TVIW was conceived on a sunny summer morning, July 13, 2011, on the patio of a charming little hotel (which no longer exists, regrettably) in the ancient city of Aosta in the Italian Alps, at the conclusion of the IAA’s 7th Biennial Symposium on Realistic Near-Term Scientific Space Missions.
TVIW was founded with a grand vision — to facilitate an “Interstellar” process of knowing and journeying. To attain grand goals, one must first build an infrastructure that supports steady progress, with plateaus along the way. With this technological, philosophical and economic infrastructure, Mankind can set foot on the moon, establish outposts, even cultures, throughout our solar system, and finally, find its (our) pathway to the stars. TVIW was founded to outline and develop this Interstellar Vision. The ladder to the stars has many waypoints, and our activities support the attendant milestones and processes.
The first TVIW, in November 2011, was a chance for like minded people to get together and talk about how to move humanity into space, to promote interstellar exploration, travel, and communications. As Les Johnson eloquently put it:
“The Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop is an opportunity for relaxed sharing of ideas in directions that will stimulate and encourage Interstellar exploration including propulsion, communications, and research. The ‘Workshop’ theme suggests that the direction should go beyond that of a ‘conference’. Attendees are encouraged to not only present intellectual concepts but to develop these concepts to suggest projects, collaboration, active research and mission planning. It should be a time for engaging discussions, thought-provoking ideas, and boundless optimism contemplating a future that may one day be within the reach of humanity.”
Though the original TVIW concept was explicitly intended to be regional (viz., the American Southeast), it is now, in fact, an internationally recognized event, with major speakers and attendees coming from all over the world. International participation has grown, for example, with the full involvement and support of the prestigious British Interplanetary Society, as well as the Initiative for Interstellar Studies and the International Space University.
Why should we gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities of interstellar travel? Because we must. We are compelled by our nature to think positively about the future of humanity in a beautiful yet extremely hostile universe. Life on Earth is wonderful and we should do what we can to protect and preserve it here, but there is more. Among the billions of galaxies, stars and planets, we sense a call to explore. A call to disperse ourselves and settle a multitude of worlds in order to preserve and protect what must be very rare indeed: a bipedal species of intelligent tool users who dare to dream, to love, to create and to aspire for more than mere survival. To do this, we must push boundaries and go. There are many challenges and some of them will take generations to overcome.
These efforts will take all of humanity. We will need everybody ‘onboard the boat.’ We hope that one day we will see the great diversity that is the human race on the way to other planets and other stars.