Inspiration--space travel and exploration

I don't write a lot of what probably first comes to mind when people (meaning your average, not-deeply-involved-in-SF-fandom kinds of people) think about science fiction--spaceships and grand explorations across space and that kind of thing. Neither do I often seek out that kind of thing to read, but I do find it fascinating to wonder and speculate about how that might take place.

If you're interested in writing about (or just thinking about) the near future possibilities of space travel, MSNBC has a couple of recent articles that explore a bit of what that might look like and what challenges lie in the way. "Can Starships Survive the Journey?" is a brief article that addresses the danger posed by even tiny bits of dust, once a spaceship got going fast enough. And then it moves from some theoretical systems to protect spaceships to wondering if we might observe evidence of aliens using those kinds of technologies. "The Best Options for Flying to Faraway Stars" tries to tackle a broad and technical topic in a pretty short space, so it's not likely to uncover anything new to those who are already interested in this...but it's good to get a sense of where exactly the current research and technology is.

Combine these two with the surprising amount of water found in a moon crater and the White House adviser's study of emergency response to an asteroid (all posted within the last 24 hours), and you've got quite a space-focused news day...