This lecture was given by Initiative Executive Director Kelvin F. Long on 29th August at the Head Quarters of the British Interplanetary Society in London. The BIS is the oldest space organisation still in its original form, first founded in 1933.
We have many ideas for what a Starship may look like, but it is too early to really say. Our minds require more time to comprehend the abstract challenges of sending vessels across light years of space, at speeds approaching that of light, for durations that last for years, decades or centuries.
Recently, we heard the sad news that Neil Armstrong had passed away. This was an American Navy fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut, Moon walker, hero, teacher, accident investigator, pioneer, aerospace engineer, Administrator, Business Director, father and husband, a great human being. How can one person have so many titles? His achievements are best exemplified of course in that period of 1969, when suspended in a sunbeams shadow, he walked across the sea of tranquillity with his good friend Edwin Eugene ‘Buzz’ Aldrin.
We in the Initiative believe that it is possible to create an interstellar capable society this century. We want to see blueprints for both robotic and crewed vessels made, and hopefully someday, for metal to cut metal and the actual Starships constructed. This is an exciting and visionary goal but what better way to spend ones short existence on this Earth, than to spend it in the fulfilment of peaceful human expansion out into space.
Two vital questions often get debated in the interstellar community, how much will an interstellar mission cost and when is it likely to happen? To place this question in context, let us first consider some big program costs in history.
The ramjet was a proposed variant of the fusion engine, but rather than carrying along its own fuel, it would use enormous electromagnetic fields to ram scoop hydrogen from the interstellar medium. The high energy protons enter the ram scoop, confined by magnetic field lines and then meeting under the conditions for fusion reactions to occur, producing a high energy exhaust jet. In theory, if the interstellar ramjet can be made to work, then relativistic star travel will be possible.
Although Adrian Mann is a painter, his work is mainly achieved through the click of a mouse using sophisticated computer software. He is fast gaining a reputation for turning the visions of pioneers into real world engineering schematics and it is hoped eventual realisation.
The Interstellar Index is about interstellar travel, that is – Spaceships that travel to other stars. But what does it really take to send a spacecraft through the void of space to those distance sea of Suns?