Sunday, October 16, 2011

To Infinity and Beyond

The 10 Year Starship Study Symposium took place in Orlando, Florida in early October, an event that slipped by me in obscurity until Ira Glass brought its idiosyncratic dreaming to my attention today.

The convention featured scientists from NASA, DARPA (a specialized advanced research arm of the Defense Department), science fiction writers, and the public. It tackled with laughable gravity the quandary of interstellar travel- the stuff of my favorite science fiction shows and novels.

For example, the nearest star to the sun is 4 lightyears away, which would currently take us approximately 10,000 years to traverse.

Ten thousand years.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable hurdles obstructing our trekkie dreams, the panels hashed out viable options for sustaining travel across such distances, coming up with options like light sails that harvest the energy of the sun. They discussed plasma shields, like a cosmic windshield to protect starships from the missile like qualities of space dust, encountered at light speed.

The 100 YSS Symposium gives me goosebumps like the first time I read Ender's Game. This was the first annual convention of its kind, and when Ira Glass supposed that future generations of space travelers will laud 2011 as the initial trailblazing of a new frontier, I imagined the future. The gossamer dreams of scienc fiction seem to have inched infinitesimally closer to the everyday fabric of this American life.

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