Space Image Gallery

The Space Images Gallery includes mostly photographs of objects in space, views of earth from space, and modern space craft taking off and in flight. There are few pieces of digital art we think you’ll also enjoy!

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER FOR IMAGE GALLERY:  Care was originally taken to obtain permission for re-print where appropriate, and preserve artists, file names and locations which have since been inadvertently and generically replaced through multiple site conversions and upgrades. One should not assume copyright in the public domain and should never use the images for financial gain. Artists contact us for proper credit and/or removal. 

The Panspermia Theory

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Panspermia, translated as “seeds everywhere,” is a theory that the seeds of life are spread throughout the universe in cosmic dust or perhaps in the tails of comets, and that life on Earth began when they managed to reach the surface of the planet. The theory has origins in the ideas of Anaxagoras, a Greek philosopher, but in modern times was revived by Sir Fred Hoyle, the famous British astronomer.

There is some evidence to suggest that bacteria, the probable mechanism, or panspermia “seed” may be able to survive for very long periods of time even in deep space. Two Cal Poly scientists demonstrated back in 1995 that bacteria can survive without any metabolism for at least 25 million years, making bacteria most likely immortal. Past studies out of India, further attesting to the robustness of life, have found bacteria more than 40 km up in Earth’s atmosphere where it would be unlikely to have come from our lower atmosphere.  Additionally bacteria Streptococcus mitus which was inadvertently carried to the moon on the 1967 Surveyor 3 spacecraft, was easily revived after being taken back to earth three years later.

One characteristic of panspermia would be that life in the universe would have a very similar biochemistry. So the high-altitude bacteria might be expected, whether of earth or extra-terrestrial origin, to appear very similar to terrestrial forms. This is not a testable hypothesis until life on another planet can be examined.

A major obstacle to the credibility of Panspermia theory is the fact that bacteria may not survive the tremendous heat and forces of an earth impact.  No studies or evidence have been conducted or collected to confirm or deny this likelihood.

Regarding known extraterrestrial material, the  “ALH84001″ rock sample believed to have come from Mars, shows some indication that microbial life may have been present at some point in the past. This widely disputed instance is the only indication we have of extraterrestrial life.

Some have taken the theory as an answer to those arguing the improbability of life spontaneously occurring on earth, that it happened elsewhere and traveled through the cosmos.

One of the newer wrinkles in the theory, purported by pranspermia.org, is that of Cosmic Ancestry.

Hoyle (and cohort Wickramasinghe) after reawakening the idea of panspermia, later broadened it to include a new understanding of evolution. They theorized that life could not have made the leaps and bounds from a single cell to humans in a mere 4 billion years; rather, the code of evolution was carried along with the seeds of life and indeed must always be so. Much in the same way the big bang set the rules for physics, life establishes the rules for its unfolding.

Parallel to their theorizing, and In the early 1970s, another man, British chemist and inventor James Lovelock proposed the theory that life controls Earth’s environment to make it suitable for itself. The theory, Gaia, as seen from a Darwinian perspective, looks suspiciously teleological. Nevertheless, the publishers of panspermia.org are calling the combination of Gaia with Hoyle and Wickramasinghe’s “strong” theory of panspermia, Cosmic Ancestry.  They say that  that life can only descend from life as equally evolved as itself. It also suggests that life can only come from life, requiring a supernatural being.

Now there’s a interesting combination of science, philosophy, and religion.

The straight panspermia theory has been popular in science fiction. Invasion of the Bodysnatchers by Jack Finney has been made into a feature film three times. In The Day of the Triffids, the first person narrator, writing in historical mode, takes care to reject the theory of panspermia in favor of the conclusion that Soviet biotechnology created carnivorous plants. It’s not hard to see why when you examine the fact that while interplanetary, interstellar, and perhaps even intergalactic “contamination” of life may be possible, there’s a lot of baggage associated with that simple scenario. Not the least of which is aimed at those who would use it it in lieu of spontaneous life occurring on earth as an escape mechanism. Cosmic Ancestry notwithstanding, life has to have started somewhere.  Magic fairy dust hardly concludes that creationism vs. evolution debate.

 

Space Colonization: Future Human Habitats

Permanent Space Colonies

There are several proposed models for space colonies, including the Torus Model, which is shaped like a huge doughnut, and The Cylindrical Model.

Permanent Space Colonies an integral part of Future Human Evolution

Permanent Space Colonies an integral part of Future Human Evolution

As a first step toward interstellar travel, a space civilization/community will live inside these enormous, pressurized bottle-like enclosures which will orbit the sun or a planet. The habitats will be self-sufficient, constructed using materials gathered in space (i.e. asteroids and planetoids), and water, collected in the form of ice from planets of moons, can be used to design rivers and ponds. Clouds will naturally form above the land areas, given the correct humidity and temperature which will actually be able to be adjusted and even pre-programmed!

Normally, here on Earth, we have the atmosphere to filter out the harmful radiation emitted by the sun. To protect space inhabitants from this radiation, soil could cover the entire area inside the bottle, and solar energy can be used to create artificial light inside that is safe. Circadian and seasonal rhythms can be simulated for all the living creatures. Another possibility is to use very thick quartz glass as a filter for the light that is reflected, by mirrors, into the bottle keeping the natural, full-spectrum sunlight that we are so accustomed to. For the purist who would want to have seasons, remaining in orbit would be a definite plus, as these cycles would be most likely to be accurately simulated.

 

Inside a Space Habitat - The Future of Human Evolution

Inside a Space Habitat

To simulate the gravitational pull of planet Earth along its inner surface, the enclosure will turn constantly. This will create centripetal force (the same force that is exerted on water in a pail when you swing it around rapidly), which is measured in gs. One g equals the pull found on Earth. The larger the bottle, the faster it will turn to produce a force of one g. Also, as colonists approach the axis of the enclosure the pull decreases, creating the floating effect that has been witnessed in videos of astronauts in space.

Besides the entertaining possibility of near-zero gravity, day-to-day life in such a space colony can very much resemble life on Earth. In fact, given the fact that everything in the environment will be made from scratch, people living in such a habitat will probably be closer to nature than many suburban communities of our own planet. Imagine a future in which advanced technology gives humans the option to live more simply. How about a tropical island paradise? Or, spectacular daily sunrises and sunsets?

If the habitat ventures forth beyond our solar system, another energy source would be used, such as nuclear energy. The voyagers of such a space craft would be personally demonstrating their confidence in the safety of living next to a nuclear reactor!

Is this really possible?

Well, why not? The Earth, itself, is a network of ecosystems enclosed in an atmospheric sac, if you will. Furthermore, every mineral, water, and carbon-based molecule, regardless of complexity or simplicity, has been used, reused, broken down and recycled since before the emergence of our planet as we know it. So, why not create a self-sufficient, enclosed environment? An inside-out earth?

A social benefit would be that subcultures would have the freedom to create the world they prefer to live in. Not only can inhabitants choose to live close to nature, near clean and pure air and water, but colonies could be created around specific political, religious, scientific, or any other predilection humans tend to congregate and disagree about. As children come of age and form their unique belief systems, or as adults change their views on fundamental issues, one need only find a like-minded colony or start one of their own.

In fact, a space colony could provide infinite room for all of society’s ills, from crime to industrial pollution. These space ships could be designed for use as escape-proof incarceration systems and industries that usually produce hazardous wastes on Earth.

Some have proposed that space be used as the final frontier for garbage that is not biodegradable on Earth. According to this idea, pollutants can be released into specific regions of controlled space where they will not pose a danger to either colony of planetary inhabitants. For many, space colonization sounds like the ultimate answer.

Environmentalists may argue that creating pollutants only to release them into space is irresponsible and selfish, regardless of how far away they may be pushed.

Others may argue that it would simply not be a viable model to sustain life in the long-term. An ecologist might claim that nature, in her infinite wisdom, creates weather and atmospheric pressure according to the needs of an entire ecosystem. As the space habitat attempts to achieve its equilibrium, we might interfere to its detriment with our whimsical programming. Furthermore, the ecologist might argue that while an enclosed habitat may succeed in simulating the essential components of life-on-earth, it would likely overlook the various intricate relationships between all elements that sustain life, including parasitic and symbiotic micro-organisms.

A biologist might argue that an asteroid floating in space was not exposed to, nor influenced by, the same factors as planet Earth was in its evolution; therefore, it cannot be merely acquired and pulverized into living soil that would effectively sustain living organisms that did indeed evolve on this planet.

Furthermore, an agriculturist may point out the fact that in order to produce living crops, soil must contain macro and microminerals that exist in a specific, balanced ratio that is virtually identical to that of the optimally healthy human body,

A nutritionist might warn that if the space colony’s soil and blood samples do not produce optimal macro-to-micromineral ratios, the colonies may see unprecedented epidemics of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  To this, the biospherist might mention the Biosphere 2 project, a study in which all the participants emerged from an enclosed habitat after two years in a healthier state than when they entered.

However, one might counter that the enclosure leaked at a rate of 10% per year, and that while this is a successful rate by Earths standards, in the vacuum of space such a leak could be disastrous, as the on-board plant volume/oxygen production capacity may not be able to replenish such loses.

The pessimist or the cynic might doubt that humans can live in any man-made environment regardless of how spacious it may be without seeking to hurt exploit or oppress someone.

Finally, the futurist carefully examines all the evidence, smiles knowingly, and assures us: Don’t worry! By then, well see the convergence of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and quantum physics. The transhuman economists, scientists, and technicians will figure it all out despite the politicians.

 

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Dubai – A whole other planet. What space colonies on other Earths might look like. The Future of Human Evolution.

 

Space Colonization:
Making the Interstellar Journey

How will Humans make the Journey ?

The possibilities for how we as humans will make the interstellar journey depends on several factors and assumptions. Key driving factors in the design of our accommodations include the speed and distance we plan to travel (see Where and How). We will also assume for the remainder of this discussion that humans will not become extinct and that the drive to survive and explore will not be eliminated from of our nature in the near term.

Suspended Animation

Although a favorite technique in science fiction, today’s technology does not provide for the realistic possibility of suspending through cryonics or other means with a chance of resuscitation. There are many research efforts aimed at making this a possibility. Most of these efforts are focused on the terminally ill and promote the promise of revival at a time when the disease can be cured. Whatever the impetus for invention, space-farers may benefit from this technology if and when it becomes practical.

suspended animation and the future of human evolution

suspended animation and the future of human evolution

AI/Machine Enhablement

This will be our first method of interstellar human representation. In fact, it has already begun in some respects (Voyager 1 has left the solar system). Small ships can equipped with sensory arrays and probes that will relay data back to earth or some grand central station, intended to aid us in our decision on where to send living, breathing humans. In the future, humans may also make the journey as machines. Downloading/uploading human conscious into computers is a favorite them of science fiction authors and is being considered as a possible goal of AI.

Incubatorial Craft

Commonly known as Seed Ships. These are one step beyond the AI/Machine enabled craft in that they are unmanned vessels which host self-contained laboratories for conceiving, incubating, birthing, and rearing humans perhaps thousands of light years from sol. The theory is that AI would spend the tedious eons traveling from system to system searching for planets able to support human life (perhaps with genetic alterations required to live in the new found biosphere), and would then launch the planet-bound habitat capable of producing and supporting the genesis of a new human society. Such a ship would carry all of the knowledge and tools necessary to establish an advanced civilization. Significant genetic alterations required by each new environment may be considered by some as constituting a new race. Social interaction between the range of possible human forms is an interesting area of speculation that we would like to explore through essays and conjecture submitted by our readers.

Generational Ships

We favor the generational ship approach. The name is self explanatory. A ship that supports successive generations of humans on a journey between the stars. Our reason for supporting this method of travel is simply this: It’s not the destination that is important, it’s the journey. The idea that life or the business of living has to be associated with a nearby star or planet is, well, terrestrial . Aside from the fact that star systems may need to be visited from time-to-time for the collection of resources and may be the place to meet other species, interstellar distances are a perfectly fine place to raise a family…

Faster Than Light Travel

Although not a reality yet, fans of Star Trek and any number of other science fiction shows know well the concept of a “Warp Drive”, or a propulsion system that allows faster than light travel. This could make interstellar travel no more strenuous than a trip here in the solar system. Of course, as we know from the recent shuttle problems, the most dangerous prt of any flight may be earth to orbiting docking station or ship. Assuming for the moment however that the privatization of space yields a more effective and efficient means of getting to free space, there are a number of theoretical Faster-Than-Light (FTL) systems. These include:

Worm Hole transportation – Although Special Relativity forbids objects to move faster than light within spacetime, it is known that spacetime itself can be warped and distorted. It takes an enormous amount of matter or energy to create such distortions, but distortions are possible, theoretically. To use an analogy: even if there were a speed limit to how fast a pencil could move across a piece of paper, the motion or changes to the paper is a separate issue. In the case of the wormhole, a shortcut is made by warping space (folding the paper) to connect two points that used to be separated. These theories are too new to have either been discounted or proven viable. And, yes, wormholes do invite the old time travel paradox problems again.

Alcubierres “Warp Drive” – The principle of this theoretical drive is that we could expand space-time behind the ship and contract space time in front of the ship to beat the limitations on our ability to move through space. For example you might only be able to travel 90 KPH on a highway. But if you move the highway in the direction you want to go, you have essentially doubled your speed, relative to your destination.

Negative mass propulsion – It has been shown that is theoretically possible to create a continuously propulsive effect by the juxtaposition of negative and positive mass and that such a scheme does not violate conservation of momentum or energy. A crucial assumption to the success of this concept is that negative mass has negative inertia. Their combined interactions result in a sustained acceleration of both masses in the same direction. This concept dates back to at least 1957 with an analysis of the properties of hypothetical negative mass by Bondi, and has been revisited in the context of propulsion by Winterberg and Forward in the 1980s. Regarding the physics of negative mass, it is not known whether negative mass exists or if it is even theoretically allowed, but methods have been suggested to search for evidence of negative mass in the context of searching for astronomical evidence of wormholes.

Milliss hypothetical “Space Drives” – A “space drive” can be defined as an idealized form of propulsion where the fundamental properties of matter and space-time are used to create propulsive forces anywhere in space without having to carry and expel a reaction mass. Such an achievement would revolutionize space travel as it would circumvent the need for propellant. A variety of hypothetical space drives were created and analyzed by Millis to identify the specific problems that have to be solved to make such schemes plausible. Please note that these concepts are purely hypothetical constructs aimed to illustrate the remaining challenges. Before any of these space drives can become reality, a method must be discovered where a vehicle can create and control an external asymmetric force on itself without expelling a reaction mass and the method must satisfy conservation laws in the process.

 

Space Colonization: Interstellar Propulsion Systems

There have been a number of interstellar propulsion systems proposed, and many are on the drawing board today. They range from the practical using today’s technology to the fantastical requiring great leaps in technological advancement to achieve. Here are a few of the more well known, in chronological order starting with the earliest.

Project Orion, 1958

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Orion 1958

In 1958, physicist Freeman Dyson, Theodore Taylor, and a team of scientists started a top secret space vehicle project trying to utilize nuclear explosives behind a massive pusher plate cushioned by duel shock absorber columns.  They intended to use it for both interplanetary and interstellar flight, so called it Project Orion after the constellation.  The goal was to create a less expensive means of exploring deep space than chemical rockets, as nuclear fission provides millions of times more thrust than chemical combustion. Smaller, lighter, easier to carry, and more effective equals larger payloads and greater speeds.

No actual spacecraft emerged from Project Orion then, or even today as scientists take another look at an old idea, but there were several flight test vehicles several that were damaged or destroyed.  The first successful test flight was in 1959 using six explosions to gain 10 meters of altitude using chemical explosives for the proof of concept.


Bussard Interstellar Ramjet, 1960

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Bussard Interstellar Ramjet

The whole idea behind this Bussard Interstellar Ramjet concept, from the 1960’s, is that it uses free-floating protons in interstellar space to convert into nuclear fusion.

Using enormous electromagnetic fields hundreds of kilometers in diameter to “scoop” and compress hydrogen *hopefully* available in the vast distances between stars, high speeds would theoretically force the reactive mass into progressively more constricting magnetic fields much the way a jet engine’s fans force compressed air into smaller and smaller circumferences, compressing it until thermonuclear fusion occurs (or is caused to occur).

The same magnetic field would then focus the force of the continual nuclear reactions out of the back side of the craft, propelling it in the desired direction.  The faster the vehicle travels, the more material it scoops, the greater the nuclear reactions, and faster the vehicle travels…

Practical problems include not knowing the dispersion or availability of atoms in deep space, and how exactly to get fusion to occur.


Project Daedalus, 1973

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Daedalus Interstellar Vehicle

The challenge: use current or near-future technology, be able to reach its destination within a human lifetime, and be flexible enough in its design that it could be sent to any of a number of target stars. British Interplanetary Society‘s answer?

Daedalus was the first serious and thorough design for an interstellar vehicle, a robotic probe that would target Barnard’s Star which is 5.9 light years from the sun, reaching it in fifty years and moving at 12% the speed of light.

The British Interplanetary Society conducted their research on Daedalus between 1973 and 1977.  It was essentially a re-engineered “nuclear-pulse” rocket of Project Orion origin.  Instead of the rocket using nuclear fission for propulsion however,  it utilized nuclear fusion.  The rocket was propelled by a process coined as “internal confinement fusion.”  Small pellets of helium-3 and deuterium were each to be hit by electron beams in a combustion chamber and exploded like mini thermonuclear bombs.

Like the Ramjet, magnetic fields would then channel the hot plasma of the continual explosions out of the back of the craft, accelerating the ship with increasing speed.

Project Daedalus Animated Ship Video


Solar Sailing, 1984

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Solar Sail

Solar sails work because photons (light particles) have momentum and force even though they have no rest mass. This resulting “solar wind” hits a craft’s reflective surfaced-sail, giving it  a push just like the wind on an ocean sail. The effect builds up over time accelerating a solar sailing ship to tremendous speeds without the need for propellant.

The technology has already been tested in space, with Japan’s Ikaros probe deploying a 46-foot-wide (14 meters) sail in June 2010 and NASA launching an even smaller craft called NanoSail-D five months later.

Some scientist believe that a sail as large as Texas would be needed for an effective interstellar craft. However, recent advances in nanotechnology and the production of nano materials makes the daunting task of manufacturing and deploying such a large scale component more within reach than was even thought 2 years ago.


Alcubierres Warp Drive, 1994

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Alcubierre’s Improved Warp Drive

The idea came to White while he was considering a rather remarkable equation formulated by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. In his 1994 paper titled,  Alcubierre suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be “warped” both in front of and behind a spacecraft.

In 1994 Miguel Alcubierre authored a paper entitled “The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity,” in which he proved the mathematical possibility of “warping” space-time via some as yet undiscovered exotic particle or power. But the idea was to dramatically expand space behind an interstellar craft and to condense the space in front of it; the middle (holding the space craft) would then be perpetually moved forward.  Perhaps reaching stars in weeks, not thousands of years. Theoretically. The problem was that there would be no way to create enough power to generate such a warp field.

Enter physicist and NASA scientist Harold White.  He announced in 2012 that he had made some revisions to Alcubierre’s equations based on the thickness of the negative vacuum energy ring; he realized mathematically, that if you make that thicker and oscillate the warp bubble it’s plausible to dramatically decrease the energy needed.  The revised equations were compelling enough to get him funding for continued warp drive research at NASA.


Deep Space 1, 1998

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Deep Space 1

Ion propulsion is a technology that involves ionizing a gas to propel a craft. Instead of a spacecraft being propelled with standard chemicals, the gas xenon (which is like neon or helium, but heavier) is given an electrical charge, or ionized. It is then electrically accelerated to a speed of about 30 km/second. When xenon ions are emitted at such high speed as exhaust from a spacecraft, they push the spacecraft in the opposite direction.

SOLAR ELECTRIC ION PROPULSION – Unlike chemical rocket engines, ion engines accelerate nearly continuously, giving each ion a tremendous burst of speed. The DS1 engine provided about 10 times the specific impulse (ratio of thrust to propellant used) of chemical propulsion.

SOLAR CONCENTRATOR ARRAY – The advanced solar concentrator arrays that provide power to the ion engine are more efficient than conventional arrays, and cost and weigh less.

Deep Space 1 Home


Anti-Matter Drive, 2000

Anti-Matter Drive and the Future of Human Evolution

Anti-Matter Drive

In October 2000, NASA scientists announced early designs for an antimatter engine that could generate enormous thrust with only small amounts of antimatter fueling it. Matter-antimatter propulsion will be the most efficient propulsion ever developed, because 100 percent of the mass of the matter and antimatter is converted into energy.

When matter and antimatter collide, the energy released by their annihilation releases about 10 billion times the energy that chemical energy such as hydrogen and oxygen combustion, the kind used by the space shuttle, releases.

Matter-antimatter reactions are 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear fission produced in nuclear power plants and 300 times more powerful than nuclear fusion energy.


First Successful Solar Sail

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IKAROS

IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) was an experimental spaceship built and launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). It launched May 21st, 2010, alongside the Venus Climate probe Akatsuki Orbier and four other small spacecraft. IKAROS was the first space vehicle to successfully demonstrate interplanetary solar-sail technology as its main propulsion.

IKAROS flew by Venus at about 80,800 km (50,200 mi)On 8 December 2010,

Technologies proven during the mission included:

  • Deployment and control of a 20 m (66 ft) square, micro-thin (0.00030 in) polyimide solar sail
  • Solar cells integrated into the sail to power its payload
  • Accurate acceleration measurement provided by the solar wind
  • Variable reflectance liquid crystal panels for attitude control.

Unmanned Spacecraft Already Near Interstellar Space

Voyager and Pioneer Missions Interstellar Bound

Voyager and Pioneer Missions Interstellar Bound

The twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft continue exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. In the 36th year after their 1977 launches, they each are much farther away from Earth and the Sun than Pluto. Voyager 1 and 2 are now in the “Heliosheath” – the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas. Both spacecraft are still sending scientific information about their surroundings through the Deep Space Network (DSN).

The mission objective of the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM) is to extend the NASA exploration of the solar system beyond the neighborhood of the outer planets to the outer limits of the Sun’s sphere of influence, and possibly beyond. This extended mission is continuing to characterize the outer solar system environment and search for the heliopause boundary, the outer limits of the Sun’s magnetic field and outward flow of the solar wind. Penetration of the heliopause boundary between the solar wind and the interstellar medium will allow measurements to be made of the interstellar fields, particles and waves unaffected by the solar wind.

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The Voyagers should cross the heliopause 10 to 20 years after reaching the termination shock. The Voyagers have enough electrical power and thruster fuel to operate at least until 2020. By that time, Voyager 1 will be 12.4 billion miles (19.9 billion KM) from the Sun and Voyager 2 will be 10.5 billion miles (16.9 billion KM) away. Eventually, the Voyagers will pass other stars. In about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will drift within 1.6 light-years (9.3 trillion miles) of AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis which is heading toward the constellation Ophiuchus.

In about 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will pass 1.7 light-years (9.7 trillion miles) from the star Ross 248 and in about 296,000 years, it will pass 4.3 light-years (25 trillion miles) from Sirius, the brightest star in the sky . The Voyagers are destined—perhaps eternally—to wander the Milky Way.


More Resources

Project Icarus

Project Icarus is a volunteer theoretical engineering study to design an interstellar spacecraft. The project was launched on September 30th 2009 at the British Interplanetary Society HQ in London, and is a five year study. The purpose of Project Icarus is four-fold:

  1. To motivate a new generation of scientists in designing space missions that can explore beyond our solar system.
  2. To generate greater interest in the real term prospects for interstellar precursor missions that are based on credible science.
  3. To design a credible interstellar probe that is a concept design for a potential mission in the coming centuries so as to allow a direct technology comparison with Daedalus and to provide an assessment of the maturity of fusion based space propulsion for future precursor missions.
  4. To allow a direct technology comparison with Daedalus and provide an assessment of the maturity of fusion based space propulsion for future precursor missions.

Project Icarus was initiated by the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) and the Tau Zero Foundation (TZF) and is currently being managed by Icarus Interstellar Inc., a nonprofit foundation.



Centauri-Dreams.org

Research into Deep Space Exploration

Alpha Centauri and other nearby stars seem impossible destinations not just for manned missions but even for robotic probes like Cassini or Galileo. Nonetheless, serious work on propulsion, communications, long-life electronics and spacecraft autonomy continues at NASA, ESA and many other venues, some in academia, some in private industry. The goal of reaching the stars is a distant one and the work remains low-key, but fascinating ideas continue to emerge. This site will track current research. I’ll also throw in the occasional musing about the literary and cultural implications of interstellar flight. Ultimately, the challenge may be as much philosophical as technological: to reassert the value of the long haul in a time of jittery short-term thinking.