It can be hard to justify the need to explore interstellar space, but on Aug. 15-18 nearly 200 interstellar scientists, engineers, astronomers, historians, economists, architects, artists, anthropologists and enthusiasts descended on Dallas, Texas, for the first Starship Congress, a meeting organized by the non-profit organization Icarus Interstellar, to explore the possibility.
Four days of inspiring talks seemed to converge on one conclusion: We, as a species, need to reach for the stars, lest we decay from being a race of explorers to a myopic civilization that never fulfills its full potential.
But wait, it was 42 years ago since the last human walked on the moon and we currently seem to be having anxiety problems about getting humans to push beyond low-Earth orbit so we we send robots to explore our solar system - isn't any discussion on the feasibility of traveling to a nearby star a little fanciful? Shouldn't we be focusing all our attention on wiping out poverty on Earth, finding cures for cancer and striving toward world peace? Space exploration is, after all, just a luxury.