Tau Zero’s practitioners are making progress. In 2010 they produced 2 books, 13 journal articles (or book chapters), 22 conference presentations, 22 media articles, plus 5 articles-per-week from the Centauri Dreams new forum. These numbers include the continuing progress of “Project Icarus” (design study for a fusion-based interstellar probe) and a few other ongoing projects.
By itself, Tau Zero does not answer all the challenges sought by the 100-yr starship organization. It is still missing a concerted revenue generation scheme, does not have all of the needed topic pioneers, and has no plans to actually launch missions. The presumption is that much research remains before mission implementation is ready to be addressed.
Weird Warp – Five new projects have been announced by the NASA astrobiology science and technology for exploring planets program (ASTEP). ASTEP promotes the search for life on other planets and supports research and exploration of the Earth’s most remote places.
Mars Methane Plume Tracer
The shallow-borehole array for measuring Greenland emission of trace gases as an analogue for methane on Mars (GETGAMM).
The Planetary Lake Lander
Valkyrie: phase 2
Robotic Investigation of Subsurface Life
By 2016 Bigelow expects to have a fully functioning station in orbit and to begin charging rent for it. Prices start at $28,750,000 per astronaut for a 30-day tour. That’s a lot of money, he admits, but says economies of scale will drive the price down quickly. He also points out it’s still less than the estimated $35 million Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté paid in 2009 for 12 days aboard the International Space Station.
He now offers a wide variety of space rental options to suit. An two-astronaut three-month lease on a Sundancer station will cost you $97.5 million; a one-year lease costs $390 million. For those clients with truly cosmic aspirations, a top-of-the-line, 12-astronaut, four-year lease on a larger BA330 station is priced at $440 million a year.