In this episode of From Here to the Stars, host Stephen Euin Cobb sits down with TVIW co-founder Les Johnson.
Les Johnson is a physicist, author, and NASA technologist. He is a founding member of the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop and served as the Program Chair for all six TVIW interstellar symposia. He is an elected member of the International Academy of Astronautics, a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society and a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the National Space Society, and MENSA.
Publisher’s Weekly noted that “The spirit of Arthur C. Clarke and his contemporaries is alive and well…” when describing Les’s 2018 novel, Mission to Methone. His 2018 non-fiction book, with co-author Joe Meany, Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World was reviewed in the journal Nature, excerpted in American Scientist, and on Salon.com. His latest anthology, Stellaris: People of the Stars, coedited with Robert Hampson, was published by Baen Books in September 2019.
In his day job, Les is a Principal Investigator of two interplanetary solar sail space missions at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The first, Near Earth Asteroid Scout, scheduled for spaceflight in 2021, will use a 925 square foot solar sail to propel a small spacecraft to rendezvous with an asteroid. The second, Solar Cruiser, will demonstrate the ability of an 18,000 square foot solar sail-propelled spacecraft to perform scientific observations of the sun if it selected for flight in 2024. During his career at NASA, Les served as the Manager for the Space Science Programs and Projects Office, the In-Space Propulsion Technology Project, and the Interstellar Propulsion Research Project.