Articles in 2018:
Paul Gilster provides a paper by Greg Matloff on Interplanetary Exploration: Application of the Solar Sail and Falcon Heavy on Centauri Dreams:
Gregory Matloff’s contributions to interstellar studies need scant introduction, given their significance to solar-and beamed sail development for decades, and their visibility through books like The Starflight Handbook (1989) and Deep Space Probes (2005). A quick check of the bibliography online will demonstrate just how active Greg continues to be in analyzing the human future in space, as well as his newfound interest in the nature of consciousness (Star Light, Star Bright, 2016)…
The paper that follows grows out of Greg’s presentation at the 2016 iteration of the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, where he discussed ways to advance deep space exploration using near term technologies like Falcon Heavy, in conjunction with the solar sail capabilities he has so long championed. Read on for an examination of human factors beyond lunar orbit and a description of a useful near-term mission that could reach an object much closer than Mars relying on both chemical and sail capabilities.[See the full post]
Angela Chen interviews two TVIW organizers in Behind the hype: experts explain the science behind graphene, the new supermaterial on The Verge:
The story might be familiar by now: The material in our lowly pencils — graphene, a version of carbon — could change the world. There’s graphene-enhanced eyewear and graphene-inspired condoms, but is this all hype? Beyond the buzzwords, what exactly is graphene, and what are its real possibilities?
Graphene-inspired eyewear might not amount to much, but graphene really could hold the key to advanced bullet-proof armor and lighter and safer smartphones, say scientists Joseph Meany and Les Johnson. They’re the authors of Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World, out February 6th from Prometheus Books. The Verge spoke to Meany and Johnson about the science behind this material, what it could do, and what we have yet to figure out.
The Verge: Let’s start from the beginning. How did the two of you meet? And how did you end up writing a book about graphene?
Meany: Les is the co-founder of a science group called the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, which I joined. Les got to know my work and just asked me off the cuff, as we were walking past each other, how much do you know about graphene? ‘Well, a lot,’ I said, it’s a conducting organic molecule and it’s what I’m getting my doctorate in. And he said, let’s follow up, I want to write a book with you. And then we took it and ran with it..[See the full post]
Paul Gilster provides a retrospective on 2017 from an Interstellar Perspective on Centauri Dreams:
The recent burst of interest in interstellar flight has surely been enhanced by the exoplanet discoveries that have become almost daily news. Finding interesting planets, some of them with the potential for water on their surfaces, inevitably raises the question of how we might find a way to get there. We can only imagine this accelerating as missions like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope begin to fill in not just our inventory of nearby planets but our understanding of their compositions…
Find a terrestrial class planet around another star — we may find that there is more than one around the Alpha Centauri stars — and the interstellar probe again becomes a topic of lively conversation. Breakthrough Starshot, the hugely ambitious attempt to develop a concept for tiny payloads being delivered through beamed laser propulsion to a nearby star, is by now a major part of the discussion. And as I said in my closing remarks at the recent Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Huntsville, there is a synergy among these developments.[See the full post]
Alex Tolley describes The Plasma Magnet Drive: A Simple, Cheap Drive for the Solar System and Beyond on Centauri Dreams:
Can we use the outflow of particles from the Sun to drive spacecraft, helping us build the Solar System infrastructure we’ll one day use as the base for deeper journeys into the cosmos? Jeff Greason, chairman of the board of the Tau Zero Foundation, presented his take on the idea at the recent Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop. The concept captured the attention of Centauri Dreams regular Alex Tolley, who here analyzes the notion, explains its differences from the conventional magnetic sail, and explores the implications of its development…
Alex is co-author (with Brian McConnell) of A Design for a Reusable Water-Based Spacecraft Known as the Spacecoach (Springer, 2016), focusing on a new technology for Solar System expansion. A lecturer in biology at the University of California, he now takes us into a different propulsion strategy, one that could be an enabler for human missions near and far.[See the full post]
Articles since the 2017 Symposium:
Richard Hollingham asks Will we ever have genetically modified astronauts? on BBC Future:
It takes something special to be an astronaut – an extraordinary combination of bravery, fitness, intelligence, lightning-fast decision-making and calmness under the most extreme pressure. It’s known as “the right stuff“.[…]Esa astronaut, Luca Parmitano, says he was astonished how rapidly his body changed during his five-and-a-half months in orbit on the International Space Station.[…]“Legs are not very useful in space,” says Parmitano. “I wouldn’t chop them off but why don’t I turn them into hands? Having two sets of hands would be really useful in space when you can hold onto handrails and use the other hands to work.”…
But what if instead of putting the effort into adapting space to humans, we do as Parmitano suggests and adapt humans to space?[…]It’s one of the areas being considered at the annual Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Huntsville, Alabama. Here, space agency scientists, engineers, and enthusiasts meet to devise future colonies in orbit around the Sun and starships, travelling over generations, designed to take humanity to seek out strange new worlds.
Neuroscientist Robert Hampson, who studies how radiation affects the brain, chairs a workshop working group on human adaptation. “It would take a lot of time and material to terraform a planet for instance,” he says. “But we could find a way to make humans more adaptable to less gravity and a different atmosphere.”…[See the full post]
Jean Schneider speculates about Oumuamua in the Research Notes of the AAS:
The detection of the object 1I/2017 U1 (MPEC 2017) on a hyperbolic trajectory presents an interesting question: is it really of interstellar origin or does it genuinely come from the Solar System, accelerated by some planetary encounter? All subsequent papers (de la Fuente Marcos, Gaidos, Laughlin and Batygin, Mamajek) present it as a probable interstellar object. The issue is important in both cases, because if it were a Solar System object, it would be the first asteroid (i.e., non cometary object) from the far outer Solar System….
And, in addition, even in that case, its present hyperbolic velocity makes it potentially an interstellar probe if some Lyra-like spacecraft (Hein et al. 2017) can chase it and deposit detectors on it (for communication see the talk by D. Messerschmitt at https://tviw.us/2017-presentation-video-archive/). Such a probe could, in passing, investigate the Oort cloud in situ. If it it of interstellar origin it provides a new channel of information about planetary systems (Trilling et al. 2017)….[See the full post]
Paul Gilster talks about Project Blue on Centauri Dreams:
Video presentations from the recent Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop are beginning to appear online. It’s welcome news for those of us who believe all conferences should be available this way, and a chance for Centauri Dreams readers to home in on particular presentations of interest. I published my Closing Remarks at TVIW right after the meeting and will watch with interest as the complete 2017 videos now become available. There are a number of these I’d like to see again….
All of this gets me by round-about way to Project Blue, the ongoing attempt to construct a small space telescope capable of directly imaging an Earth-like planet around Centauri A or B, if one is indeed there. For the other talk I gave at TVIW 2017 (not yet online) had to do with biosignatures, and the question of whether we had the capability of detecting one in the near future with the kind of missions now approved and being prepared for launch. This was delivered as part of a presentation and panel discussion with Greg Benford and Angelle Tanner (Mississippi State), one of the conference’s ‘Sagan Meetings.’….[See the full post]
Coverage for the 2017 Symposium:
Paul Gilster sums up his experience in his post from Centauri Dreams:
I want to thank Les Johnson and the conference organizers at TVIW, Tau Zero and Starship Century for the opportunity to make this presentation, and for the huge outlay in time and energy they devoted to the event. That includes our workshop leaders and participants who carried the original workshop notion forward. What I now hope to do is give an overview of what we have done here and what it signifies….
Somewhere around the 6th Century BCE, a man named Lao Tzu, an almost legendary philosopher and writer, purportedly produced the book known as the Tao Te Ching, a fundamental text of Taoism and Chinese Buddhism. This year’s Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop arrived made to order for Taoist thought, with its theme “Step by Step: Building a Ladder to the Stars.” Because for years I’ve used as the line on my digital signature the Tao Te Ching’s aphorism: “You accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.” Confucius, who may have known Lao Tzu, would echo the same philosophy….[See the full post]
Bart Leahy published a piece with Spaceflight Insider about TVIW’s long-term challenges:
The TVIW Chairman Les Johnson is a NASA physicist by day and a science fiction writer and interstellar visionary in his free time. Given that the exploration of the Solar System will be the work of generations, if not centuries, might TVIW not be getting a little ahead of themselves? Johnson told Spaceflight Insider: “Not at all. We’re providing the long-term vision… Can we do it today? No. Can we begin developing the technologies needed? Yes. Can we think about flying precursor missions today? Yes.”
The practical question Johnson and the other approximately 150 TVIW attendees asked was, “What can be done now?” They realize that launching even a tiny payload to the nearest star—Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light-years away—requires considerable development and expense….[See the full post]
Dr. Ben Davis recounts his time at “Band Camp” on his Ask Dr. Ben Facebook page:
So some of you might have wondered why Ask Dr. Ben has been so quiet for the last week. Well, I’ve been out of town and I generally don’t like to advertise over the Internet when I’m away from my home. But now that I am back, I’m happy to tell you everything.
I spent the last week in Huntsville, Al at the “Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop” (https://tviw.us/). I’ve been hearing about this “thing” from the guys at LibertyCon for several years. And even though I wasn’t quite sure what it was all about, I decided to bite the bullet and go see for myself. I figured at worst, I’d hang out with some of my con buddies that I only see a few times per year, and perhaps drink some of Robert Hampson quality Scotch. I also looked at it as my consolation prize for saving a few bucks and skipping Dragon*Con this year. Well, it turned out to be intense. TVIW, is a three day symposium (which we stretched to 5 days) on how to achieve interstellar travel. You can’t call it a “con” by any stretch of the imagination. There was no cosplay. There were no party rooms. There was just scientists, engineers, authors and highly interested people there to discuss the future of space exploration. The theme was, “Step by Step: Building a Ladder to the Stars.” It was quite simply the most advanced set of talks I’ve attended since I was in graduate school…[See the full post]
Prolific author Sarah Hoyt covers Why We Must Go to the Stars for PJMedia:
Why would anyone want to go to other stars? Why would it be beneficial to humanity?
Those of you who have wondered about my absence from my normal haunts online, including the “night DJ” job at Instapundit, wonder no more.
I’ve been at TVIW, which I’ve attended for its last three sessions. TVIW is the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, a gathering of scientists, professionals and crazy people (like me) who dream in fiction, and who think it’s important – nay, imperative – for humans to leave the cradle of the Earth and colonize different worlds around different stars.
Sarah Hoyt interviews Jeff Greason about Why Get Off This Rock? for PJMedia:
I’ve known Jeff Greason for years, and we might or might not be plotting to take the sun hostage every night for some hours and not let you have it back until the morning unless you pay us one billion dollars.
Okay, that’s the joke, but Jeff and I share one very strong influence in the works of Robert A. Heinlein, which molded our juvenile minds in dramatically different, but in the end complementary, ways….
Both of us are, needless to say, interested in space. This might be true or not of all Children of Heinlein™, but in our case, it guaranteed we’d eventually run into each other.
Our most recent moment of “running into each other” happened at the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Huntsville, Alabama, last month. I was there in my own interest, as a science fiction author (and I brought home a notebook of ideas mostly for short stories) and at the encouragement of my editor at PJ Media to cover the event, the people, and the technological ideas for the site….[See full post]
Sarah Hoyt proclaims We’re Going To Space, Are You Coming? on PJMedia:
Apparently when Von Braun was going around the country selling the idea of going to the moon/space, he would say “We’re going to the moon. Are you coming?”
Two things are important here: that the idea of going to the moon had to be sold and sold to non-scientists, and the idea that some portion of humanity is going to space and it is entirely your choice whether you’re coming or not. You can’t forever prevent the species from going….
This is my last article specifically about the Tenessee Valley Interstellar Workshop – sort of – which is exactly that kind of effort. Sure a lot of the people involved have Ph.D.s in physics or engineering, but for three years now – I do not know about before that since I was not involved – they also had people like me and other writers, who are along to convince others, the normal people, that there is a possibility – let alone a point – in going to space….[See full post]