100 Year Starship Symposium 2013 Launches With Hundreds Onboard

  • Sep 22, 2013 11:20pm GMT

This past weekend in Houston there was enough enthusiasm for interstellar flight to power a spaceship (well the grow lights and life support systems anyway).

A diverse and passionate group from all corners converged on Houston for a three-day discussion of what capabilities would need to be in place for humanity to be able to mount an expedition to a nearby star system within the next 100 years.

The Symposium was hosted by Dr. Mae Jemison, former NASA astronaut and the first woman of color in space. She kicked things of with a lovely invitation to join an, "inclusive, audacious journey that will transform life here on Earth and beyond." How could I say 'no' to that?

I had the privilege of helping open the conference so I started with a three-minute YouTube video by Reid Gower called, "The Frontier is Everywhere" (which is a favorite of mine) that shockingly only three people in the audience said they had seen before (luckily Jill Tarter was at least one of the three). It is a startlingly beautiful mash-up of Carl Sagan's voice set to a compelling score and a feast of video imagery. The result is worth adding to your playlists. (It is embedded below too ;))

I told the audience that to me the most important opportunity that space offers us is the opportunity for humanity to transform itself– to grow up into an species worthy of being interplanetary. As Carl Sagan says in the video, "with more of our strengths and fewer of our weaknesses." This is what I am most passionate about.

There are three things we can do to help us get there:

  • Improving Ourselves- Train and develop ourselves and our colleagues in the space community to "be the Jedis we always wanted to be". Step up to being "noble ambassadors of an interstellar species." Give up anger, fear and aggression- towards ourselves, at home, and in the office/hangar/highbay/super-frustrating meeting.

  • Cultivating the Overview Effect- When astronauts go to space, many of them experience a dramatic shift in perspective when they see the Earth from space. They realize how fragile our world is. I want to prepare future astronauts for this experience of oneness and to be able to share their experience powerfully with the world when they return.

  • Public Outreach- to really work with artists and storytellers who can reach millions or billions of people. From Commander Hadfield's David Bowie music video shot on the International Space Station to helping J.J. Abrams make sure the next three episodes of Star Wars are as impactful on the next generation as the first three were to mine.

(Thank you to Kit O'Connell for writing a great blog post on my talk and helping me find the best words to communicate these three ideas! You can read his post here.)

Friday's luncheon speakers offered a range of perspectives on space from around the globe. My favorite quote was from Mmboneni Muofhe of South Africa talking about how even in places where people are so poor that they sleep without blankets, "You must never deny people the opportunity to dream. If you don't dream, you can't hope. When we dream we begin to walk on the path that dream wants to take us."