[SpaceProgram] Quick Update on Day 1 of 100YSS Symposium

Jerry Isdale isdale at gmail.com
Sat Sep 15 15:33:38 CEST 2012

Huei Ming Tan and I are attending the 100Year StarShip Study Symposium in Houston Tx this weekend.
Yesterday was the first full day ... Thursday there was a 'tour of Johnson Space Center' activity for early arrivals.  Huei Ming was here and went on it.  He can give a more full report, but as an indicator of conference preparation, the folks who went were surprised to learn when they got there that there was no arranged tour.  Fortunately one of the attendees was from JPL and became an impromptu tour guide.

Appears to be about 250 registered attendees. Maybe 30 are teams that proposed for the DARPA RFP (like us).  The conference printed agenda/materials is another indicator of the organization... It is very difficult to read and figure out.  The font and spacing is very crammed, yet most of the page is blank space.  There is little consistency in the timing layout.  I dont think they have anyone with graphical design experience on board.  Or at most a 1st year intern.

The Opening Session was a couple Welcome speeches, including a video recorded welcome from Honorary Chair (former usa) President Bill Clinton. Mae Jemison, astronaut heading up 100YSS organization gave the long speech about the org. Lots of 'preaching to the choir' about how great this is and that they want to be inclusive, etc. Nothing of great news, IMHO.

THen started the 7 parallel tracks of papers and workshops .. 7!! really hard to choose, except that I was registered for a workshop (Research Priorities.. RP).  Huei did a papers track.  The workshop (13 people) chose to frame the discussion around the Socio-Political Environment aspects.  We were asked to come up with various S/P hypothesis and then broke into small 3-4 person groups to discuss priorities as colored by one or another hypothesis.  Some of the Hypothesis were: what if research is controlled by corporate interests?  What if Anti-Science becomes dominant politically? What if there is a major world war? What if Social Cooperation proves impractical/impossible on world scale?

My group focused on the Corporate Dominance theme (odd for hacker like me, but groups were not self-selecting, rather by seats in room).    First divided research into categories of Propulsion, Habitat, Social and Destination, and then talked about how Corporations might rank those in priorities. The personal views of participants showed here - One guy (corporate) said corporations would totally discount social priorities. I countered that might not be true as they have a strong interest in education to insure there are people to hire.  Other social issues (like how do you keep a society together for duration of interstellar travel) were completely discounted in corporate priorities (i think they would be higher but ...)  Propulsion was seen as highest priority.  

More details hopefully in the summaries to be given on Sunday. (and when I have time to write up notes)

Huei Ming and I then attended the Proposers Luncheon, which got us sit-down meals (vs box lunches for others) and a chance for people to talk quickly (3min) about their proposal. The moderator was not very good at pulling the microphone and first couple of people dragged on for 10min.  One guy had a nuclear propulsion based system that he has been promoting since 1961 (tried for patents but denied, etc) and ran on and on about it for a while.  They nearly cut off the last 3 groups - including us.   Huei did talk and turns out there are a couple other very interesting related groups here with whom we have connected (more later).

I went to a papers session in later afternoon, and Joe Ritter of the Open Source Space Alliance (and one of the track chair's) gave me 10min of his presentation (last of day) to talk about SpaceGAMBIT.  Lot of people were excited by it  and one former LLNL scientist came up afterwards to say he was about to give up on conference until he heard last couple of talks including ours.  Now he has some hope for effort.

Overall there has been little about the 100YSS organization itself here.  What is there corporate org, plans, research done, etc.  It seems that they are  using the seed $$ to set up a group that will then do fundraising and after that maybe do some research support.

(I skipped out on the extra cost dinner/reception last night and went to a blues club with a friend who lives here in Houston. ... wound up talking till 2am)

Lots of interesting people, from hard science, social angles, and some lunatic fringe too... I'm probably in the latter group - Hackerspaces in Space? Are you Crazy? .... yes.

Jerry Isdale
isdale at spacegambit.org
USA Program Lead, SpaceGAMBIT
Global Alliance of Makers Building Interstellar Technology

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