Greek scientist leads interstellar travel project

Inspired by the mythology of his homeland, Greek scientist Andreas Tziolas is heading Project Icarus, a theoretical engineering study launched in 2009 by the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) and the Tau Zero Foundation (TZF) with the purpose of designing an interstellar spacecraft.

It is now managed by the same people under the umbrella of the non-profit organization Icarus Interstellar and is a continuation of the work carried out by the BIS Project Daedalus, a similar study that was conducted between 1973 and 1978 by the BIS.

Tziolas, a former research fellow at NASA who holds a PhD in Gravitation and Cosmology from Baylor University, worked for NASA on the Hubble Space Telescope and the Galileo Mission to Jupiter, as well as on the Mars Pathfinder and the Mars Polar Lander.

He currently teaches at the University of Anchorage in Alaska, where he also works as the chief scientist for Variance Dynamical, an electronics prototyping company.

"At Project Icarus we keep adding new reasons and new motivations for going interstellar, as we call it. First is obviously the survival of humankind. If humanity is capable of achieving interstellar flight but does not pursue it, does not pursue a program of seeding other planets and other solar systems, then really we risk receiving a Darwin Award as a civilization. If you can save yourself, but you don't, for whatever reason -- how can you justify that?,» Tziolas told The Atlantic's Ross Andersen in a recent interview.

"In order to achieve interstellar flight, you would have to develop very clean and renewable energy technologies, because for the crew, the ecosystem that you launch with is the ecosystem you're going to have for at least a hundred years. With our current projections, we can't get this kind of journey under a hundred years. So in developing the technologies that enable interstellar flight, you could serendipitously develop the technologies that could help clean up the earth, and power it with cheap energy,» Tziolas added.

According to reports, Project Icarus may be in for a $500,000 cash injection in grant form from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is said to be interested in grating the purse to the foundation set up by space traveler Dorothy Jemison, who will reportedly be teaming up with Icarus Interstellar.