• Baylor alums working to make interstellar travel a reality within 100 years

    Project IcarusLegendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, author of such classics as Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, passed away Tuesday at age 91. Bradbury often wrote of visiting other worlds; now, two Baylor graduates are working together to find the physics and engineering necessary that would make that idea a reality, allowing for true interstellar travel.

    Dr. Richard Obousy, PhD ’08, and Dr. Andreas Tziolas, PhD ’09, are two of the founding board members of the Icarus Interstellar Organization, a nonprofit organization launched last year with a goal of realizing interstellar flight before the year 2100. Obousy is the group’s president and primary propulsion senior scientist; Tziolas is a vice president and project leader for two of Icarus’ eight research projects.

    The volunteer-driven research group is studying various means of propulsion technologies. In a detailed interview with The Atlantic, Tziolas described the team’s approach:

    “When we started up, one of our first objectives was to raise up this new generation of interstellar engineers — we wanted volunteers, anyone, whether they are Ph.D.’s or garage inventors, or just people who are passionate, people who spend every evening reading about interstellar exploration. There are several people around the world who have extraordinary technical expertise, but don’t necessarily look good on paper, and so they don’t have an opportunity to contribute to NASA or ESA or any of the other major space agencies. And so where do those people go? They end up working in I.T. or they end up working as clerks, but in their hearts they have this burning fire to do research. So what we do is corral all of those people with that fire and we organize them, and we organize the research in a detailed way, so that we can harness the power of inclusiveness in doing this kind of research.”

    Icarus’ work was inspired by Project Daedalus, a British Interplanetary Society project from 1973-78 that determined that interstellar travel was indeed feasible using current or credible extrapolations of existing technology to reach another solar system during a normal human lifetime. Icarus aims to take the next step — to produce a detailed report on how that can be done, from engineering to physics to mission profile.

    It’s the work of a lifetime — maybe multiple lifetimes — but it’s great to see Bears leading such efforts and dreaming such dreams.

    Sic ’em, Drs. Obousy and Tziolas!

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