Tau Foundation covers all options to reach other habitable worlds

Centauri Dreams has a status report on the Tau Foundation.

Ideally, the Tau Foundation wants to cover all the technologies and implications related to the ultimate goal of reaching other habitable worlds, and we want to do that in a manner where you can count on the accuracy of our information (which is why we include reference citations so that you can check any questionable assertions). This span includes understanding ‘what’s out there,’ examining all the options for ‘how to get there,’ and being sure to tie this all to its ‘relevance to humanity.’

Tau Zero covers the full span of options, from the seemingly simple solar sails to the seemingly impossible faster-than-light travel. For each option within that span, there are different levels of readiness and performance, and accordingly different types of work. One consistent finding – which is nonetheless contentious amongst our readership – is that there is no single “best” choice of propulsion. We have also found that individuals tend to have a favorite within that span, but our interests cover the full span. So, rather than prematurely arguing over which engine is best, we intend to give you reliable, traceable information about the status and next-steps for all those options.

* PROJECT ICARUS – The first year of the 5-year study for an interstellar (probably nuclear fusion powered) probe has commenced right on schedule and several papers were presented at the 2010 International Astronautical Congress in Prague.

As this study progresses it will deliver realistic estimates for what such technology could accomplish along with estimates of what other milestones would be needed to make it happen. Examples of those intermediate steps include the business case for mining Helium-3 from the atmosphere of Uranus, and the communication network for deep space exploration. By reaching beyond near-term horizons, such work sets the stage for the next wave of advancements to follow.

Rather than wait until interstellar probes are fully viable, much can be learned by traveling to intermediate destinations offering challenges much closer to home. This includes studying the FOCAL mission to confirm the physics and use of the gravitational lensing of our own Sun beyond 550 AU.

Marc Millis and Eric Davis compiled and edited the assessments from 18 different lead authors to produce the first-ever scholarly book about non-propellant space drives, gravity control, and faster than light physics. Published as a technical volume within the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Frontiers of Propulsion Science is a 739 page reference that describes past approaches, critical issues, and identifies next-step research approaches.

Claudio Maccone has taken the Drake Equation and advanced it to a statistical format so that the implications of its uncertainties can be understood. He recently extended this method to the Fermi Paradox, and then to estimates of the distance to the nearest potentially habitable planets (88+/- 39 light years). Papers on all of these have been presented and this work will continue to be refined.

Faces from Earth provides information and organizes events to educate the public about space and astronomy and to promote deep space missions, aiming to compile messages to put on board future spacecraft.

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