It was back in August 2011 that we held the World Ship symposium at the Head Quarters of the British Interplanetary Society. This was a highly successful event and invited a range of papers. The motivation for the symposium was the original World Ship papers published in 1984 by Alan Bond and Anthony Martin, with titles like “World Ships – An Assessment of the Engineering Feasibility” and “World Ships – Concept, Cause, Cost, Construction and Colonisation”. Another pioneer of this subject is Gregory Matloff, who published seminal papers like “World Ships: Prospects for Non-Nuclear Propulsion and Power Sources”. This work and others which were written at the time, stand out as the most comprehensive analysis of the world ship problem to date. The 2011 symposia was an attempt to review modern thinking on these grand concepts as well as revitalise interest.
Gregory Matloff begins this set of papers with a review of the solar photon sail concept, an idea he has pioneered for sometime. Andreas Hein and colleagues then look at the world ship architectures and consider their feasibility. Frederik Ceyssens and colleagues give an excellent overview of the financing of large Giga-scale projects. They discuss other projects such as Project Apollo, ITER, The Large Hadron Collider, The Manhattan project, and use this analysis to understand the requirements for the financing of a World Ship. They propose the creation of an international network of non-governmental organisations focused on private and public fundraising for interstellar exploration. Finally, we have two excellent papers from Stephen Ashworth. He explores the development scenario for a World Ship as well as the emergence of the World Ship in the context of a shift from a planet-based to a space-based civilisation.
In the past, the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society published the now famous red cover interstellar issues. To celebrate these issues, we present this special World Ship issue also with a red cover. Another set of World Ship papers will be published in the next issue. We also include a stimulating invited commentary advocating microwave beam propulsion from the physicist James Benford.
JBIS has always been at the forefront of visionary thinking in astronautics since it was first published in 1934. It is quite likely that in the coming centuries people will be living on bases on the Moon and Mars, reading back-issues of this journal on the equivalent of their space kindle. One wonders how those future pioneers will view these papers in retrospect, as an amusing attempt to look at the future by eccentric would be space cadets, or as an accurate attempt to extrapolate technology trends into the future. It is most likely that reality lays somewhere in between these two extremes. Predicting the future is never easy and the uncertainties become larger the further you try to look. There are very few people out there with the vision of Sir Arthur C Clarke who could see that little further than many of us. The British Interplanetary Society has decided to find out if this is true and will shortly be announcing a new initiative from the Technical Committee and in association with JBIS and Spaceflight magazine which is edited by the very capable author David Baker. Project 2033, as it is known, will afford members the opportunity to describe their own visions of space exploration around the time of the centennial anniversary of the BIS. Are you a visionary? Look out for this exciting project as it is announced in the coming weeks. Please enjoy this issue of your journal.
Kelvin F. Long, Editor JBIS