"The Tau Zero Foundation hopes to advance the human prospect for interstellar flight by defining the issues and keeping all the propulsion options on the table," Gilster points out. "It is simply too early to down-select to a single propulsion system.
"Instead, incremental advances across the spectrum of possibilities will help us, over time, learn which methods will offer the soundest prospects. We'd like to encourage and, when it becomes possible, assist in the funding of such research.
"A second goal is to keep the idea of interstellar flight in front of the public through education, so that the relevant research is not only highlighted but supported through both philanthropy and government."
Going Interstellar By Public Demand
The selection of propulsion methods is one thing, but interstellar advocates agree that when we do detect that bona fide habitable world - with hints of a biosphere and presence of liquid water - the public will demand further study.
And that means physically going there.
"In the event a habitable planet around a nearby star like Tau Ceti is confirmed, the best next step would be a space-based observatory specifically targeting nearby stars (Kepler's targets are much more remote in order to take the statistical pulse of the planet population)," said Gilster. (Targeted searches have been carried out by SETI, in the hope of detecting a radio signal from a hypothetical alien civilization in the Tau Ceti system - but none have detected any artificial transmissions.)