You Tube Lecture (TVIW2013)

The recent interstellar lecture by Executive Director I4IS Kelvin Long, presented at the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, Huntsville, Alabama, is now available for viewing on You Tube. Enjoy!


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Icarus Interstellar announces 2013 Conference

The US non-profit foundation Icarus Interstellar has announced a new conference, to take place in Dallas, Texas, 15-18 August 2013. Details about the event can be found on their web site:

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Daedalus is the First and only “Starship design” in History

The title of this short blog is controversial but it is my claim. Daedalus was the British Interplanetary Society flyby probe design from the 1970s, which attempted to strike a balance between being sufficiently bold and sufficiently credible. For this reason they determined that technological extrapolation beyond a few decades hence was not credible. Because of this balance the design is not perfect and contains some contradictions which are only seen in the light of hindsight, such as the integration of an Artificially Intelligent computer but powered by Vacuum tube technology – this was before the days of microelectronics. In essence, the team set out to see if an interstellar probe could be designed in theory, as a way to address the Fermi Paradox; the apparent contradiction between our theoretical expectations for intelligent life in the Cosmos and our observations that we don’t see any. The study was produced over 5 years from 1973 to 1978, and was led by Alan Bond, Tony Martin and Bob Parkinson, among others. The conclusion of the Daedalus study was that “interstellar travel was feasible in theory”.

Caption: BIS Daedalus as depicted by Adrian Mann

Anyone who studies aerospace engineering knows that a vehicle design goes through three levels of iteration. First is the concept design phase, which addresses whether it will work, what it looks like, what requirements drive the design, what trade-offs should be considered and what mass should it have and if necessary how much it would cost. The next level is the preliminary design phase, which freezes the configuration, develops any vehicle sizing, creates the analytical basis for the design and moves into experimental demonstrations if appropriate. The final level is the detailed design phase, which identifies the individual pieces to be constructed and this includes any tools required. It involves any critical design tests of the structure and finalizes the vehicle configuration layout and performance specification. Along the way, there is a process of integrating the various systems and sub-systems, today couched in the language of systems engineering.  In my opinion the Daedalus was an early preliminary vehicle design for a Starship. The team defined all of the major systems and most of the sub-systems. Full integration was not possible due to the nature of the technological extrapolation. But the vehicle configuration layout, performance specification and mission profile was defined in full where practical to do so.

During my own reading of interstellar concepts, I have come across solar sails driven methods, laser beaming, microwave beaming, fusion, antimatter and exotic concepts, to name a few. All of these studies have been concept papers however, or proposal submissions, or case study analyses – they–do not constitute designs. I argue that at best they are concepts and for most of them even that is not fully justified due to the errors in the calculations or due to the gaping areas of the engineering or physics not addressed. Daedalus is the only one that can be claimed to be a “Starship design” in my view. The only other vehicle that comes close to it is the Project Orion design from the 1950s and 1960s. Orion certainly was a preliminary design, but it was calculated for an interplanetary mission only. Then there were the World Ship studies from the 1980s also by Bond and Martin, but these did not go into the sub-system level of the internal architecture. Daedalus was first, and Daedalus remains the only one.

On a recent trip to the United States I visited both NASA Marshall Spaceflight Centre and NASA Glenn Research Centre. I made this claim at both laboratories and none of the NASA staff disagreed with me. In fact, many indicated that they fully agreed with this assertion. I made the same claim at the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, Huntsville and on a recent visit to the International Space University in Strasbourg. Again, no one could present an opposing view. It is humbling to think that it has been that little known space organisation, the British Interplanetary Society, which has achieved this remarkable thing of designing the world’s first Starship and this will surely go down in its history as an inspirational activity. It’s not the first time of course; in the 1930s the BIS also designed a lunar lander decades before Project Apollo was an idea in the mind of President Kennedy. Other projects throughout the society’s history demonstrate its ground breaking and visionary pioneering as being “the first” to show the way. This includes manned V2 similar to the later Gemini-Redstone, a Mars probe, orbiting satellite, the list really does go on.

It was in 1952 that Dr Les Shepherd published his now famous paper “Interstellar Flight” in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. It amazes me that six decades on and we have only advanced as far as to have derived one Starship design. This is no surprise given the volunteer nature of interstellar studies. But for those who still doubt the plausibility of interstellar flight ask yourself this question: if we have only attempted to design one vehicle, how can you be so sure that interstellar travel is not possible?

Kelvin F.Long



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Future Worlds – track by track

By Alex Storer 

Alex Storer, a.k.a The Light Dreams, is a freelance digital artist, illustrator and musician whose latest album, Future Worlds, is out now and is available for download from his Bandcamp page, Here Alex, who is I4IS’ honorary ‘Interstellar Musician’, discusses his new album and the meaning behind the tracks.

I like the idea of instrumental music being open to listener’s own interpretation, but as an artist, I always associate music with images, colours and concepts, so in turn, I like my music to have an idea to drive it as part of the creative process, which listeners can then either take or leave. Each track on Future Worlds has a specific theme or vision in mind, reflected in the title.

Souvenir of Earth is a downbeat and reflective start, taking both its inspiration and title from Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel, The Age of Miracles, which my wife had bought for me last year. The story depicts the impact on society and the environment following the slowing of the Earth’s rotation. The destruction or loss of our home world is a regular topic in SF literature, and I wanted to create a piece to match that mood, leaving Earth as just a memory. This was the first track I made and starting point for the whole album.

To the Stars was one of the first tracks I composed after being invited to join the Institute for Interstellar Studies™, and I wanted to reflect the forward thinking goals and ambitions of the Institute. I had recently made a 25-minute evolving soundscape entitled Chrysalis (, which was more of an experimental demo, but there was one section I particularly liked, which I adapted as the main melody in “To the Stars”.

Utopia – whether it’s the city of Diaspar in Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars, H.G. Wells’ When the Sleeper Awakes or almost any given Philip K. Dick scenario, beneath the perfect, blissful society and lifestyle there is always a dark undercurrent or conspiracy.

Colony – many space and science fiction artists have painted radical visions of what man’s colonies on other planets could be like. “Colony” is one of the more dynamic tracks on the album, starting out as a heavily electronic piece before gradually morphing into a thunderous orchestral score. I first started using symphonic sounds when I created the soundtrack to artist David A. Hardy’s English edit of the 1957 Russian film, Road to the Stars. I enjoyed working with these powerful sounds so much, I decided to fuse orchestral and electronic styles together for Future Worlds.

The World Outside – is actually the title to my own digital painting that I used as the album cover. I wanted a sparse sound and cold atmosphere, which could depict either the first sight of a new world outside a freshly-landed spacecraft, or a beautiful yet inhospitable alien terrain beyond the confines of a colony.

Second Sun – I was reading 50 Years in Space by the late Sir Patrick Moore and David A. Hardy, which contains one of my (many) favourite Hardy paintings, Antares. It’s one of those pieces that you feel you could step right into, with beautiful cascading waterfalls set against a vibrant double sunset. It’s also one of the brighter tracks on the album – thinking to the end of the film, Sunshine, when the dying sun is ‘rebooted” and warmth and sunlight returns to the Earth.

Icefall is one of the more orchestral tracks and combines the cold atmosphere of a solar winter with the underlying message of climate change and the melting of the polar ice caps.

Beneath the Surface continues the ecological theme, this time focusing on the endangered life under the sea. This is perhaps the album’s most epic track, with a gradual build and mid-point transition with echoes of Vangelis’ work and Mike Oldfield’s Songs of Distant Earth (which was inspired by the Arthur C. Clarke novel of the same name)

Cities in the Sky goes in a darker, industrial direction with thunderous drums and metallic drones. The concept of the floating city is no stranger to SF, and I wanted to produce a menacing piece that could capture the vast spectacle of enormous, monstrous floating machine-like cities.

Flightpath is about the adventure of space flight, such as the journey between warring worlds as depicted in Joe Haldeman’s Forever War or the plight of the Leonora Christine starship in Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero.

Earthlight – the partial illumination of a dark part of the surface of the Moon via light reflected from the Earth, and also a term for the appearance of the Earth as seen from the Moon during the lunar night – and an early Arthur C. Clarke novel!

Sea of Flames is an apocalyptic vision of the sun closing in on the Earth and setting alight to everything, including the oceans – a haunting close to the album.

I usually like albums to be around 40-45 minutes in duration – I think that’s just the right length to digest. However, I had so many ideas on the go whilst making Future Worlds, even after completing my planned twelve tracks, and there were two pieces that I really liked and decided to include as bonus tracks. In the one sense, the album starts off with man leaving the Earth and taking to the stars – almost like a first act.  So for the second act, we’re setting foot on a new world for the first time, and starting over there. This was the general thinking behind the two additional tracks, which are only available with the album download on my Bandcamp page (the 12-track version of the album should be available from Amazon and iTunes from mid-March).

First Steps started off as an energetic dance track entitled “Contact”, but it wasn’t the right style for the rest of the album, so I slowed it right down and changed it from an all-electronic piece to all-orchestral, the final track sounding almost Terminator-like in approach.

Origins is a slow building track, with layer upon layer of music gradually emerging and evolving into a dramatic, but optimistic crescendo. It’s also the only track on the album to feature vocal samples.

Sometimes when you start work on an album, it often takes unexpected turns and ends up going in a completely different direction to what you originally set out to. But with Future Worlds, I’d say it has turned out exactly how I intended, as an emotive and thought-provoking soundscape with a mixture of moods and atmospheres through a powerful blend of electronic and symphonic music. I’m certainly proud to associate the album with the Institute for Interstellar Studies.™

You can visit Alex’s website at, where you can view his excellent artwork and buy digital downloads of his previous albums, as well as Future Worlds. Alternatively follow him on Facebook here. Alex is kindly donating ten percent of all sales of Future Worlds to I4IS.

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Comment facility re-enabled

We may have found a solution to our ‘comment’ issues and as a test will re-enable the comment facility for new posts (such as this one).  If this resolves our issues we will return to older posts and activate the comment facility for these older blogs – if you have a burning point to make on one of them!  Have a look through the older posts in the next few weeks.

If you have made a recent comment to one of our blogs which was awaiting moderation please be aware that it may have been lost and if that is the case we apologise.

Thank you for your patience.

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Principium Issue 3

Issue 3 of Principium is out now and free to download! Fourteen pages of interstellar goodness, including a retrospective of the Bussard ramjet, I4IS’ partnership with the International Space University in Strasbourg, and we also take a look at advances in both plans to mine asteroids and the development of the Skylon spaceplane. Including an introduction by Greg Matloff, issue 3 can be downloaded for free along with the first two issues from

Note of Admin…apologies but we have had to temporarily disable our comment facilities – please come back later if you wish to comment!

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NASA Glenn

Today was the final day of the US tour. We reported to NASA Glenn Research Centre at 8am and then had a breakfast meeting with NASA management. The Tau Zero President Marc Millis also joined us as well as James Gilland from the Ohio Aerospace Institute. I then gave the lecture to an audience of NASA scientists, engineers and some young graduate students. The presentation was well received and the questions and feedback was all excellent. I was glad to also meet up with Geoffrey Landis, another interstellar pioneer.

We then all broke for lunch and much discussion was had. This included on the future direction of space exploration, national leadership in space, space politics, nuclear propulsion and other subjects. We then proceeded on a wonderful tour of the facilities. This included the Fission Technology Demonstration Unit, the advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator, Supersonic Propulsive Wind Tunnel, Small Chemical Rocket Propulsion Research, NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster NEXT.

Finally, we had a meeting to discuss the Institute and other issues facing the interstellar community. The staff at NASA Glenn were warm, friendly and openly enthusiastic for our efforts. It was an honour and a pleasure to spend some time with the people that are actually doing space. I dare others do better than these amazing space engineers.

Best wishes
Kelvin F.Long
Executive Director I4IS

I4IS Directors Kelvin Long and Rob Swinney next to the Agena upper stage which took the Ranger space probes to the Moon.

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NASA Marshall

The evening of the second day at the TVIW was a celebration of the 65th birthday of Claudio Maccone. The local guys arranged for a cake for him (thanks Martha Knowles) and it was very nice. Socials have been a big theme over the past few days and I was up late drinking and chatting about space travel into the early hours every night. It’s the best way to make new friends, and get reacquainted with old ones who you may not see again for several years.

The Wednesday was a big highlight for me. I was invited to deliver a lecture at the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Centre. I4IS Director Rob Swinney accompanied me to the event too. I was talking about the rise of interstellar studies as a subject from science fiction, to the Les Shepherd paper in 1952 to the development of initiatives like Daedalus. I then discussed the plans for the pending Institute for Interstellar Studies. Claudio Maccone followed me by talking about the FOCAL mission. Then Robert Kennedy took the stand and talked about his ideas for constructing a “Dyson Dot”. Robert has the rare honour of having previously presented at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and in Russian.

Robert Kennedy was one of those rare people that one instantly connects with. He is a talent for sure and has that slightly mad glint in his eye required of all world changers. Another rare talent I met was Eric Hughes. He is an incredibly bright guy who’s boundless energy and knowledge is matched by only one other person I have met – my Australian friend Adam Crowl. If only I could get those two together?

The Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop had been organised by Robert, Eric and several others, all under the supervision and guidance of Les Johnson. The team did a wonderful job and were excellent hosts. People of Tennessee Valley prepare yourself, we are likely to be back for more.

After our lectures at NASA MSFC we were taken on a tour. and it was a tour to die for. First, we were taken to visit the International Space Station Operations Centre. As we watched through the window we saw a Sunset occur in real time from the ISS on the monitor. For a moment there, we forgot we were on Earth. We were then taken to see some of the original Werner von Braun facilities. This included the observation bunker and an actual Redstone rocket still sitting in position in its stack. Amazing! Then we saw the Saturn V vibration test rig and firing rig. It was designed big enough to test the next rocket von Braun had planned – his huge Mars rocket. We didn’t get to see his office, but we stood outside his building. His presence was still there.

The next stop on the tour was the highlight of the entire trip for me. We saw a solar sail identical to Nanosail-D but wound up, also next to a tether. I got to pick them all up. Lots of Saturn V and Space Shuttle main engines. A full shuttle SRB. An X-33 linear aerospike engine……and……a NERVA rocket engine. I recognised it immediately and it was an incredible moment. An actual nuclear thermal rocket engine. It may not be the full Daedalus like fusion engine that I would like to see, but it’s enough to keep me going.

Walking around these places I am filled with pride at America’s achievements in propulsion and aeronautics. But I am also filled with a huge sense of sadness and a burning question “America: STS, X-33, NERVA…..why did you stop?”

Rocket photos later.

Celebrating the 65th birthday of Claudio Maccone


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TVIW – Day Two

The second day of the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop was again filled with lots of exciting talks exploring the possibilities of interstellar flight.

Claudio Maccone had come all the way over from Italy to deliver his usual excellent talk on mathematical SETI and the FOCAL mission proposal to a gravitational lens point. Interstellar pioneer Al Jackson spoke about the real propulsion options for reaching the stars, so called ultra-Starships, such as laser driven, fusion or antimatter based systems. He also speculated on how an advanced technological civilisation might use the energy around a black hole to propel a starship. Jokingly, I suggested the black hole could be used to grow a TARDIS, to the delight of Dr Who fans.

Sam Lightfoot spoke about the sociological implications of two cultures interacting and how the smallest item or object could have such a dramatic impact on a culture. The subject was similar to one discussed regularly by the Canadian anthropologist Kathryn Denning and I hope those two minds can hook up and share ideas.

Stephanie Osborn gave a rousing talk about the development of a space transport escape system, learning lessons from the Columbia tragedy. She and her team are conducting experiments on a novel system called SPEARED. Its a great shame no agency is funding this inspiring work. Keep going Stephanie.

There was more talks in the afternoon although it was dominated by the post-analysis of the workshop discussions. Myself and Paul Gilster gave feedback specifically and we were both enthusiastic about the 1TW by 2050 concept although expressed cautionary notes in how to build support behind the vision.

I had dinner with Les Johnson and the science fiction author Gerald Driggers. We swapped stories although I think Gerald won with his accounts of meeting Werner von Braun.

The evening was taken up by a panel session at the local Calhoun Community College. Bill Cress and Paul Gilster first set the scene with presentations. Bill talked about the use of video entertainment to inspire people and Paul talked about the various locations for future interstellar precursor missions. This was followed by a panel Q and A with the audience which also included Richard Obousy, myself and Gordon Woodcock. Gordon got my attention when he said “I worked on Project Orion” – wow!

Once again the day was a success followed by a social gathering for the Project Icarus team at the house of NASA engineer Rob Adams – thanks for the beers Rob and Tia.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Kelvin F.Long
Executive Director I4IS

The TVIW Conference

I4IS Directors Andreas Hein, Kelvin F.Long and Rob Swinney

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TVIW – Day One

Day one of the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop was a great mix of talks and exciting discussions. It opened with Les Johnson giving a nice introduction to the subject. He said if 1 AU was the equivalent of 1 ft, then the nearest stars were in Nashville, around 50 miles from Huntsville

Jan Davis, former astronaut, then spoke about the difficulties of living and working in space. This was followed by a presentation from 15 year old William Lucas who had achieved received fame by detecting a distance gamma-ray burst from his home Geiger counter. Good job William.

I won’t go through all the talks of the day but I will highlight two of them. The first was a presentation from Sam Lightfoot on the sociological implications of cultures meeting. He described how the introduction of various seemingly innocent products had resulted in devastating consequences to a culture and stated that the consequences of an alien culture entering ours were unpredictable and potentially fatal. One of the examples he gave was the introduction of snowmobiles to the Eskimos. This had meant they could handle larger herds and had resulted in over grazing. His presentation was well argued. The other talk I want to highlight was by Gordon Woodcock. He was one of the original members of the L5 society and had many wonderful stories to tell about his long career and meeting Gerard O’Neill. Gordon demonstrated a bunch of calculations on a fusion (magnetic) powered starship. All back of envelope stuff. He was a fine example of an engineer.

I spent the evening having dinner with Les Johnson, SF writer Gerald Driggers and others. Gerald had actually met Werner von Braun and said he had told him that the US could have launched Explorer 1 three months earlier than Sputnik but jurisdiction was with the Navy.

This was followed by the evening workshop to study how to achieve a 1TW facility at the Lagrange point by the year 2050. There are some good people behind the TVIW and I hope to return in future years. Robert Kennedy and Eric Hughes are two particular diamonds on this side of the pond.

Best wishes
Kelvin F Long
Executive Director I4IS

Astronaut Jan Davis finishing her highlight lecture with Les Johnson looking on

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