Three Scenarios For Funding Interstellar Travel




” Mankind’s only chance for survival in the coming millennium is to spread out into space. So argues British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and a score of other eminent physicists, rocket scientists and intellectuals in Starship Century, a collection of essays and science fiction edited by brothers James and Gregory Benford.

Hawking’s argument, laid out in an essay titled, “Our Only Chance,” is all too familiar. “Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill,” he writes. “But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were our survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next one hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million.” 

 Marc Millis, founder of Tau Zero Foundation, and former head of breakthrough propulsion physics at NASA, said that the initial research needed to determine the focus and scope of an interstellar space program can be done for a pittance. “We are probably talking about an investment of less than $10 million a year,” Millis said in an interview. (See“Seven Sci-Fi Scenarios For Interstellar Space Travel That Could Happen In This Century” for a review of potentially viable technologies.) “