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UK Space Conference 2009 Interstellar Session
Written by Tibor Pacher   
The first-ever Interstellar Session at the UK Space Conference took place on the 4th April 2009. Up to 50 interested people watched the presentations, which covered a wide range of topics as different as unconventional methods to generate interest and public support, quasi near-term opportunities like a mission to Sun's gravitational focus, the prospects of fusion-driven spaceships and some touching the very foundations of physics like relativity, inertia, Casimir energy and wormholes - all in relation with interstellar travel. Special thanks go to Kelvin Long for the organization of this pioneering event!
The website of the session is here:
Kelvin wrote up a fine summary on - a website which serves to raise the profile of space related activities in the UK and Europe - about our Incremental steps to the stars.


Claudio Maccone: pdf Realistic Targets for Early Interstellar Missions

Abstract: The nearest stellar system, the Alpha Centauri three stars system, is located about 4.40 light-years away. This amounts to 278,261 AU. But at only 550 AU, or, more generally, at only about 1,000 AU, the focus of the gravitational lens of the Sun is found, that is then 278 times closer than our nearest interstellar target. In other words, assuming equal engineering problems, the trip to the Sun focus takes 278 times less than the trip to the nearest stellar target. This makes the Sun focus a reasonable target for our probes to reach within this century. It also plainly appears that, before we send a probe towards anyone of the nearest stellar systems, we’ll need a detailed radio map of that stellar system. In other words, we need a huge radio magnification of all objects located in that neighborhood, and nothing is better than the huge magnification provided by the gravitational lens of the Sun. Thus, sending a preliminary probe to 1,000 AU in the direction opposite to the target stellar system clearly must be done before any interstellar flight to that stellar system is even designed, not to say attempted. In this paper a status review is presented about the “FOCAL” probe to 550 or 1000 AU. The relevant scientific, propulsion and telecommunication issues are briefly summarized and updated.

Tibor Pacher: pdf Unconventional Thinking in Interstellar Spaceflight Research: Practical Approaches

Abstract: Interstellar space flight and closely related topics likes a possible encounter with extraterrestrial life are on the edge of interdisciplinary research. By their very nature these topics require unconventional thinking. I discuss two practical approaches which are expected to generate new ideas for practical interstellar flight, involve the public and are purposely not restricted to academics: a) make a provocative but accountable prediction (an example for this is the Interstellar Bet, see b) call for Crazy Ideas and publish them in a controlled way on the web (see the Crazy Ideas section at ). Special attention is paid to the following aspects: a) how to meet the often sceptical attitude of the scientific community to out-of-the-mainstream research; b) how to deal with the possible proximity to lunatic fringe ideas; c) how to ensure scientific rigor. Usage of social networking – now rapidly emerging in the internet – within these approaches and its potential benefits are described. Reports on first real-life experiences regarding both the Interstellar Bet and Crazy Ideas will be presented. I discuss other possibilities for fostering ideas and unconventional thinking briefly in the context of interstellar space flight as well, including prize contests.

Kelvin Long: pdf Inertial Confinement Fusion & Antimatter Catalyzed Fusion for Space Propulsion 6.58 Mb

Abstract: It is well known that conventional space propulsion schemes are inadequate for longer term missions to the outer solar system and nearby stars. Fusion propulsion is a technology that is both appropriate for such missions and may be available within decades. In this paper we will discuss the physics relevant to fusion based propulsion and the prospects for this technology reaching technological maturity in the near future. Some historical theoretical projects that included fusion based propulsion will be discussed, such as Daedalus, Longshot and Vista. Finally, the topic of antimatter catalyzed fusion will be discussed and whether this offers potential performance gains to a fusion based drive.

Mike McCulloch: pdf The Possibility of Inertial Reduction for Interstellar Travel

Abstract: The Pioneer and flyby anomalies are well-observed unbound spacecraft trajectories that seem to disagree with known physics. It is shown here that these anomalies can be fairly well reproduced using a model that assumes that inertia is caused by Unruh radiation and reduces in a new way as accelerations become very small because of a Hubble-scale Casimir effect. The model requires more testing (some experiments will be suggested) and it is unclear why it should only apply to unbound orbits, but it implies that 1) the inertial mass of interstellar craft may be lower than expected, Pioneer 10 & 11 being the first examples of this, and 2) it may be possible to further reduce the inertial mass of such craft by bending Unruh radiation around them, perhaps using the metamaterial cloaks recently developed, producing greater acceleration for a given external force. 

Remo Garattini: pdf The Use of Casimir Energy for Traversable Wormholes: A Tool for Interstellar Travel

Abstract: Traversable Wormholes provide an interesting tool for interstellar travel. They represent Space Time tunnels connecting far points in the universe or even two different universes. Unfortunately, their existence and stability is related to the existence of a very particular form of energy known as ‘’Exotic Matter’’ which has the unpleasant feature of being negative. Despite of this difficulty, there exists a known form of energy that appears to be a good candidate for playing the role of the Exotic Matter, namely Casimir Energy. The study of Casimir Energy is well known in QED phenomena, but it has obtained a growing interest in various fields of physics and technology, especially in the nanotechnology devices where it appears that this effect be relevant.

Luca Derosa: pdf Relativistic Engineering for Interstellar Missions

Abstract: This presentation takes into account the problem of the relativistic space engineering and some solutions with which to begin a more exhaustive study are suggested. Results are shown of the study of some important velocity profiles for a relativistic space mission (in special relativity): uniform motion, hyperbolic motion, constant thrust motion and negative exponential thrust motion. A study on the Lorentz transformations of the main formulas used to study the reliability of systems for six important distributions are presented: Weibull, exponential, normal, lognormal, gamma, Gumbel. Some consideration concerning advanced space propulsion is also presented and finally, there is a discussion on the unsolved problem of temperature transformation, comparing the main theories known.
Last Updated ( Monday, 18 May 2009 )
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