Project Icarus: An Interstellar Mission

Andreas Tziolas of Project Icarus overviews the general Icarus mission timeline, with a focus on the propulsion techniques that will be required to support the fusion-propelled interstellar vehicle.

What's the Latest Development?

Project Icarus is an ambitious five-year study into launching an unmanned spacecraft to an interstellar destination. The distance to the nearest star, a binary system named Alpha centauri, is 4.365 light years—at that distance, the Icarus craft will need a very able propulsion system. Leader of the propulsion division, Andreas Tziolas says the craft would most likely be constructed in space where Helium-3, a rare helium isotope that could power a fusion engine, could be harvested from the moon or the atmosphere of Jupiter. Along its way, the Icarus craft would complete scientific objectives, such as investigating any earth-like planets.

What's the Big Idea?

Headed by the Tau Zero Foundation and British Interplanetary Society, a non-profit group of scientists dedicated to interstellar spaceflight, Icarus is working to develop a spacecraft that can travel to a nearby star. The project takes up where Project Daedalus left off in the 1970s, a research initiative led by Freeman Dyson to invent a fusion-powered spacecraft. At the time, money for fusion research was plentiful because of the Cold War. Today, when budgets of all kinds are strapped tight, Icarus is making what plans it can in hopes of encouraging major space initiatives in the future. 

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Hyperdimensional computing discovered to help AI robots create memories

New computing theory allows artificial intelligences to store memories.

Credit: Perception and Robotics Group, University of Maryland.
Technology & Innovation
  • To become autonomous, robots need to perceive the world around them and move at the same time.
  • Researchers create a theory of hyperdimensional computing to help store robot movement in high-dimensional vectors.
  • This improvement in perception will allow artificial intelligences to create memories.
Keep reading Show less

10 new things we’ve learned about death

If you don't want to know anything about your death, consider this your spoiler warning.

Culture & Religion
  • For centuries cultures have personified death to give this terrifying mystery a familiar face.
  • Modern science has demystified death by divulging its biological processes, yet many questions remain.
  • Studying death is not meant to be a morbid reminder of a cruel fate, but a way to improve the lives of the living.
Keep reading Show less

Why inequality is a ticking time bomb – for poor and rich

Riots may ensue as more poor Americans recognize their "miserable" long-term prospects.

  • How bad is wealth inequality in the United States? About 1 percent of Americans hold 80 percent of the money.
  • In the United States, the correlation between the income of parents and the income of their children when they grow up is higher than in any other country in the world.
  • One of the big underlying reasons for poverty is receiving a crummy education, which in turn leads to crummy jobs. When people recognize their miserable long-term prospects, they are more likely to partake in riots.