(Sen) - In Houston people assembled September 13 - 16 for the 100 Year Starship (100YSS) Public Symposium to consider the challenge of sending humans to another star system by the next century.
The assembly took place 50 years after President John F Kennedy challenged Americans to land a man on the Moon and in the week when the memorial service was held for Neil Armstrong, the man whose one small step onto the lunar surface marked the fulfilment of President Kennedy's vision. Behind Armstrong's achievement was years of hard work by hundreds of thousands of people, a point Armstrong himself was always keen to convey. Whoever goes beyond our Solar System, Armstrong will be forever the first human to step foot on another planetary body.
The current US President Obama has set the task of sending humans deeper into our Solar System - to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s. The challenge for the next century being set by the 100 Year Starship project is to send humans on a mission to the stars.
Former US President Bill Clinton supports the idea and will act as Honourary Chairman of the symposium. Guests attending the event include Star Trek actor Levar Burton and ET hunter Dr Jill Tarter who helped establish the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) organisation.
Those assembled will consider the technical challenges and benefits of travelling to another star system. Workshops and talks will be held with scientists, entrepreneurs, astronauts and representatives of international space agencies.
The 100 Year Starship project was awarded $0.5m of seed funding by the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in May this year. The organisation is headed by former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, who flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. Jemison says "The 100 Year Starship will make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system to another star a reality over the next 100 years."
The 100 Year Starship organisation is looking to gain support from the public and excite the broad spectrum of people whose skills would be needed to send humans to another star by the next century. The organisation recognises that radical leaps in knowledge and technology would be needed to achieve interstellar flight. "We will actively include the broadest swath of people in understanding, shaping, and implementing our mission" says the 100YSS mission statement.
The 100 Year Starship 2012 Symposium is taking place between September 13 - 16 in Houston, Texas.
The idea of interstellar travel has roots in a concept dubbed Project Daedalus that was set up by the British Interplanetary Society in the 1970s. They conceived a huge rocket weighing 54,000 tonnes (illustrated above alongside the Saturn V moon rocket) which would be built in orbit and powered by nuclear fusion. Daedalus's first destination was to be Barnard's Star, 5.9 light-years away. Travelling at 16% the speed of light it would take 50 years to reach the star.
The British Interplanetary Society have followed up on Daedalus with a new project, Icarus Interstellar, which is looking again at how to design a probe to the stars.