Interstellar Research Group holds its 7th annual symposium


The seventh annual National Interstellar Symposium was presented by the Interstellar Research Group and hosted by the University of Arizona at Marriott University Park from Friday, September 24th to Monday, September 27th.

This event featured numerous presentations on a range of out of this world topics, from the rays of black hole bombs to the effects of space on physiological processes in the body, to the development of dynamic rocket propulsion methods.

The day’s program was divided into plenary sessions held by keynote speakers and other attendees, with breaks and tours of places like Biosphere 2, the Tree Ring Research Lab, and the Richard F Caris Mirror Lab.

The plenary sessions gave the audience the opportunity to learn about the work of qualified professionals and to ask questions. IRG plans these symposia and invites the speakers to inspire and lead further discussions about space and its future.


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There were over 50 speakers at the event, some more familiar with the university than others. Kai Staats, the Space Analog director for the Moon and Mars in Biosphere 2, is an example of one who was very close to home.

Staats made several speeches at the symposium. His first seminar was entitled “The Challenge of Closed-loop and Bioregenerative Life Support for Long Duration Space Exploration”. In this talk, Staats and other professionals commented on the difficulties they encountered during the project.

On Monday, Staats went into detail on his work in the session “SAM: Construction of a Hi-fidelity, Hermeically Sealed Mars Habitat Analog at Biosphere 2”. His descriptions of the lungs in Biosphere 2, a 3,000-pound shell made of concrete and steel that hangs entirely in the air, as well as the group’s experiments with pressure suits to stay completely isolated from the outside world, showed how Biosphere 2 prepares us for it want for life outside the earth.

“Biosphere 2 represents what we could do on a planet in 150 to 200 years”, replied Staats to one of the questions from the audience.

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Also on Monday, Dr. Mark Shelhamer, who worked with NASA to study sensorimotor adaptation to space travel, and gave the talk “Challenges to Crew & Mission Health & Performance in Ventures Beyond Near” as a consultant for those interested in commercial space travel. Earth.”

Shelhamer spoke about the physical and mental challenges associated with getting people into space, such as the effects of isolation on the mind and the increased likelihood of developing kidney stones because bones and muscles break down in weightlessness will.

“There were still fewer than 600 people who flew into space [and] each of which is an experiment, ”said Shelhamer, explaining how difficult it can be to account for every mishap that can happen on a mission.

Another challenge for Shelhamer to research the effects of space on humans is the many layers of protection that are put in place to protect the personal information of all astronauts, such as HIPAA, which makes it so that all discoveries made on a space flight are about specific people are made so high cannot be published. However, in an easier way, Shelhamer has high hopes that the next generation can find ways to answer the questions he has asked.

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“At my age you have to force yourself to think, ‘This is really cool,’ but [in college] You’re not at the stage you did, ”said Shelhamer.

Another speaker, Troy Howe, focuses his research on how to get into space. Howe is President of Howe Industries, which he founded in 2015 at the age of 32 and received his PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Idaho. His team has received grants and has been hired by NASA to find out what source of energy can take a rocket to Mars.

While chemical missiles are good for short-term missions, Howe notes that nuclear thermal or nuclear plasma propulsion are better alternatives for longer missions. Testing this, however, is challenging. You have to isolate the single thing you want to test that day and then expose it to the conditions it has to withstand.

Howe believes that working in space meets the needs we see on earth. For example, Howe and his team’s work on power generation could prove to be 5% more efficient than what is currently in use.

The plans for the eighth Interstellar Symposium of the IRG are already underway thanks to their partnership with Andrew Higgins, a mechanical engineering professor at McGill University, who gave the lecture “Dynamic Soaring as a Means to Exceed the Solar Wind Speed” at the symposium.

Sometime in June 2023, the eighth symposium will be held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and hosted by McGill University. According to Higgins, this decision was made so that IRG could reach an audience outside of the United States.

“Before we become interstellar, we have to become international,” said Higgins in his final statement on Monday.

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