New Space and Tech

Live Blogging: DARPA’s 100 Year Starship Conference

By Keith Cowing
April 8, 2013
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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 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.

2 October 2011

Keith’s note: 12:00 pm EDT. Communications panel. How do we get the public interested in something like this? Anouseh Ansari: what has worked for me is trying to make it personal. People have disengaged from the space program – the do not see how they can be involved or what value it has to them. It is important to communicate to people how they will be able to be involved. Kathryn (young girl); you get to go to a new planet!

Jeff Silver (producer): you need to put the Starship into a 100 year media project – how will we communicate over the scope of this enterprise. “Transmedia” – creating a sense of “belonging”. Various tools used to promote things. In transmedia – all tools are employed for the telling of single story – or in this case, the mythology of a 100 Year Starship. You use the large story and then adapt it to the various tools – Twitter, advertisements, etc. You deliver across a broad range of media butt you also get an interaction between various forms of media. You need to talk about the mythos of this – how do you codify this message – what are our aspirations as a society. This can morph over the decades into a new story.

Claire (young girl): what has excited you about science or space? Ans.: the movies – such as “Avatar” – I like how they went to another planet- where people live in a tree on top of a process ore – and it has a very good message.

Kloor: kids are the ones you have to reach.

June Scobee Rodgers: after the Challenger accident when we lost our family members. We did not want space exploration to come to a standstill. So we tried to continue the teacher in space mission. We brought leaders form government, education, industry to join us to create the Challenger Learning Center concept – 50 all over the world. Students come to the learning center for the day to complete a mission – they solve problems. They cannot be disturbed during their mission. They always have a successful mission because we have flight directors. They tell the kids “I am an astronaut just like you”.

Douglas Trumbull: I was part of the team who made “2001: A Space Odyssey: and I am pleased to ay how many people come up to me and say how it energized them. The movie was made in Cinerama – shown on giant screen – it lead to a profoundly immersive experience – and the director can allow the director to become part of the experience. Kubrick rewrote the conventions of cinema – it is a first person experience of what it would be like to go into space. I have discovered that there is a way to bring that immersive experience back into theaters. I am working in 120 frames per second in 3D on giant screens. I want to draw people in so that they think that the experience is happening to them. I am here researching a movie about a 100 year starship.

Ansari: I was born in Iran. I lived there until I was 16 then I moved to the U>S AS a child I was fascinated by the stars. SUmmer nights we slept outside. I was fascinated by these shiny objects in the sky. I wanted to know if there were aliens out there looking back on Earth. The first book that inspired me was ” The Little Prince”. We watched Star Trek dubbed in Farsi on TV. I did not want to be Captain Kirk but I wanted to be Mr. Spock. I loved Jules Verne books. These things painted a beautiful picture for me. But as I grew up in Iran I aw that fading. When I cam to the U.S. I did not see cleaner picture here. I had to take a different path. The only way to go to the Future is to create it yourself. I knew that there were many kids who dreamed about going into space but they give up on it. I wanted to help try and change that. It has been successful . All of the things that I imagine din my head – space was like that – and more. It has changed me – and has touched me such that I want to give back more. It is important to experience being outside of our planet – it gives us a good perspective. I hope this starship project will create more of these opportunities. If you talk to anyone who has been in space they have similar experiences. When you see Earth from space it is almost like an out of body experience. I could feel the energy of our planet. And when you see a thin blue film and that this is what keeps us alive – it is something that you cannot help to think about. You feel that this is not about you rather it is about exploration – there is so much more out there, You feel part of something bigger – and it is empowering.

Silver: I think that the killer app will be immersive travel experience that let you go to Hawaii or an extrasolar planet. I think people will want to play inside an arena and have a sense of belonging to the mission.

Trumbull: Anoushe said it – having been there and being affected. There is the Overview Institute – a man named Frank White interviewed all of the Apollo astronauts – and they were all affected by that experience. We want to try and give that experience to people who cannot afford expensive tickets. Because of light clutter these days, so many people are not even aware of the stars. We need to find a new art form that si not just movies – it can’t be about actors doing a comic book super hero act but rather something more.

June Scobee Rodgers – Richard Garriott was one of my students – he was already a multi-millionaire from the gaming industry. I asked him how to use gaming to provide an experience to students. We wen to see the Star Trek stage, we visited Disney land.But until we could tae our vision and have an artists sketch it out d that vision become active – the artist was Bob McCall – who also did art for “2001′ so that we could then go and have the thing built. As far as art goes – I have have taught every grade through the university . This is the STEM decade. I want to know why Art is not included into that. We need to add art and change STEM into TEAMS – and educator is the artist in education. The education inspires – that is what is important. It is to just the textbook or the tools but it is the inspiration and that is what is often lacking in schools.

Trumbull – Avatar is a really existing example – Cameron coupled space exploration with 3D – this crazy space movie by changing how you make a movie – has become the most profitable movie of all time. That is very meaningful to me. There is a huge craving among all of us to go to other planets even if it is only a movie. A lot of people say it is not just a story – it is the feeling of being somewhere else. If we can bring this concept in we can change the world.

Kathryn (young girl): do you like TV movie Xbox? Answer: all of them.

Trumbull: the interactive game industry is much larger than the movie industry. I am trying to come up with movies that are a hybrid of the two. If a movie becomes a first person experience – not a third person experience – such that the activity happens to the viewer.

Ansari: why do you create up all the shoot-em-up games? Why not make games that involve saving the planet. These movies impact public opinion. People who are disengaged in space do not see a value in it as a result – all they see is that aliens will come to invade us.

Silver: I have an opposite view. I think we need to see that bad guys and the good guys and have an emotional dialog. Some f it is cathartic and we need it. If we can create a mythology that we can distribute it should include cautionary tales and hopeful tales – we want to tell an engaging story you need to have bad guys and fight them.

Trumbull: I have done nothing but portray aliens as coming to get us. I think a lot o fit is really stupid WIth Kubrick we dealt with encountering an intelligence that is almost godlike. No one really seems to want to go into that territory. I think aliens have been here and continue to do so. I think there is something profoundly big going on. There are people who are with me on this who are as perplexed as I am. The subject of alien contact is so scary that science fiction it is almost untouchable. More movies like 2001 need to be done.

Silver: the Science and Education exchange – organization I am involved in. I sit down with screenwriter an scientists and I invert my usual thinking where only fantastic things happen to the scientists. The NAS (National Academy of Sciences) provides us with a wonderful roster of scientists and experts. Getting 100 year starship experts – we get science wrong a lot – often times that happens when we don’t bother to get the expert advice.

June Scobee Rodgers: speaking of aliens and the future – I have books that are written for young adults – Rebecca Moestra and I created the characters – we created a mysterious commander. Her husband Kevin Anderson took this over and helped write them. You learn more about these books at In these books someone comes from the future to a Challenger Center to get some kids to come to the future to see what might happen and help save things from going wrong. There are slimiest aliens. All we need is the movie made about this book.

Silver: June what are your plans for bringing this out into the world for a broader audience?

June: we have some virtual missions under exploration.

Trumbull: the news media has no interest in a story that takes 400 year to play out so they have warp drive to keep interest up. Or you have to put them in suspended animation and then flash forward until they arrive.

Silver – with Trans media they may say turn on your cell phone instead of turn it off such that you can use this media platform to enrich the experience. Challenger centers can be involved with role playing as well.

Ansari: what do you think about Survivor Mars – where people would watch this all the time. We are trying to create an environment that involves the media – people want to be part of it – they want to interact with it in real time. I do not see why they cannot become part of the story and influence the story line as it unfolds- this scan also translate into education. The young generation loves the new media – and those are the best tools we have to reach them an get them engaged.

June – At Challenger Center we’d actually like to create “Starship Academy” – to allow children to participate remotely as well as in person. We already reach very young children via our Micronauts programs. I would love to see kids fly on ZeroG weightless flights – and eventually fly suborbital missions.

Keith’s note: 10:00 am EDT. Matt Bille – Booz Allen Hamilton – I am an Apollo kid – but sooner or later you have to have an organizational chart. Modern society is not geared to 100 year projects – but we are not starting from zero. History plus a vision can give us the right organization. Its not like we are the first people to deal with this problem. James Webb faced this at NASA – NASA became an in-house/contractor hybrid. Starship project is much bigger but we stand where Webb stood. The Starship organization needs to start with a vision that is so compelling that it serves to organize the effort. Cathedral building has been mentioned. It was not a smooth process – things collapsed, designs changed, management changed. While the building of cathedrals offered personal immortality We can’t get at that but building a starship does offer immortality to our species. Maybe we can channel human destructive energy to something constructive. What if the starship effort could be multi-generational – like stone mason guilds working on cathedrals. The starship has to feature the best ideas from government, commerce, and non-profits and be a catalyst to bring ideas together. It also needs to foster educational efforts across society that can feed expertise back into the organization down the road. Resilience needs to be built in. Not all of your leaders will be great and needs to be able to survive bad management. The scope involves trillions of dollars and therefore needs to marshall world-wide talent. Look up the Rainforest Action Network as a recent example. DIfferent people may have different methods but they have a common cause. The organization must evolve, accommodate changes in memberships. We have to be careful in drawing out lessons form history. People think Apollo was perfect. It had good and bad mangers, it fought for its budget every year. We need to remember things truthfully – but like cathedrals and the international space station – we made it work. Your organization must never loose sight of the vision. What would you like inscribed over your Starship headquarters in stone – my suggestion would be from Ray Bradbury: “For us as gifts Aldebaran, Centauri, homestead Mars. Wake up, God says. Look there. Go fetch. The stars. Oh, Lord, much thanks. The stars!”

Keith’s note: 9:15 am EDT. Bruce Kogut: inteeresting that the array or organizational models that have been discussed raneg from the Catholic church to hackperspace. A lot of people want government to pay for things. Government and charities can collaborate to pay for the social dimension of an activity – they do not expect to get money back. This helps to reduce the risk for future investments by others.

Keith’s note: 9:15 am EDT. Ricky Ng-Adam (Shangai, China) – talking about hackerspaces – locations where people get together to build things for fun and to teach each others. Hackerspaces use lots of open source technology. Proposing to DARPA to encourage the hackerspace approach in China and other countries to break down projects into smaller tasks that multiple groups can attack and attempt to solve. This would include crowd sourcing, crowd funding, can use non -profits or other organizations. This can increase the number of stakeholders dramatically via personal participation.

Keith’s note: 9:15 am EDT. Second session: What would a 100 Year Starship organization look like? James Schalkwyk of University of Cape Town: Examples of existing organizations. The catholic church – in existence for hundreds of years. Makes strategic investments, builds cathedrals. Large organizational reviews every few centuries. It started as a linkage of loosely organized groups and became organized over time. Dioceses are financially independent but bishops appointed by the Pope. Another is the British East India Company – operated from 1600’s to 1873. First joint stock company. Sort of like a 100 year sailing ship effort, so to speak. East India company was first chartered by the crown and was not supposed to colonize – just conduct trade. At end of 18th century it was was bailed out by the British government and nationalized. The company was liquidated 20 years later. Third is the Royal Society is another long-standing organization as is the Nobel Foundation. Nobel Foundation’s funding has leveraged greater amounts of funding such that it can offer significant prizes. The Foundation was originally limited in how it could make its investments and when that was changed it resulted in a decrease in available funds for the first half of the 20th century. The 100 Year starship organization will be unique but its founders can learn from earlier examples.

Keith’s note: 9:03 am EDT. Second session: What would a 100 Year Starship organization look like?

Keith’s note: 8:27 am EDT. Jemison: the reason why we do not have a lunar base now has nothing to do with technology but rather with humans and the decision that humans make about what they want to do. We now who will be going – but it will not be any of us. We know who the people will be. They will be people who are indoctrinated at a young age on board a mission where things are constantly changing, they can’t go home, they will not know who paid for the starship, machines will be smarter than they are and solutions are somewhere out in the cloud. (laughter). We already have starships . Voyagers are already out there. You can build the starship as you go – you can so some work en route. Leadership will need to have some flexibility. Thee is a difference between flexibility and robustness. Long-lived organizations need to be in place. But which one is the right one. The Ford Company builds cars, The Ford Foundation changes what it funds over the years. Both are enduring. We need to represent all cultures on earth and leave the “isms” on Earth. The impact of a project can affect immense numbers of people over the years. WHy are we doing this? For a global good. Do we collaborate or compete? It depends on the circumstances. People are because they want to be here.

Keith’s note: 8:27 am EDT. Brand: religion/culture – the discussions were no less speculative than the technical sessions (laughter). This should not be an effort of conquest but rather one of learning. Building cathedrals may be a model for starships. We now take pilgrimages to cathedrals, starships may actually be the pilgrimage itself. The universe is the correct dimension for appreciation. Talked about beyond the beyond. This is beyond beyondness.

Keith’s note: 8:27 am EDT. Kloor: The biggest problem in this situation is that television and movies have moved us so far ahead. With Avatar in people’s minds how exciting is it to tell people that we are only going to Mars. We need to know what the “story” of all of this is going to be.

Keith’s note: 8:27 am EDT. Tarter: where are we going?Off Earth. Earth is a single point of failure. We realized that technical solutions for a starship are also solutions to fix that single point failure. If you can mine an asteroid to build a starship, you can deflect it. If you can put together an organization across national boundaries to build a starship you can organize to prevent an asteroid impact. Papers assumed that we will do this incrementally and that the main issue would be to search for a second genesis , and whether the universe is bio-friendly. As we move out of the solar system we will study along the way to see how to find the best destination.

Keith’s note: 8:15 am EDT. McKay: we tried to make the case for humans. We have to spend a lot of overhead on humans. Humans may well be the point of the mission – they may be the payload – and the mission may be intended to send them somewhere. They may also have value along the way. Project Daedalus was robotic. Icarus was robotic. The default answer seems to be to not end humans. Well I think we should look at this. We need to design something that can last and operate for hundreds of years. ANd we may derive lessons that can be used back on Earth. Indeed looking to the future may let us focus on the present.

Keith’s note: 8:10 am EDT. Neal Pellis: given all the things that are required to do a mission, the human body issue are the least problematical. With regard to the duration of these missions. Given propulsion of today to go to Alpha Centauri it is 100,000 years. WIth better propulsion it is maybe 400 years. It is safe to say that the people we send will not be the people who arrive. This will be a multiple generation endeavor. The biggest threat is radiation. The second most problematical issue is microgravity. Humans are logistic intensive – they “need” everything. If we are not going to grow food then you need 8 metric tons of food to support 6 people on a short mission to Mars. The habitat and its durability is also an issue. How do we solve these problems? Crowd sourcing, etc. were discussed. Many of the solutions are outside of NASA and space agencies. We also talked about artificial gravity – and it has a purpose. But how you do it – how much you need and how often you need it is an issue. Will we send humans or will we send some sort of derivative? We need to do long term multi-generational studies in space so as to understand what the effect of microgravity is.

Keith’s note: 8:10 am EDT. Benford: my tracks dealt with fundamental aspects of how we build starships. If we cannot do that then the other questions are moot. The answer is that we probably can. The community has been looking at this for years and starship designs go back half a century – at least. There are two propulsion ideas. One is the nuclear idea – nuclear thermal rockets (enveloped 40 years ago and then mothballed) which can carry us to the edge of the solar system. I think Von Braun and Ley would be astounded that we are not already using nuclear in the early 21st century. After nuclear thermal coms nuclear thermal-fusion hybrid followed by the penultimate method- the fusion rocket. You can build battleship Galactica things. We know that fusion can work – stars do it- and progress as been made on Earth. After fusion comes matter/antimatter annihilation rockets. But we do not know how to make the antimatter or store it during flight.
The other alternative is beamed energy – you send photons at a sheet and the photons bounce off and provide momentum to the sail – very inefficient but the weight is left back on Earth so it is advantageous. We also looked at navigation, infrastructure, and other aspects of how to build a starship.

1 October 2011

Keith’s note: 3:05 pm EDT. Discussion of Non-profit vs profit entities to support starship missions. The real issue is where the “profit” goes. For-profit entities have the intention of making money, not-for-profit entities are required to reinvest their money, and non-profit organizations are charitable. Another speaker discussed how a starship’s crew should have funds invested so thay they (or their descendants) can have some wealth to utilize if/when they return to Earth.

Keith’s note: 1:10 pm EDT. Jeff Coughlin: various ways to examine planets themselves- transit of host star, changes in surface brightness as it orbits star could offer understanding of its surface features, looking for spectra in the atmosphere of extrasolar planets including non-equilibrium gases which may be indicative of biology. Most if this is simply limited by the size of the telescope that is used. When asked if these planets with long numbers start to become confusing to refer to, Coughlin said that this naming issue comes up all the time at conferences and that there has been talk of ways that names could be generated. Jill Tarter suggested that maybe the millionaire who paid for the survey who found a planet ought to get a chance to name the planet.

Keith’s note: 1:10 pm EDT. Jeff Coughlin: pace at which extrasolar planets are being discovered is accelerating. Getting closer to finding Earth-sized planets. We need to understand the sort of star these planets orbit, the size and mass of the planet, what its atmosphere is like, what is its geography, and lastly, does it have a biological component? Radial velocity shifts in spectra – doppler shifting cause by host start and star and planet orbit around their common center. Transit technique watches for dimming of light from a star as the planet passes in front of it. This technique also allows better size/mass determinations. In addition, once one planet is discovered others can be detected by the effect that they have on the previously discovered planet. This technique can also be used to find moons circling large planets and, given its inherent capability, Kepler can detect Earth-sized planets. Microlensing – look at stars close to center of galaxy – stars drift such that warped space by the mass of galaxy can act as a powerful lens. There is a lot of potential but it happens infrequently and the planets are far away. Direct imaging allows imagery of planets themselves.

Keith’s note: 12:59 pm EDT. Jill Tarter: as we venture out on starships, do we need a weapons system? Or have we watched too much Star Trek? If there are no natives at the destination, then no. But if the natives are unfriendly. It is unlikley that we are going to encounter a technologically-equal race to ours – given that the stars in this part of the galaxy tend to be a billion years older than our sun. The chance that two civilizations that are close and roughly equal in terms of technology, is rather remote.

Keith’s note: 11:22 am EDT. Session on social, educational, and economic considerations: One panelist (Cress) thinks that the whole starship project needs to be brought together in one place ala the Manhattan Project. Another panelist spoke about use of large scale gaming systems to allow the public via citizen science to participate in how a starship would be designed and operated. Phil Metzger at NASA KSC who works on regolith extraction. We are not gong to be successful of a self-sustaining robotic system for resource extraction across the solar system – ISRU – in situ resource utilization. Rich Terrile from NASA JPL: We developed the ability to go to the moon in 8 years. Remaining 40 years has seen little. At the same time the computer revolution saw a multibillion fold increase in capacity. We need something similar in space – need robotic systems that are self-repairing and autonomous – i.e. using intelligent machines. Another speaker noted that research activity needs to consider intellectual property, investments, and innovation and how you structure these issues to stimulate activity. An organizational construct needs to be found that stimulates innovators and investors.

Keith’s note: 10:35 am EDT. Swinney: X-ray pulsars have been postulated as a way to navigate through interstellar space – sort of like a galactic GPS but probably not needed for shorter trips.

Keith’s note: 10:27 am EDT. I asked, do we need a “Prime Directive”? If potential for life is what will draw missions to a certain star, do rules need to be in place a priori that govern how we behave when we get there? What if we cannot land because we find someone there waving back at us? Ian Crawford: I think you have to not see this as not being a leap into a dark. You need to visit a system that you understand. You need to do whatever you can do from orbit before you attempt to land. Landers need to be sterilized. We need to make certain that we do not negatively impact someone else’s biology.

Keith’s note: 10:15 am EDT. Swinney: The long range imager that was envisioned by Project Daedalus in the 1970s exists and is flying to Pluto on New Horizons. A starship needs to have system that accounts for movement of stars during trip.

Keith’s note: 10:10 am EDT. Ian Crawford Icarus Interstellar: Project Icarus: scientific objectives: science to do en route to another star, studies of target star(s), planetary science studies of bodies in the target star system, astrobiological studies of worlds in target system. Choice of target – spacecraft must reach target as fast as possible – not taking more than 100 years – ideally much sooner. The Spacecraft propulsion should be fusion based. Together this limits mission range of 15 light years. Reference is made to the Daedelus mission concept from the 1970s that would travel at 12% of the speed of light except that Icarus stops to visit the target star whereas Daedalus was a flyby mission. Two star systems close but at the limit of what should be considered: Epsilon Eridani (K2V class) has an extrasolar planet – may have more. GJ 672 (M3V) has a super Earth. We can be certain that there are many more planetary systems closer even if they have not been discovered yet. Using statistic form Kepler, etc. AT least 30% of main sequence stars have planets. SO within 15 light years we expect 20 of the 58 stars to have planets. That means the closest one will be closer than e Eridani. Long before we can build starships, astronomical tools here will have told us that there are planets orbiting stars and what they look like. Alpha Centauri system, this would be top of candidate list. It already satisfies many criteria. 4.4 light years away. Planets in this multiple star system have yet to be found. Our expectation is that an Icarus type vehicle will visit alpha centauri unless there ends up being no evidence that there are planets there.

Keith’s note: 10:00 am EDT. Jill Tarter, SETI Institute: I think we are going to be spending a lot of time in our own solar system learning how to live on other worlds- both as a way to insure against failures within our own Technology as well as to be able to survive the impact of a wandering asteroids. I think looking for life in our solar system and seeing if there is a “second genesis for life will consume the next century. I think it is the notion of life elsewhere in the cosmos that will drive our exploration in the solar system. I think the investment in an interstellar mission will be driven by learning how many different ways chemistry turned into biology. The discovery of an Earth-analog is close. If Kepler gets its extended mission that may be possible Those worlds are very far away. Then we need to try and get biosignatures from these worlds. Then we need to ask “is anyone there?” If the answer is no then I wonder what would sustain support for an interstellar mission. I am a little cynical these days WRT what will drive the funding and what it is we will get out there that we will not get back home. Biodiversity on other worlds might be one of the reasons. Perhaps exploring life on a Super Earth. I am still cautious that we will absolutely visit star systems unless it is to study life there.

Keith’s note: 9:15 am EDT. Whitesides: We need to use events like this as a catalyst to push things out and that these tasks are within our grasp. When looking at how humans explored and settled our planet- we did it in a few hundred thousand years. Now we are “human-forming” our planet. That will take a lot less time. That is the first great project of our species. What will we do next – for the next 200,000 years. To me it should be the exploration and settlement of our home galaxy.

Keith’s note: 9:09 am EDT. Whitesides: We need to build a society whose natural output is space exploration. We are not there right now. AT Virgin Galactic we have just created an effort we call “Galactic Unite”. We created this to pool the resources of some of our high net worth individuals to do good out in the world. It is the height of hubris that we should think that the constraints to human spaceflight will be there forever. We may be missing things. I think we can send a mission to another star system soon. It may not get there for a longtime but it will see a societal message out there that we are a civilization that thinks like this. Maybe we can find a wealthy patron who will take on the task of launching a mission to another system.

Keith’s note: 9:04 am EDT. Whitesides: We have 450 people signed up who have paid deposits. These people want to go into space so much that they will put down a significant amount of money before the service starts because that is the exothermic juice to get this industry started. This is an important group of people – they help make it commercially possible. But also, up until now, having the space experience has been an elite sort of thing. The average person would say that they do not personally know someone who has gone into space. I think we will enter an era where people know someone who has been into space or has gone there themselves. Many space travelers talk of their trips into space as transformational. These people will come back with a new perspective that is oriented toward the future of space as our culture reorients toward becoming a space culture – one of exploration.

Keith’s note: 8:48 am EDT. Whitesides: I run an aspiring spaceline. We just opened a new Hangar in Mojave. Scaled Composites built the first ships. Our new company, the Spaceship Company, a partnership between Virgin Galactic and Scale Composites, will build more ships at Mojave. Our real aspiration is to build a fleet and become the world’s first operational spaceline – in more than one location. Working toward completion of Spaceport AMerica. The runway is complete and the building itself is close to completion. Total cost to the state of over $200 million. As we do this we are trying to be green in how we do things. We have had 73 flights of the carrier aircraft and 16 flights of the SpaceShip 2 vehicle in free-flight.

Keith’s note: 8:48 am EDT. Whitesides: Think there are two reasons why this moment in time is so important. One is the revolution going on in exoplanet studies. We are going from a time when we think that there are planets like ours out there to one where we can confirm this. This is an important transformational moment in human history. The second thing is that we are “early” in humanity’s history. You may think that this is crazy statement since humans have been around for a long time. But we are living in the roots of a tree – a tree whose trunk and branches will spread out into the universe. So he have a great responsibility in this regard. That is why I think this moment in time is so important. We can image these planets if only we can get our friends in the Federal government to focus on this.

Keith’s note: 8:30 am EDT. George Whitesides, CEO Virgin Galactic: I do not get excited about every space conference I go to these days. But I did get excited about this one. This is a very serious subject. I am really not a professional in starships – yet. But I do have a few opinions on this. Sir Richard Branson also has something to say (video) “I really wish I could be with you – this topic is important and fascinating. I have always been attracted to bold and audacious projects that no one else wants to try. There needs to be thinking on a multi-generational sort of way. Thinking about interstellar travel can shed new light on things we have to think about today. If you do end up with a starship, we at Virgin Galactic would love to talk to you.”

30 September 2011

Keith’s note: 2:53 pm EDT. The structure of this meeting is rather eclectic with presentations proposed almost exclusively by the public – not by DARPA or NASA. As such the topics are not what you’d normally see at a space conference and many of the speakers and attendees are unfamiliar as well. That’s the point. One of the themes that emerged almost instantly from comments and presentations is that an effort such as mounting a starship mission is going to require a lot of people from a diverse array of backgrounds. Moreover, being that such an undertaking is likely going to be representative of humanity as a whole, diversity in the composition of participants as well as the rationale for mounting the mission, needs to take into account a wide range of view points and belief systems.

There is also a lot of technology that needs to be invented to make this happen – propulsion, life support, communications, human factors, etc. Two cases often emerge as to how to deal with this technology cliff – either wait until the technology exists before serious consideration of planning and conducting an interstellar mission is undertaken – or, as it the case with this conference, to try and push existing technology so as to make it possible to do the interstellar mission sooner.

Keith’s note: 1:08 pm EDT. Ariel Waldman – I learned that I did not need to be an astronaut to explore and that I did not need to work at NASA to explore space – so I left. “If you can’t open it you do not own it” — Maker’s Bill of Rights. This is not about complaining about things. DOing space missions requires helps from a wide variety of people. Conrad Spirit of Innovation Awards, University Rover Challenge are examples of projects that involve a lot of people, Galaxy Zoo. Many groups are working on Cubesats, high altitude weather balloons that get payloads close to space.

Keith’s note: 12:57 pm EDT. Ariel Waldman – Hacking space exploration. In 1969 we sent humans to the Moon and sent first message over ARPANET. 50 years later 2 Billion people use the Internet but only 500 or so people have gone into space. NASA is often not very open and being an amateur is often not appreciated.

Keith’s note: 12:47 pm EDT. Pete Worden, NASA ARC Center Director: this is a nexus of history. Can’t imagine a more exciting tome to be alive. Astrobiology is important – future of life on Earth and in the universe, search for alien life, how did life arise. No evidence for a second genesis for Life on Earth has been found. So now we look at Mars. Evidence of water and possibility that life may have existed and may still exist on Mars. Methane in Martian atmosphere hints at life on Mars. Life as we know it needs water and we see it in many places in the solar system – Enceladus, etc. But life might also exist in hydrocarbon lakes on Titan. It now seems that most stars have solar systems – and that there are Earth-sized worlds. The need for life to survive off world is a good justification for human spaceflight. Synthetic biology – “SynBio” now allows us to understand and reprogram the basic information of life. Craig Venter booted up the first artificial organism recently. Government can do wonderful things but the settlement of the solar system needs to be done by the private sector. Following government mission, the private sector could be exploring Mars in several decades. Expanding ourselves to other star systems would involve starships.

Keith’s note: 12:40 pm EDT. Dave Neyland: DoD has many challenges. Soldiers carry 45 lbs of batteries into the field to run technology they need. Disposable batteries. That is weight that is lost for other purposes. Regenerative batteries would help in that – the same kind of batteries that space exploration needs. Cordless drills you can buy today came directly from NASA work needed to develop cordless tools for astronauts. It is in the best interest of DARPA and NASA to get some of the best minds working on this process.

Keith’s note: 12:35 pm EDT. Dave Neyland, DARPA: “vision without execution is daydreaming”. It is not good enough to have a good idea- people need to find technology to solve problems. This study was a first step to tackle these problems. Why is DARPA doing this? Why not NASA? Da Vinci conceived of human flight 500 years ago but only 20th century when it actually happened. Jules Verne wrote “From the Earth to the Moon” when we were fighting civil war. He got the physics wrong – a 30,000G launch out of a cannon. Bu the inspired 5 generations to build technology to go to the Moon.

Keith’s note: 12:19 pm EDT: with 1,137 registrants and several dozen media, attendees are now filing into the meeting room.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.