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Interstellar travel could be the key to fixing problems on earth, says former NASA astronaut

Space is no longer the final frontier
Mon Mar 11 2013, 21:51

FORMER ASTRONAUT Dr. Mae Jemison laid out her plans to use research into space programmes to fix issues here on earth today, speaking at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. 

"What happens when we say this is a problem? How do we change the way we handle it?" said Jemison.

Mae also heads up the 100 Year Starship programme, which is a DARPA funded project that aims to make interstellar travel a reality within the next 100 years. Jemison says that the programme's aims will lead to real world advancements here on earth.

According to her, pushing for interstellar travel will require us to rethink how we do things on earth today and challenge society to advance its current paradigms of thinking.

The project aims to create a Grand Challenge that will attempt to achieve a very difficult task that will lead to smaller advancements along the way. Jemison used the example of mapping the human genome as a Grand Challenge that led to a variety of other advancements.

"For every dollar that went into the human genome $1.41 went into the economy," continued Jemison.

Jemison and her project builds upon the classic truth that space exploration has led to a variety of commonly used technologies on earth.

For example, memory foam mattresses were originally built by NASA in the 1970s. Even smoke detector technology was advanced because of technology used in the space programme.

The 100 Year Starship programme could prove invaluable for creating similar technologies that we don't even know we need yet. Hypothetically, a push towards interstellar travel can help the world identify the issues of today and create technology for fixing them.

"We believe that pursuing an extraordinary tomorrow improves our lives today," said Jemison.

The 100 Year Starship programme is still in its early days since launching in January 2012. Those interested in getting involved in the project should go to the group's website to share thoughts on the group's mission. µ


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