All content is by Stephen Ashworth, Oxford, UK,
unless attributed to a different signed author.
(1) 100 Year Starship Symposium Launched in Orlando
Perhaps the most significant comment on the 100 Year Starship Symposium organised by DARPA and now underway in Orlando, Florida, was posted by contributor Jeff Stetson to the Open Scientific Speculation of Fermi Paradox page on Facebook:
I don't mind at all think-tank sessions on exotic problems, but it does come with a downside. It raises the bar in the public eye for what science is supposed to be capable of accomplishing. Compared to Starship Enterprise, the shuttle or little robots on Mars seem not the technical tour de force they really are, but puny and boring. While many still turn to god for magic tricks, most expect “science” to fill that role. The article [on the 100 Year Symposium] shows this kind of thinking: if internet and robocars, then interstellar human flight.
The danger is, therefore, that the vision of humankind expanding confidently into the Galaxy is progressively discredited thru the rocketing costs of getting the global space agency cartel to do anything constructive, and the slowness of free market spaceflight to reach economic take off.
Meanwhile the visionary papers on antimatter propulsion, interstellar colonisation and habitable exoplanets continue to be delivered while civilisation on Earth gently crumbles under the onslaught of debt crises, religious and nationalistic wars, the socialist campaign against the liberal democratic capitalist system which is the foundation of our wealth and space capabilities, and public fears about the environment, energy supplies, new technologies, health and safety, and the security of their pensions.
Some of the commentary on the Symposium has suggested to me that it might be a bit disconnected from reality. The facts are that operating a manned starship (an interstellar voyage carrying human passengers is firmly on the agenda) depends upon the prior large-scale colonisation of space in our own Solar System, which depends in turn upon achieving regular, reliable, safe, affordable, economic passenger and cargo access to low Earth orbit, for which innovative vehicles such as Skylon are surely the best solution (tho SpaceX is now working on the alternative of landing Falcon 9 back on Earth under rocket power).
Space needs to pay its way first, before anyone can start to build starships!
The 100 Year Starship homepage is here.
Commentaries from some of the attendees known to me may be found here:
If anyone finds any other particularly interesting blogging from the Symposium, please let me know, by e-mail, or via the Open Scientific Speculation of Fermi Paradox page on Facebook.
Have checked for videos on YouTube, but apart from one rather muddled discussion by well known writer David Brin, nothing worth watching there yet.
Some more background on the project at Centauri Dreams here.
(2) Monthly Odyssey newsletter from the BIS
The British Interplanetary Society has recently started publishing a very professionally designed, lavishly illustrated, monthly e-mail newsletter called Odyssey: the latest issue (no.8) contains a major interview with science fiction writer Richard Morgan, Stephen Baxter on H. G. Wells, John Sylvester on Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars, and various items of BIS news and events, including yours truly blowing his horn about why he supports the BIS.
Issue 8 details also on the BIS website here.
For subscription information (free to all BIS members, and apparently also to interested non-members) please contact Mark Stewart via the British Interplanetary Society.