Talk Series: Assuring Humanity's Interstellar Mission Capability for Posterity, or, Learning from Bronze Age Mistakes
Date: 16th February 2020
Time: 8pm UTC (London time)
Presenter: Robert G. Kennedy III
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This work is dedicated to the late Ben Finney, co-editor of Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience, and co-organizer of the eponymous Conference on Interstellar Migration in May 1983. The paper was modelled on W.K. Hartman’s "The Resource Base in Our Solar System" (appears as the second chapter), and follows my own "Fusion Fuel Resource Base in Our Solar System", as presented at I4IS's "Foundations of Interstellar Studies" workshop at City University of New York in June 2017, and published in JBIS 71, no.8 in 2018. It was then presented as "Assuring Humanity's Interstellar Mission Capability for Posterity, or, Learning from Bronze Age Mistakes" to the Society for the Study of Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology in December 2020 (SSoCIA 2020, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STHW4OAsumk&list=PLMo6NPJuxFNma4H1kCOli6GzPwoQ54_LD&index=7 ).
If a self-propelled ship is going to get to another star in less than many millennia, based on known physics, humanity will need vast quantities of highly energetic fusion fuels. However, all of the light fusion reactions the human race knows about have major drawbacks. One cannot be replicated by people yet; due to "the neutron problem," three are better suited for interplanetary travel, not beyond. Only one, the aneutronic proton+boron-11 reaction, is suitable for interstellar travel. However, boron is extremely rare in the solar system, and throughout the cosmos. This limit on fuel supply likewise limits the number and throw-weight of interstellar missions we would be capable of launching over the next millennium. Like W.K. Hartman, I will bound the value of this constraint, in order to inform the general discussion in this field. There are lessons from antiquity we can learn from in order to deal with the surprising result.
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