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Notes from sessions yesterday on interstellar propulsion. Basically, as hard and costly as this trick will be to solve, there ARE promising approaches to it. Make it so!
Propulsion Panel Notes
George Miley -
It’s popular to speculate on Helium-3 fusion, but H3 collection (from moon soil or gas giant planetary atmospheres) is a huge task by itself. Start with elements, even if less optimal, available on Earth.
Louis Freedman, President, The Planetary Society – Promoted lightsails as a near-term technology with great potential. Near-term missions could warn of solar weather, thanks to their ability to “hover” in a spot in interstellar space, and perform near Earth object (NEO) missions, leading to capability to steer NEOs with huge sails
Geoffrey Landis – Lightsails are a good technology, to be followed by nuclear engines. They may or may not lead to interstellar capabilities
Friedman – Simplify missions by taking =humans out of the loop. With advances in robotics and media technology, “being there” virtually is an improving option
Mr. Kammash, Project Icarus – No, we need humans in the loop to make it worthwhile for people to fund huge endeavors.
“Columbus would not have gotten funding for sending a frog on precursor mission.”
Suggested a new Icarus motto: “On to the stars: Cowards shoot for Mars.”
Landis – all propulsion research has value because a starship might have two or three systems, for instance, for accelerating, braking, and precise maneuvers
Miley: It’s all depended on cheaper access to orbit. We need more work to explore SSTOs, light gas guns, and directed energy-powered launches.
There's a lot more where this came from. They are taping the sessions, so we should see some on DARPA's website.