December 5, 2013
My vision for the first interstellar mission requires highly advanced technology in the areas of propulsion, autonomous intelligent computer operations, navigation, and communications. The mission would be to the nearest star with an exoplanet in the habitable zone known to have water and an oxygen atmosphere based on Earth-based observations. Since this would be a very long-term and expensive mission, it would not be a simple fly-by but an orbital mission -- first orbiting the parent star and then the water planet. The primary objective would not be to find life but to determine the planet's ability to sustain it and its suitability for a subsequent manned mission. So I imagine images from the probe of a planet with water oceans and an atmosphere with clouds.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.