Kickstarting Our Interstellar Future

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On Aug. 15, 2013, some of the most forward-thinking experts in interstellar science will accumulate in Dallas, Texas, for the world’s first Starship Congress.

Headed by Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group motivated to research new space technologies co-founded by regular Discovery News contributor and advanced propulsion expert Richard Obousy, the Congress will be a forum for “scientists, physicists, engineers, researchers, urban designers, representatives from international space programs and present-day commercial space operators, as well as popular and well-known interstellar speakers and space journalists” to “share their visions for how the future of spaceflight and exploration may unfold.”

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But like any conference, funding is needed. So this weekend, Icarus Interstellar began a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 for the Starship Congress. Should the campaign be fully funded (before the deadline of June 16), donors will receive a range of goodies from free Congress tickets to becoming an official sponsor for the event.

Having attended the 100 Year Starship convention last year, I was profoundly struck by the huge gathering of enthusiasts from every facet of humanity. My skepticism of such forward thinking projects was quenched by the people who attended — all are acutely aware of the challenges facing us, but all have this incredible drive to innovate and develop interstellar ideas for the betterment of our species. Interstellar visionaries aren’t looking years into the future, they are looking decades and centuries into the future, planning out logical, incremental steps, applying technologies that we have today (while identifying potentially transformative technologies along the way) to push us deep into space.

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Interplanetary travel is a huge challenge for humanity, but interstellar travel can often seem like an unreachable goal. But to the scientists and engineers of Icarus and a growing number of other interstellar groups, we are beginning to see technologies that could transform space travel and enrich our way of life on Earth. They are pushing the envelope of human ingenuity.

Although humanity has gotten off to a bumpy start in space exploration, propulsion technologies, commercial interest and public backing seems to be arriving at a crossroads where “impossible Star Trek dreams” are becoming “challenging engineering concepts” that may well be possible within decades. And these challenging ideas are best discussed at meetings like the Starship Congress.

I, for one, will be attending the Starship Congress this year — the topics discussed and the incredible people who have already confirmed their attendance guarantees that this will be one meeting not to miss.

For more details about the Starship Congress, see the Kickstarter campaign.

Image credit: Icarus Interstellar

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