Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dr. Robert W. Bussard Has Passed

Tom Ligon who worked for Dr. Bussard has informed me that Dr. Bussard has died. A sad day for all of us in the IEC Fusion community. A great one has passed. We are all diminished by his loss.

Fortunately his work will continue. A whole community has developed to support his work:

EMC2 Fusion
IEC Fusion Newsgroup
IEC Fusion Technology blog
Talk Polywell
Open Source Fusor Research Consortium II
NASA Fusion/Spaceflight Forum

Dr. Bussard was well known to Star Trek fans for inventing the Bussard Ramjet.

The Bussard ramjet method of spacecraft propulsion was proposed in 1960 by the physicist Robert W. Bussard and popularized by Carl Sagan in the television series and subsequent book Cosmos as a variant of a fusion rocket capable of fast interstellar spaceflight. It would use a large ram scoop (on the order of kilometers to many thousands of kilometers in diameter) to compress hydrogen from the interstellar medium and fuse it. This mass would then form the exhaust of a rocket to accelerate the ramjet.

In the Star Trek fictional universe vessels commonly have magnetic hydrogen collectors, referred to as Bussard collectors or Bussard ramscoops. Those are seemingly fitted on the forward end of the twin "warp nacelles", and have a "reverse" function that allows for spreading hydrogen as well as sucking it in.
Dr. Bussard is also known for his recent work on the Polywell Fusion Reactor.
The Polywell is a gridless inertial electrostatic confinement fusion concept utilizing multiple magnetic mirrors. It was designed by Robert Bussard under a Navy research contract, and is intended to overcome the losses in the Farnsworth-Hirsch fusor to create fusion power.
Dr. Bussard has left a great legacy.
In 1960, Bussard conceived of the Bussard ramjet, an interstellar space drive powered by hydrogen fusion using hydrogen collected using a magnetic field from the interstellar gas.
Some of his earliest work was in the area of nuclear fission rockets.
In 1956, Bussard designed the nuclear thermal rocket known as project Rover.
Dr. Bussard initiated some of the first major work on nuclear fusion in the United States.
In the early 1970s Dr. Bussard became Assistant Director under Director Robert Hirsch at the Controlled Thermonuclear Reaction Division of what was then known as the Atomic Energy Commission. They founded the mainline fusion program for the United States: the Tokamak. Later, in June 1995, Bussard claimed in a letter to all fusion laboratories as well as to key members of US Congress, that he, along with the other founders of the program, supported the Tokamak not out of conviction that it was the best technical approach but rather as a vehicle for generating political support, thereby allowing them to pursue "all the hopeful new things the mainline labs would not try".
If you would like to see Dr. Bussarrd in action and learn a little more about the Polywell design you can find out more at Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion.

My tears are flowing but the work will continue. God bless you Dr. Bussard and Warp Speed.

Update: 09 Oct '007 0244z

Rand Simberg has some thoughts.
David Bullis at Jerry Pournelle's site had a few thoughts.

I also want to thank from the bottom of my heart Eric Scheie and Justin of Classical Values who got me interested in Dr. B's work with this post and this one.

The Fusor Net folks have some thoughts.
The Talk Polywell people add their thoughts.

Update: 09 Oct '007 2043z

You can hear Dr. Bussard and Tom Ligon on The Space Show. I was honored to be able to ask a question. You can listen to the May 8th, 2007 MP3 here.

New Energy and Fuel has a couple of posts up:

Dr. Robert W. Bussard Passes Away
Details On Dr. Robert W. Bussard Passing Away

I will be adding links without further comment or update notices. Check back:

Centuri Dreams
Dad2059’s Blog of Science Fiction
Focus Fusion Society
American Anti-Gravity - Eulogy and Audio Interview

Update: 02 Jan 008 1717z

Here is a review (with a link to the source) of an article from the New Mexican that tells some more about Dr. B's life and also gives a lot of details about the current and ongoing lab work.

Bussard Fusion Update

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Anonymous said...

This is very sad indeed. My condolences to his family...

Reliapundit said...


i hope the fusion thingy works.

it will be a fitting tribute.

Cormac said...

A fitting tribute indeed. His legacy just may outlast us all :)

Rob said...

RIP, Dr. Bussard. I hope he's proven to be right.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know until today that Bussard had passed...this shit, oil-compnay-enslaved world is now just that much darker...

Warp speed, Dr. B!

M. Simon said...


Read this:

Bussard Fusion Update

It will hearten you. The work is going on and my sources tell me that progress is being made.