Saturday, January 07, 2012

Jemison Tapped to Lead Starship Development Project

She may have been the only applicant whose resume could claim she has boldly gone where no one has gone before, as a real space scientist and fictional Star Fleet officer.

MSNBC’s Cosmic Log Blog is reporting that officials at DARPA, the Pentagon's think tank, have selected a group likely to be led by former Astronaut Mae Jemison to head up the development of the "100 Year Starship" project. Jemison made history as the first black woman in space in 1992, and later gained additional notoriety fro being the first astronaut to appear on Star Trek.

The project aims to explore what would be required to undertake a multigenerational mission beyond our solar system. DARPA recently held a competition for a $500,000 grant intended to serve as seed money for the 100 Year Starship Organization. A leader of one of the groups which did not win the competition has been quoted in the BBC as saying a former astronaut will be tasked with leading the project.

According to MSNBC:

The BBC identified the ex-astronaut as Jemison, based on the text of an unreleased letter from DARPA. It also reported that Jemison's foundation was teaming up with two other groups, Icarus Interstellar and the Foundation for Enterprise Development.

DARPA has not yet publicly announced the selection, and my efforts to contact the agency's representatives have been unsuccessful so far. But after the BBC's story, the report was confirmed on the Centauri Dreams blog by Paul Gilster, who is affiliated with the Tau Zero Foundation. Gilster said Jemison's organization "now takes on the challenge of building a program that can last 100 years, and might one day result in a starship."

Jemison, 55, a physician, flew aboard Endeavour in 1992, and is also noted for her work as a medical director in the Peace Corp from 1983-85, where she served in Sierra Leone and Liberia. She is also the founder of the Jemison Group, which researches, markets, and develops science and technology for the improvement of everyday life.

She was also tapped by Actor LeVar Burton to appear on Star Trek: the Next Generation, where she played Lieutenant Palmer in the 1993 episode, “Second Chances.”

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