Important Information about the KISS ISM Program: Recent press articles (late 2017) appear to have included erroneous information about a Keck Institute (KISS) study. KISS has not produced a study about using SpaceX's BFR to get to 'Oumuamua. KISS did convene a program to study possibilities for future missions to reach the interstellar medium outside the solar system, but that study took place before the discovery of 'Oumuamua and is not applicable to that object.
Recent discoveries reported in 2012 and 2013 by Voyager-1 and Kepler have brought into focus two end-points of what is now commonly referred to as the Interstellar Medium (ISM). Whereas Voyager-1 is beginning to explore the ISM in-situ, the Kepler space-based telescope and other Earth-based telescopes have detected a plethora of potentially Earth-like planetary systems around other stars or "exoplanets". The results of these two missions frame the context for further intellectual curiosity, scientific questions, and exploration goals that will define objectives for innovative and far-reaching missions heading out of our solar system and someday reaching for the stars.
The goals of the workshop are to:
- articulate key scientific questions
- identify near-term science exploration goals
- derive mission objectives and preliminary design concepts that can be realized in the next two decades
- derive flight system and science measurement requirement
- assess key mission, system, and operations technology drivers
- develop a technology maturation plan that will be proposed to KISS and JPL for follow-on funding.
The technical challenge and the focus of the workshop is to assess mission implementation techniques that will enable affordable robotic probes to reach the ISM within 10 years with velocities up to 10 times faster than Voyager, and be designed to last 50 years or longer. By comparison, Voyager-1 is now traveling at a speed of 17 km/sec, and has taken 35 years to reach the ISM. Meeting this challenge would constitute a revolutionary capability that would enable multiple scientific probes to launch and return initial scientific results of and from the ISM within a decade, and continue for several decades.