Tucson 2021


Thursday reception

We originally planned to host a reception with NASA NIAC on Thursday evening, 23 September, at the Art of Planetary Science exhibition in the Kuiper building (University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory). Well, NIAC isn’t coming, but we’ll still have the art show! You’ll have a chance to meet some of the IAAA artists and talk about their work. All IRG attendees are welcome to attend. https://www.lpl.arizona.edu/art/. This is separate from IRG’s traditional kickoff reception, which will be held on Friday evening at the Arizona Historical Society.

Sunday author outreach event

Traditionally, IRG holds a public outreach event during the conference, aimed at middle- to high school students and the general public (no fee for attending). This year, we plan to have a panel of science fiction and science fact authors for a wide-ranging, moderated discussion of their books, and also of the larger themes of space travel and interstellar exploration. It will run from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, Sunday 26 September. We’ll follow that with an opportunity for attendees to buy some books and get them signed.

Authors expected to attend include:

  • James Benford, author and co-editor, Starship Century
  • Louis Friedman, author of Human Spaceflight: from Mars to the Stars
  • Robert Hampson, author and editor of Stellaris: People of the Stars and The Founder Effect
  • Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys/October Sky, launching his new memoir Don’t Blow Yourself Up!
  • Brian McConnell, author of The Alien Communication Handbook
  • Alan Stern, author of Chasing New Horizons

If you’re not registered for the IRG symposium, you’re welcome to attend this event anyhow… but please RSVP by clicking here so we know how many people to expect! The event will be held at the Tucson University Park Marriott, and there is plenty of parking in the deck across the street. Thanks!

Monday “Birds of a Feather” dinners

Plenary programming ends mid-day on Monday, and we realize some attendees will have to hustle off to the airport to make flights back home. Others may be staying longer. If you’re going to be in town on Monday evening, we encourage the attendees to self-organize some “birds of a feather” dinners. There are a dozen good restaurants within walking distance of the Marriott. If you’re interested in leading an informal discussion on a particular topic—interstellar or otherwise!—we’ll have sign-up sheets available at the badge desk. Start a new sheet, or sign up to someone else’s!


Conference Hotel

Most events will take place in or adjacent to the Tucson University Park Marriott, in the Main Gate Square area just west of the University of Arizona. If you haven’t made your reservation, please use this link:

Tucson University Park Marriott

Main Gate Square map

You can see a list of restaurants, shops, and other merchants within walking distance at https://www.maingatesquare.com/merchants/. Note that the CVS caters to college students, so it includes a mini grocery store, with basic snacks, wine, beer, and liquor.

Main Gate Square map

Getting Around

Given the crazy rental car situation nationwide, I’d suggest that attendees will mostly not need cars.

• If flying into Tucson, take Uber/Lyft or a taxicab from the airport.
• If flying into Phoenix Sky Harbor, take Groome Shuttle to the University of Arizona stop at 501 N Park Place. Depending on weather, luggage, and mobility, that’s a ten minute walk or a very short Uber/Lyft to the hotel.

Groome Shuttle
Walk to hotel

The Tucson Streetcar will be free for the rest of 2021. There is a stop directly in front of Gentle Ben’s. That corresponds to the red star on this map:

streetcar map

That gives visitors direct access to dozens more restaurants, bars, and shops in these neighborhoods:

  • Downtown (Centro) 
  • Mercado District 
  • Mercado San Agustin 
  • 4th Avenue

Tucson is a great place to spend some time. We’ll keep you busy at the symposium, but I hope you’re able to take some time to explore the rest of what The Old Pueblo has to offer!


Some of the optional events will be happening on the UArizona campus, and may require a walk of up to 3/4 mile. If that’s a challenge for you, let us know and we’ll figure out the right accommodation.

Food and Drink

The symposium includes a Friday evening reception (heavy hors d’oeuvres), lunch on Saturday and Sunday, and an awards banquet dinner on Saturday. (Note: It’s Tucson. And it’s still summer here. Please leave the tuxedo and the cocktail dress at home. You’re welcome to wear them if you like but, honestly, if you’re wearing long pants, you’re formally dressed in Tucson.) Given that we’re going to be feeding 100 people in crowded timeslots, we’ll do our best to accommodate specific dietary needs, but if you wait until the last minute, the odds are against you. If you have particular dietary restrictions, please let us know now.

For meals on your own, the hotel restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner, Thursday through Sunday. There are many other options within two blocks of the hotel. There is a Starbucks in the lobby open every morning.

The Friday night reception will serve alcohol. If you have minors, we trust you will keep an eye on them.


If you’re traveling with a companion who would like to attend the reception and meals with you, please buy a Companion ticket on EventBrite ($150). We will prepare a badge for them which allows access to the social events but not to the plenary sessions. If your companions would like advice on what to visit in Tucson while you’re in the technical sessions, or if you’d like us to arrange shopping/museum/other expeditions, please let us know!


We have arranged a number of tours of unique locations in Tucson that should be of interest to our audience.

  • Tree Ring Research Laboratory — Friday and Monday afternoons
  • Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab — Thursday, Friday, and Monday afternoons
  • Biosphere 2 — Monday afternoon
  • Pima Air & Space Museum — Friday morning and Monday afternoon
  • Paragon Space Development Corp. — Friday afternoon 

You can read more about these tours at https://irg.space/2021-tours-in-tucson/

The Art of Planetary Science

Don’t miss The Art of Planetary Science, an international exhibition of artworks depicting humans in space, the history of space travel, real and imagined spacecraft, and travel to other worlds and star systems. If you miss our Thursday evening reception, you’ll have other chances to visit the Kuiper building after the plenary sessions on Saturday or Sunday.

TAPS poster