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March 24, 2010

Breakthrough Propulsion Physics is alive !


Many people have asked me why I am taking this flight. I am doing it for many reasons. First of all, I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn't go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space.
Stephen Hawking
About his zero-gravity flight in a "Vomit Comet"
26 April 2007

Hyperdrive Ring concept from Star Wars. The Einstein field equation, based on general relativity, theoretically allows the travel of an object at a greater velocity than that of light, provided that space-time is curved.

Even if the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics (BPP) Program doesn't exist anymore since 2002 (BPP program ran from 1996 and was cancelled by NASA in 2002), even if Marc G. Millis (pioneering propulsion physicist and former head of the BPP Program) retired from NASA on Feb 3 of this year, emerging ideas for the future of the interstellar travel are not dead. Just go watch the Tao Zero Foundation website to realize that the legacy of the BPP program is intact (well, I agree, with much less money, but with the same if not more enthusiasm and relevance). Hereafter I reproduce the "Welcome" page of the Tao Zero Foundation website that describes perfectly the "leitmotiv" and the goals of the Practitioners of Tau.

Imagine the historic moment when the first Earth-like planet is detected deep across interstellar space. Like an inaccessible jewel it will beckon us. Is this a future home for humanity? What forms of life are already there? How do we get there? What happens when we arrive?

Based on today's technology, traveling to the stars is a long-term proposition. While existing space agencies grapple with sending astronauts beyond Earth orbit, and entrepreneurial firms bring the thrill of spaceflight to the people, no one has taken on the challenge of reaching other habitable worlds; until now.

The Tau Zero Foundation is a volunteer group of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and writers who have agreed to work together toward practical interstellar flight and to use this quest to teach you about science, technology, and our place in the universe. By posting the latest developments and unfinished advancements here, we give students the starting materials to begin their own discoveries. By showing both how daunting and incredible this challenge is, we hope to increase attention on protecting the habitability of Earth while planning journeys into the galaxy. By reaching for the stars we will create benefits every step of the way.

Here is how you can help with this ambition. With enough support we can competitively award grants and scholarships. Help us create a future worth striving for, where humanity can survive and thrive into the heavens. Let's make this dream a reality together.
- The Practitioners of Tau Zero

So if you've never heard of BPP and the quest for interstellar flight or if you want to really understand the place of humanity, this website will give you some answers but it also will present other questions (how to make ? why to make?) and interesting points of view about possible destinations and the necessary global state of mind to pursue the final objective : conquer other earth-like planets.
If you're an student or a professional and you know all this gobbledygook, you should check the On Edge (The Edge of Knowledge) page where you will find very interesting references that fixed the foundations for further research. About this point I would hold your attention on the Centauri Dreams blog (The News Forum of the Tau Zero Foundation) where you will find a very large source of recent discoveries on astrophysical and cosmological models, emerging technologies, theoretical speculations,...

The Tau Zero Foundation Logo by A. Szames

A few last but important points: Tau Zero Foundation is a private nonprofit corporation and is not affiliated with NASA. The organization was founded principally by Marc G. Millis (now retired from NASA and devoting almost 100% of his time to Tau Zero Foundation).

Tau Zero Foundation
Centauri Dreams

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