's first interstellar mission, Project Starshot. While much has ben written about that announcement, only the basic details behind the technology have been released. Until now.

Engineers at Oregon State University have identified a method to rapidly prepare frozen red blood cells for transfusions, which may offer an important new way to manage the world's blood supply.

Thirty-five years ago yesterday, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft, the first Voyager spacecraft to launch, departed on a journey that would make it the only spacecraft to visit Uranus and Neptune and the longest-operating NASA spacecraft ever.

Data from NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft indicate that the venerable deep-space explorer has encountered a region in space where the intensity of charged particles from beyond our solar system has markedly increased. Voyager scientists looking at this rapid rise draw closer to an inevitable but historic conclusion - that humanity's first emissary to interstellar space is on the edge of our solar system.

Using Pulsars To Navigate in Space

Autonomous Spacecraft Navigation Based on Pulsar Timing Information

"Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars that are observable as variable celestial sources of electromagnetic radiation. Their periodic signals have timing stabilities comparable to atomic clocks and provide characteristic temporal signatures that can be used as natural navigation beacons, quite similar to the use of GPS satellites for navigation on Earth."

Keith's note: This is the plaque placed on the Voyager 1 and 2 probes, now heading out of our solar system into interstellar space. According to Wikipedia: "The drawing in the lower left-hand corner of the cover is the pulsar map previously sent as part of the plaques on Pioneers 10 and 11. It shows the location of the solar system with respect to 14 pulsars, whose precise periods are given."

Keith's note: DARPA is hosting a conference for its 100 Year Starship project between 30 September - 2 October in Orlando. The agenda is interesting and ecclectic. We'll be onsite at the conference covering this event via live blogging here at NASAHackSpace.com. You can also follow via Twitter at @NASAhackSpace or see Tweets from other participants on Twitter via the hashtag #100yss.

The transcript is posted below.

Disney, Fox and James Cameron to Bring AVATAR to Life at Disney Parks

"AVATAR created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we'll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before. With two new AVATAR films currently in development, we'll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore," said James Cameron. "I'm chomping at the bit to start work with Disney's legendary Imagineers to bring our AVATAR universe to life. Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and give park goers the chance to see, hear, and touch the world of AVATAR with an unprecedented sense of reality."

Think about this: NASA and Disney have had multiple collaborations in the past. One of the most recent was with the film "Wall-e". James Cameron is a former NASA Advisory Council member and made an astrobiology-themed theatrial release in 2005 "Aliens of the Deep" (with Disney) which featured young NASA astrobiologists diving in submersibles. In the 1980s EPCOT and NASA KSC worked together on a variety of closed life support system concepts. Perhaps NASA could become a partner in this Avatar theme park effort effort and provide astrobiology advisors to this new venture so as to allow visitors to understand what it would take to find Pandora (a habitable moon circling a gas giant planet that circles another star), travel to it, and then explore the alien ecosystem that thrives on such a world. By coincidence the DARPA 100 Year Starship Conference is being held in Orlando in 2 weeks. Alas, NASA PAO is downplaying NASA's participation in this conference.

The 100 Year StarshipTM (100YSSTM) is a project seeded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with NASA Ames Research Center as executing agent, to develop a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel viable. The goal is to develop an investment vehicle--with the patronage and guidance of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and technology visionaries--which provides the stability for sustained investment over a century-long time horizon, concomitant with the agility to respond to the accelerating pace of technological, social, and other change. More

Pentagon dreams of interstellar travel, AP

"This month 150 competitors answered the federal government's initial call for private sector cosmic ideas. Officials say some big names are among those interested. The plan is to make interstellar travel possible in about a century."

Could You Head Up DARPA's 100-Year Starship Program?, Universe Today

"Just like all the technology development that DARPA has done in the past which required only small initial investments but ultimately lead to things, such as the internet and GPS technology -- as well as NASA's investment in space travel which has spawned items we use every day here on Earth -- they believe a small investment now could lead to a big payoff for everyone in the future."

Let's Reconstitute Humans From Genomes Launched Into Space! and Other Ambitious Proposals for Galactic Colonization, Popular Science

"We have no idea what interstellar travel might look like in 100 years, of course -- just as Jules Verne could never have conceived of the technology required to really send humans to the moon when he wrote about it in 1865. But if we start now, we can make it happen, according to David Neyland, who directs DARPA's Tactical Technology Office."

DARPA, NASA seek ideas for starship travel, Computer World

"One hundred years is a pretty good period of time to inspire research to go out and tackle problems that will have you asking questions you didn't even know to ask at the beginning," said David Neyland, director of the Tactical Technology Office for DARPA, today. "The investment must have a long-term goal and ancillary benefits to the government and NASA."

Making Star Trek Reality: NASA Wants Ideas, Information Week

"This won't just be another space technology conference--we're hoping that ethicists, lawyers, science fiction writers, technologists, and others, will participate in the dialog to make sure we're thinking about all the aspects of interstellar flight," said David Neyland, director of DARPA's tactical technology office, in a statement. "This is a great opportunity for people with interesting ideas to be heard, which we believe will spur further thought, dreaming, and innovation."

Nerds -- Darpa Wants Your Advice on Interstellar Flight, Wired

"But technology isn't sufficient for an effort as epochal as reaching other galaxies. That's why they're holding an open symposium on the implications of interstellar travel in Orlando come September. And they want you to submit your thoughts."

NASA, DARPA want public input for futuristic space exploration ideas

"DARPA and NASA Ames Research Center today said they are soliciting abstracts, papers, topics and members for discussion panels, to be part of the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium to be held in Orlando, Fla., from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2."

DARPA Encourages Individuals and Organizations to Look to the Stars - Issues Call for Papers for 100 Year Starship Study Public Symposium

"A century can fundamentally change our understanding of our universe and reality. Man's desire to explore space and achieve the seemingly impossible is at the center of the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA Ames Research Center (serving as execution agent), are working together to convene thought leaders dealing with the practical and fantastic issues man needs to address to achieve interstellar flight one hundred years from now."

Keith's note: Cool stuff. Yet NASA PAO makes zero mention of this event. I asked DARPA why this is the case in a telecon today. They said that this is because they have the lead on this and that NASA is doing the right thing by referring all inquiries to DARPA. I then asked if NASA will be allowed - encouraged - to openly participate in the conference that DARPA is holding in Orlando this Fall. DARPA said that NASA would be sending speakers, etc. DARPA is supposed to be posting a link to the proceedings of a workshop that they held with NASA a few months ago. When I asked if NASA would be asked to post a link to this report, DARPA did not know.

This is all rather baffling. The intent of this project is to spur imagination and new technologies such as life support, energy production etc. The DARPA folks are really good at this sort of thing and are being very inclusive. The cost is barely a blip on people's radar screens. This thing is bursting at the seams with potential spinoffs - and is the sort blue sky, what-if activity that you'd expect - hope - that a forward-thinking space agency would engage in - yet NASA HQ is going out of its way to ignore it. Go figure.

DARPA is seeking ideas for an organization, business model and approach appropriate for a self-sustaining investment vehicle in support of the 100 Year StarshipTM Study. The 100 Year StarshipTM Study is a project seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible. The genesis of this study is to foster a rebirth of a sense of wonder among students, academia, industry, researchers and the general population to consider "why not" and to encourage them to tackle whole new classes of research and development related to all the issues surrounding long duration, long distance spaceflight. DARPA contends that the useful, unanticipated consequences of such research will have benefit to the Department of Defense and to NASA, and well as the private and commercial sector.