Technical Track Details

Designing for Interstellar

Track Chair: Karl Aspelund, Ph. D.
Anthropologist, Industrial Design, Art & Apparel Design, Assist. Prof. Textile and Design, Univ. of Rhode Island

Presenters in Designing for Interstellar are asked to consider parameters for designing probes, and vehicles or habitats for robotic or human crews –Earth, Earth orbit and deep space based—that will actively accelerate finding an analogue Earth and which may be implemented within the next 5, 10, 15 and 25 years.

What aspects of design will be impacted by the various methodologies instituted to discover a planet outside of our solar system capable of supporting terran life? What are the design parameters that should be met to optimize the chances and rapidity in which such a planet may be identified?

Designs for probes and crewed vehicles must address the unique characteristics and extreme conditions of isolated research bases, deep space and interstellar space. The equipment, structures, tools, materials, cleaning and maintenance processes—the accoutrements of life and work— surround and create an operating environment or habitat. Such an environment protects, nourishes and facilitates daily activities. For living things, the environment must support the myriad physical needs. For higher order creatures, physical, mental and emotional requirements must be met as well.

Understanding, optimizing and manufacturing design for sustainability are critical for success—with a living crew or robotic probes.

Propulsion and Energy

Track Chair: Hakeem Oluseyi, Ph.D.
Physicist,MLK Fellow, MIT, TED Fellow, Chief Scientist Discovery Channel, Associate Prof. Florida Institute of Technology

A major aspect of discovering details of exoplanets is to get closer to them, to take samples and test actual physical properties beyond our solar system. Profound breakthroughs in the generation, storage and control of energy for propulsion, as well as communications and data gathering instruments are required to get to the interstellar medium in 10-20 years, much less to reach another star. Such breakthroughs are accompanied by robust leaps in theory and technology paradigms, and also incremental advances in engineering technology deployable in the next 5, 10 and 15 years.

Presenters in Propulsion and Energy are asked to present research and supportable ideas on how to address the design and deployment of instruments, probes and vehicles that will accelerate travelling beyond our solar system and closer to exoplanets within the next 25 years.

Interstellar Space, Stars and Destination

Track Chair: Maggie Turnball, Ph.D.

Finding Earth 2.0 is rooted first and foremost in astronomy, planetology and astrophysics. Whether using ground based observation, earth orbiting technologies or deep space probes within or just outside of our solar system, understanding and advancing knowledge, instruments and theories of the history, formation, composition and evolution of the universe, galaxies, stars and planets is fundamental to finding earth analogues.

Presenters are asked to provide research, outline novel concepts, propose instrument designs and methods, review data and define capabilities, knowledge and mission parameters key to furthering the understanding: the composition of exosolar systems; the identification of exoplanets in the “goldilocks zone”; planets that are rocky; exoplanet atmosphere composition, size; as well as defining the interstellar medium and aspects of maps, navigation and guidance.

In addition, as our gaze is drawn many light years away, focusing on closer objectives as stepping-stones to deep space will be essential. Beyond Mars, what missions should be designed to eventuate successful travel to another star? How should potential destinations be evaluated?

Data Communications and Information Technology

Track Chair: Ron Cole

Whether enroute or having arrived at a destination, robust capabilities to gather, analyze, compile, store, retrieve, transmit and receive information is essential to any deep space journey.

Information, communication and data transmission capacity are constrained by vast distances, signal degradation, energy availability, bandwidth, data management, time delays, direction and pointing accuracy, instrumentation as well as existing earth based and deep space networks.

Presenters in Data Communications and Information Technology are asked to present research, concepts and systems that facilitate the process of finding earth analogues and that are actionable within the next 5, 10, and 15 years. Areas for discussion include ground and earth orbiting equipment and systems; advances in artificial intelligence (AI), as well as solar and extra-solar system networks and capabilities. In addition discussion of software, hardware, syntax and design techniques that aid in or result from the discovery of Earth 2.0 are welcome.

Life in Space – Health, Astrobiology, Earth Biology and Bioengineering

Track Chair: Terry Mulligan, M.D.

How will the myriad fields making up the life sciences impact and be impacted by finding an indisputable Earth 2.0? Presenters are asked to consider the following areas for discussion from the perspective of experiments, projects and work that may reasonably be started/achieved within the next 15 years.

Biology and Astrobiology. Most life sciences contributions to finding exoplanets have targeted the ability of a planet to support life with origins on Earth. Yet, as ”Earth-evolved” or terran humans, plants and other life forms travel deeper into space, farther away from Earth and eventually our solar system, greater understanding of the fundamentals of life mechanisms is demanded. Concurrently, as the search for life beyond the Earth continues, a re-evaluation of what is defined as “life” may be needed.

Once an exoplanet is identified as within the “goldilocks zone” what markers should be used to evaluate life that may have evolved outside of Earth? What questions about Earth ecosystems should be asked and answered? Also, how might the interstellar environment itself be used to advance life science research?

Health and Bioengineering. Assuming the search for Earth 2.0 will require humans in deep space for extended periods of time, how can the issues surrounding support of human crews be addressed? The health care needs to sustain human life over long periods of travel and colonization in unfriendly environments must be met. Preparation for radical shifts in nutrition, potential therapeutics, growth and development, physiology and ethics must be made.

Biomedical engineering advances knowledge in engineering, biology and medicine, and improves human health through cross-disciplinary activities that integrate the engineering sciences with the biomedical sciences and clinical practice. Furthering knowledge and understanding of living systems through innovative and substantive application of engineering sciences based experimental and analytical techniques exist side by side with the development of new devices, algorithms, processes and systems that advance biology, and medicine.

Biomaterials, tissue engineering, personal protection, human and agricultural waste material and recycling are other examples of biological related systems engineering that will have to be designed and built in space.

Becoming an Interstellar Civilization

Track Chair: Kathleen Toerpe, Ph.D.

How will the process of looking for and then definitively finding “another Earth” impact the social, cultural, economic, educational, religious, legal, political and ethical aspects of life here on Earth?

How and in response to what do we create the belief systems that guide us? Who will we be and what will define our societies, morality, ethics, cultures, laws, economies, relationships and identities?


Does biodiversity of life on Earth become more or less important or valued? What types of introspection or outward ambition are prompted? What are the implications for education—locally, nationally and globally?

Do we purposefully broadcast “We are here” or become more conscious of our “radio wave spillage” into space? Does the U.N. get more or less money? Does the military become more important and funded more? Is now the time to think about becoming “Earthlings”? What treaties need to be in place? Will more investment in space-based tech become the trend?

Presenters are asked to present on how civilizations and its mechanisms will influence or be influenced by finding an Earth 2.0 in the next 5, 10, 15 and 25 years.

Poster Session

Track Chair: Tim Meehan, Ph.D.

Great ideas arise through unique individual observations, from people of all ages and educational backgrounds. Students are especially encouraged to submit to this session.

The Poster Sessions are an opportunity to present snapshots of early concepts and experiments. Presentation in the poster format allows in-depth discussion in a small group setting. Presenters are welcome to present on any of the topics from the other technical tracks as well as other topics germane to the theme Finding Earth 2.0. Suitability is at the discretion of the Track Chair.

Technical Track Chairs

Learn more about our Technical Track Chairs by clicking on their names below.