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100 Year Starship Challenge

Despite the zoom consumption of media events in the fantastic land of the Internets, an occasional review once-through gleans some long-form videos worth the slowdown. While researching bands for a multimedia novel in progress, on the 2013 SXSW conference website, I discovered this long-form gem of a panel discussion on the “100 Year Starship Challenge: Interstellar Travel and Beyond,” a fascinating project helmed by Dr. Mae Jemison, astronaut, visionary leader and illuminating public speaker. Joined by Dr. Jill Tarter (on whom Jodi Foster’s character in the 1997 movie “Contact” was based) and non other than Geordi La Forge (aka LeVar Burton) from Star Trek: Next Generation.

While funding a leap into space when so many challenges face earth, several compelling reasons emerged for pursuit of this dream. One is that such explorations lead to experiments in sustainability, impacting the ways we use resources on our own planet. Future thinking eventually becomes the present, or as LeVar Burton states, “That which we imagine we tend to manifest…” Technological leaps, linking back to imaginary tricorders, communicators and other inventions first seen on Star Trek in the mid-60s, now in their own way, a part of our daily lives–witness cell phones morphing into smart phones. Science Fiction has always presented the utopian possibility of a multicultural world of inclusion and collaboration (with the challenge of innovative ways to survive Death Stars). The mission of The 100 Year Starship Challenge, which Mae Jemison concludes as key to their funding from DARPA and other sources is: “An inclusive and audacious journey applied to life here on earth.” In September 19-22 2013, the group will host another visionary Symposium in Houston, Texas where intergalactic minds will collaborate on envisioning journeys to interstellar space, and developing technologies and ways of thinking that may breakthrough to new kinds of sustainability here on Earth.

Here’s the description from the project’s Vimeo channel:

“Private space exploration projects have made headlines recently with companies like Space X, Planetary Resources and Virgin Galactic, but the first woman of color in space, Dr. Mae Jemison, has grander ambitions. In 2012, under Dr. Jemison’s leadership, the “100 Year Starship” initiative received widespread media attention as well as seed funding from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). The goal of “100 Year Starship” is to ensure that the capabilities for human travel beyond our solar system exists within the next 100 years, while each step of the way enhancing life on earth through the application of interstellar research and technology advances. This session will explore topics ranging from the potential applications of space travel to healthcare, energy and self-sustaining technologies, featuring The Barbarian Group’s Benjamin Palmer, Dr. Jemison, Dr. Jill Tarter (co-founder of SETI Institute) and Star Trek’s LeVar Burton.”

“How we communicate in the present determines our future.” –LeVar Burton




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