I’m currently at the 100 Year Starship Symposium. This symposium was started by DARPA and is now run by Mae Jemison, who was the first black female astronaut to go into space. At the moment, I’m hearing about the 1400 planets that have been found. That’s only in the last twenty years – it was roughly twenty years ago that we found the first one. Once more, what a lovely time to be alive.
I’ve been to a lot of conferences about space. This one is different in a few important ways:
Most importantly, that audience (the few hundred scientists and enthusiasts and sci fi writers and students) is focused on one thing — getting out into the solar system in a human-powered ship in such a way that the journey is for everyone in humanity. In other words, rather than being about defense or war or even pure science, they are interested in peaceful, inclusive exploration and expansion. Here is the exact statement from them:
We exist to make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years. We unreservedly dedicate ourselves to identifying and pushing the radical leaps in knowledge and technology needed to achieve interstellar flight, while pioneering and transforming breakthrough applications that enhance the quality of life for all on Earth. We actively seek to include the broadest swath of people and human experience in understanding, shaping and implementing this global aspiration.
How do I know they mean it? Usually the audience at a conference with similar slides on the dais would be 80% white male. Not here. The single largest group of people in the audience is white males, but if I added all the rest of us up, one would have to actually count to determine whether or not the numbers (collectively) of people of any-color-or-type-other-than-white-male is greater. But it might be. This is, in fact, very unusual.
This is a very cool place to be. None of us in this room are likely to be on this starship when it is created. But in many ways this place and time represents the early generations of this multi-generation starship.