Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The '100-Year Starship Initiative' gains the support of former president Bill Clinton

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is backing the "100-Year Starship Initiative," a project begun by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to research interstellar travel.

In a statement, Clinton said, "This important effort helps advance the knowledge and technologies required to explore space, all while generating the necessary tools that enhance our quality of life on Earth."

Mae Jemison, the first female African American astronaut, now 55, was appointed as the de facto leader of the project in January. The one-year long project aims to foster work toward developing interstellar travel, akin to "Star Trek," within the next 100 years.

Ironically, not only was Jemison a real astronaut, she also appeared on a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode, guest-starring as Lt. Palmer in the TNG episode, "Second Chances," in Season Six.

The problems and issues associated with interstellar space travel are to be discussed at the upcoming 100-Year Starship Public Symposium, which drops out of warp drive in Houston from Sept. 13 through Sept. 16. The event is event open to both scientists and interested members of the public.

In a statement posted on the Symposium's website, the organization said,

"100 Year Starship invites you to participate in the journey of a lifetime! On this mission, everyone has a seat – Thought leaders, experts, trendsetters, space advocates and space enthusiasts, international space agencies, established businesses and start-ups, financiers and entrepreneurs, governmental and non-governmental agencies, universities and private industries, including entertainment, medicine, education, the arts and athletics – and, of course, the general public. You are all invited to join us on a journey to improve our world today as we explore the challenge, benefits, potentially enabling technologies, strategies and awesome potential of interstellar flight to another solar (star) system.

"From exotic propulsion systems, exoplanets and “where do we go?” to the social, economic and cultural considerations of “why or should we go?” there’s a technical or academic session just for you. In addition, workshops, classes, networking venues, the Expo, entertainment, celebrities, speakers and guests will enhance your experience and ensure that you have an opportunity to consider and contribute to the wide range of space and related topics needed to chart the research, design, development, policy, outreach and aspirational activities from which long-distance space travel will be generated."

Speakers at the event will include Jemison, as well as "Star Trek: TNG" actor LeVar Burton (Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge), astronomer Jill Tarter (co-founder of SETI), among others.

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