Broadcast 1551 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

02 May 2011 Dr. Rob Adams, Dr. Ian Crawford, Dr. Richard Obousy
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Guests: Dr. Richard Obousy, Dr. Rob Adams, Dr. Ian Crawford. Topics: Project Icarus, interstellar propulsion & missions, fusion propulsion. Please note that you are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Visit their website at We welcomed our three guests to the program to discuss Project Icarus, interstellar propulsion, missions, and fusion energy. In our first segment, Dr. Obousy, the team leader, provided us with background and history related to Project Icarus and the earlier British Interplanetary Society (BIS) Project Daedalus. To compare and contrast an actual interstellar mission designed for the purpose to a mission going interstellar such as Voyager, he said it would take Voyager 70,000 years to reach the nearest start but the interstellar designed mission would do so in 50-100 years. He talked about the Icarus team and that it was a joint BIS-Tau Zero all volunteer effort. At the end of the five year study in 2014, the team hopes to be able to say if such a mission is plausible. Our guests listed the criteria for the mission but you can find it on the Icarus website at One of the important requirements for this mission is the ability to decelerate as the mission neared its target. Not only did we discuss the process to be used for selecting the target or destination, we talked about the need for the mission to be extremely well programmed with more than capable software and artificial intelligence (AI). This topic came up again later in the show, especially in terms of our programming and software capabilities of today as compared to what will be needed for the mission. Our guests talked about the scientific objectives of such a mission, then a listener asked if they had come up with cost estimates for the mission. Our guests said it was not possible to estimate costs at this time as the technology readiness levels (TRL) had to substantially increase to be able to do that. Later in the discussion, the cost issue again surfaced with an explanation of how costs can be determined and spread over space infrastructure and development given the nature of an interplanetary mission and our becoming space-fairing in the process. Later in the first segment, we started discussing fusion propulsion, a subject that remained with us for the balance of our program. We started the second long segment talking about Icarus outreach & PR. One particularly interesting site for Project Icarus is Fusion propulsion was again the topic and we talked about the different kinds of fusion, what was most suitable for space propulsion, reaching breakeven, and fusion research progress. Our guests explained why only fusion propulsion could be used for an interstellar mission. We had several questions about "fringe" theories & our guests addressed these questions from a TRL perspective. We talked about being taken seriously within the industry and by funding sources. Near the end of the discussion, our guests talked about career opportunities in the field, how best to learn the subject matter, and internships. Post your comments/questions on the blog URL above. You can also email or I can forward your message to the guest you designate.



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