Today in Space History: Starmaster Weekend- Dr. Richard Obousey

Today in Space History: Starmaster Weekend- Dr. Richard Obousey

This page is about recent and historic developments in space exploration. I’ll try to keep up-to date whenever there is an exciting development with the Curiosity Rover, the International Space Station, or the new Orion space mission, but at the very least, I’ll use this page to commemorate developments in science, astronomy, and the space race!

Today In Space History: Special Report- Dr. Richard Obousey

Richard Obousy, president of Icarus International.

Richard Obousy, president of Icarus International.

Friday March 15th and Saturday 16th form Primland Resort’s Starmaster Weekend. On these weekends, the  astronomy program. invite professional astronomers and scientists to come down and talk about their work with our guests. Our guest is Dr. Richard Obousey, president of Icarus International. Named after the son of the mythical Greek craftsman who invented special wings to make his boy fly, Icarus International is a private company, committed to developing new spacecraft, capable of traveling to other star systems. The current goal is to create the first interstellar spacecraft within 100 years. What follows is a brief overview of the work Icarus International does, and a little bit about the problems of interstellar space travel, so you’ll know a little about his program, and his work with Icarus International.

Design for the original Daedalus Project ship from the 1970s.

Design for the original Daedalus Project ship from the 1970s.

If you go to the Icarus Interstellar website, you can see artists’ design for all kinds of new propulsion systems, including fusion spacecraft, lasers, and even warp drives straight out of science fiction. Icarus is an outgrowth of the Daedalus Project from 50 years ago, and since 2011, with the help of NASA, Icarus has created five interstellar spacecraft projects, mainly focused on fusion propulsion.

Project Hyperion; Launched in December 2011, designed to provide an assessment of the feasibility of manned interstellar flight using current and near-future technoloigies. It also aims to guide future research and technology development plans as well as reasssess the Fermi Paradox. Finally it aims to inform the public about the prospects of manned interstellar flight.

Project Forward; Analyzes and assesses the concept of using laser light and interstellar star sails.

  • Project Persephone; Experiment to create possible livable habitats in space.
  • Project Bifrost; Launched in December 2011, by Tabitha Smith, The Icarus Interstellar Nuclear Space Technology (NST) and Propulsion Development Program will operate with long-term goals of tangible deliverables in mind, such as (1) Partnership with the US Government and other vital members of the NST community, (2) The Creation of Nuclear Engines (Thermal (NTR) and/or Electric) and (3) Proof of concept for NTR and building the foundation for evolving nuclear propulsion.
  • Project Helius; Launched in August 2011 by Richard Osborne and Kelvin Long, Project Helius has the purpose of building prototype pulsed propulsion demonstrators to test elements of the Daedalus (or other) architecture. The main areas of study are currently focussed on the tracking of pellets and the timing of laser devices.
  • 100 Year Starship – Funded by DARPA / NASA, a one year project announced in January 2012.

In this video, Dr. Obousey talks about the goals and some of the challenges of Project Icarus. As you can see near the end, Dr. Obousey mentions that one of the major problems with getting to space is monetary- NASA is currently looking for ways to commercialize space in a number of ways. You probably saw the incredibly popular STRATOS  YouTube video, which was designed to test spacesuits in the event of a high-altitude ejection. In addition, NASA also gets support from corporations in return for research. They are even lending their research to NASCAR! Sometimes NASA gets funding from unexpected sources, such as Dennis Tito, the multimillionaire who is funding a project to send a married couple to Mars in a privately owned spaceship.

Of course, there are also the incredible technical challenges of traveling from Earth to even it’s closest stars, (the closest of which is still over 12 trillion miles away). Most of Icarus’ efforts have been directed in harnessing the power of nuclear fusion to create more powerful engines that have the energy potential of the Sun itself.

History of Space Exploration

Artist's rendering of the Orion Spacecraft, which will send humans to the Moon, (and hopefully Mars) by 2017

Artist’s rendering of the Orion Spacecraft, which will send humans to the Moon, (and hopefully Mars) by 2017

As you might have read from my previous post about animals in space, NASA began sending people into space since the Mercury Project in 1961, and continued through the Gemini and Apollo mission, which sent men to the Moon from 1969-1972. NASA is trying to develop a new manned mission called Orion, set to go to the Moon in 2017. This mission will take humans back to the Moon, and then hopefully to Mars.

Some worry that even if NASA and Icarus develop the technology to get humans to other planets, that the demands of weightlessness on the human body, and the sheer length of the trip places create physical and psychological burdens on the human body. However, as Mary Roach points out in “Packing For Mars,” virtually every space mission has spawned numerous nervous medical theories, (some true and some false). One thing I’m sure Dr. Obousey will agree with me on, is that the prospect of manned spaceflight has been a Holy Grail of space exploration ever since man has first stared up at the stars. It united all of the country, and in a way the whole human race back when Neil Armstrong took that small step on the Moon, and hopefully the same thing can happen again with the help of NASA, Orion, and Icarus.

So, hope you come down to see Dr. Obousey next week. Click here if you want to make a reservation!

Happy Stargazing!

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