Watch this Space! Low-cost Innovations for the Future

(Page will be updated regularly)


June 22-23, 2022 (Wednesday, Thursday)


University Center, UC Santa Cruz
Address: College Nine Rd, Santa Cruz, CA 95064:

The University Center is located on the second floor of the College Nine/John R. Lewis Dining Hall, which is located off of McLaughlin Drive, across from the Student Health Center.

Google link:
Location details:

Presenters, Bios, Abstracts

The virtual conference booklet can be found here.

Online Schedule

Breakthrough Discuss Conference Day One (June 22, Wednesday)

All times Pacific Time (PDT)

07:45/08:15 Buses from Hotel Paradox to Conference Venue
08:00 01:00 Registration & Breakfast
09:00 00:30 Welcome – Hosts S. Pete Worden, Paul Koch, Dave DeBoer, David Korsmeyer, Charles Alcock
Session One: A Bigger Bang for Your Buck – Affordable and innovative concepts for cosmological measurement
09:30 00:15 Session One Introduction Chairs: Suzanne Staggs (Princeton) & Phil Mauskopf (Arizona State University)
09:45 00:20 Using Artificial Intelligence to Discover New Rules of Our Universe Shirley Ho Flatiron Institute
10:05 00:20 Pulsar Timing Arrays See Red! Maura McLaughlin West Virginia University
10:25 00:20 Recording the Evolution of the Universe with the Cosmic Microwave Background Suzanne Staggs Princeton
10:45 00:30 Break: COFFEE
11:15 00:20 Origins of our Universe: The Earliest Achievable Glimpses Ritoban Basu Thakur Caltech / JPL
11:35 00:20 Hunting Axions with Metamaterials: the ALPHA detector Andrea Gallo Rosso Stockholm University
11:55 00:20 High Impact, Low Cost: Cosmology with Balloons and Small Spacecraft Sean Bryan Arizona State University
12:15 00:45 Session One: <Panel / Q&A>
13:00 01:00 Break: LUNCH
Session Two: Low Mass Transit – Light, fast and cheap ways to explore the Solar System and beyond
14:00 00:15 Session Two Introduction Chairs: Slava Turyshev (JPL) & Amanda Hendrix (Planetary Science Institute)
14:15 00:20 ScienceCraft for Outer Planet Exploration Mahmooda Sultana NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
14:35 00:20 Probing the Structure & Evolution of Outer Solar System Bodies with Small, Fast Spacecraft Francis Nimmo UC Santa Cruz
14:55 00:20 Seismology from Hard Landings Tom Pike, Ben Fernando Imperial College London, University of Oxford
15:15 00:20 Looking for Planet Nine from Outer Space Konstantin Batygin Caltech
15:35 00:30 Break: COFFEE
16:05 00:20 “Are We There Yet?” Can We Biomap the Solar System with Low-Cost Solar Sail Missions? Penny Boston NASA's Ames Research Center
16:25 00:20 Beyond Flatland: A Star of Many Dimensions Sarah Gibson National Center for Atmospheric Research
16:45 00:45 Session Two: <Panel / Q&A>
17:30 Adjourn, buses to Hotel Paradox

Breakthrough Discuss Conference Day Two (June 23, Thursday)

All times Pacific Time (PDT)

8:30/8:45 Buses from Hotel Paradox to Conference Venue
09:00 00:30 Registration & Breakfast
09:30 00:30 Keynote
10:00 00:30 Welcome – Hosts Natalie Batalha, Harry Atwater, Jessica Rousset
10:30 00:30 Break: COFFEE
Session Three: New Outlooks on Life – Novel approaches to detecting life and intelligence beyond earth
11:00 00:15 Session Three Introduction Chairs: Cherry Ng (University of Toronto) & Steve Croft (UC Berkeley SETI Research Center)
11:15 00:20 Hunting for Life with Meter Wavelengths Chenoa Tremblay SETI Institute
11:35 00:20 Biosignatures and Technosignatures as Complementary Paths to Life Detection Jason Wright Penn State
11:55 00:20 Technosignature Opportunities with the LSST James Davenport University of Washington
12:15 01:15 Break: LUNCH
13:30 00:20 The Chiral Puzzle of Life Noemie Globus UC Santa Cruz
13:50 00:20 A Unique Biosignature: Biopolymers in Nanopores David Deamer UC Santa Cruz
14:10 00:20 A New Digitized Age of Interferometric SETI Cherry Ng Dunlap Institute
14:30 00:30 Break: COFFEE
15:00 00:45 Session Three: <Q & A>
15:45 00:15 Concluding Remarks
16:00 Adjourn, buses to the Hay Barn

Breakthrough Discuss Reception, NO VIRTUAL EVENT (June 23, Thursday Evening)

All times Pacific Time (PDT)

16:00 Buses from conference venue to reception venue
16:30 01:30 Reception opens
18:00 00:10 Welcome S. Pete Worden Breakthrough Initiatives
18:10 00:25 How not to waste half your star’s main sequence lifetime Raymond Pierrehumbert University of Oxford
18:35 00:25 Fireside chat Raymond Pierrehumbert & Natalie Batalha (UCSC)
19:00 03:00 Reception continues
22:00 Adjourn

Registered Attendance

Registered attendance will be divided between an in-person and a virtual (Zoom) experience.

Virtual Attendee Zoom attendance is available to anyone who received an invitation and has registered. This will enable participation in the Q/A sections of the schedule. Registered attendees, please use the ‘Attendee Zoom Link’ you received via email. Otherwise, you may tune into the conference livestream on youtube.

Covid Protocol

Covid vaccination status and negative test results administered by a healthcare provider 48 hours prior to the conference can be uploaded to this site. You will get an email notification when the documents are approved that you can show at registration. If you are unable to upload your documentation before the conference please bring it in person. Same-day testing will also be available on site at registration and during the conference. If you are unable to get a test beforehand, please make sure you allow yourself extra time in the morning to have a test administered on site during registration.

Conference Theme

Watch this Space! Low-cost Innovations for the Future


Scientific space missions have historically been dominated by governments and industrial contractors invested in building bespoke, highly capable systems that are typically large and expensive. For years, launch vehicles saw little innovation and launch costs remained extremely high, limiting new ideas and wider access to space. Even ground-based telescope costs have increased exponentially with aperture size. But today, technological advances and business revolutions are shaking up the old ways of doing science-on Earth and beyond. Low-cost small satellites, high-performance consumer electronics, innovations in optics and materials, progress in life sciences, and the plummeting cost of launches are revitalizing space activities. Non-profits, universities and startup companies now compete and collaborate with governments on innovative space exploration projects.

Breakthrough Discuss 2022 invites world experts in the field to consider this exciting new reality, highlighting cutting-edge technologies and the science missions they enable. The conference will be divided into three parts:

  1. A Bigger Bang for Your Buck – Affordable and innovative concepts for cosmological measurement.
  2. Low-Mass Transit – Light, fast and cheap ways to explore the Solar System and beyond.
  3. New Outlooks on Life – New approaches to detecting life and intelligence beyond earth.
  1. A Bigger Bang for Your Buck – Affordable and innovative concepts for cosmological measurement.

    Chairs: Suzanne Staggs and Phil Mauskopf.

    Our quest to understand the nature of the cosmos may be as old as humanity itself. The earliest astrolabes, quadrants and naked-eye observatories allowed increasingly precise measurements of the visible universe. Galileo's improved telescope made the Copernican revolution possible. Edwin Hubble – building on the work of Henrietta Leavitt – used the largest telescope of his day to prove the existence of “island universes” or galaxies. Wilson and Penzias discovered cosmic background radiation with the Holmdel Horn Antenna. More recently, scientists have used LIGO to prove the existence of gravitational waves. All these discoveries relied not only on visionary scientists, but on ambitious, ingenious instrument designers. The first session will examine the latest innovative and affordable concepts for cosmological measurement and the secrets they might uncover.

  2. Low-Mass Transit – Light, fast and cheap ways to explore the Solar System and beyond.

    Chairs: Slava Turyshev and Amanda Hendrix.

    Spacecraft development and launch costs have always been a bottleneck for space science research. But these costs have fallen rapidly in the last decade, creating new possibilities for deep space missions to our Solar System and beyond. Some may favor a single payload, others a swarm of smaller spacecraft. Novel propulsion ideas like sun-diver lightsails, for example, promise cheap and speedy exploration with miniature electronics, sensors, and new compounds made possible by advances in material science. Such missions may cost only a few million dollars and be easily replicable with variation in instruments and destinations. This session will investigate how these innovation pathways will enable deep space missions to new and exciting places with high scientific payoffs.

  3. New Outlooks on Life – Novel approaches to detecting life and intelligence beyond earth.

    Chairs: Cherry Ng and Steve Croft.

    Origin of life studies and the question of life’s existence elsewhere in the Universe are among the most exciting scientific endeavors today. But no single discipline can answer the questions this search raises. Increasingly, astronomers, physicists, biologists and chemists are breaking out of the silos that too often characterize scientific research. Intersections of planetary physics and the biochemistry of primitive life are creating exciting new lines of investigation; the search for indicators of intelligence beyond earth, or “technosignatures,” is leveraging computer and information science breakthroughs; and methods to detect and characterize life are becoming more sophisticated thanks to complexity theory, next-generation Earth- and space-based telescopes, and innovative new sensors. This session will explore the most exciting developments in the search for life with a focus on new tools and multidisciplinary collaborations.


There will be a reception held at the Cowell Hay Barn directly after day 2 of the conference on Thursday, June 23, from 5pm until 10pm. Buses will take guests to the reception when the conference ends.

Cowell Hay Barn
94 Ranch View Rd, Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Google maps link:


Breakthrough Discuss 2022 is co-hosted by:

  • University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
  • NASA’s Ames Research Center
  • University of California, Berkeley Radio Astronomy Lab (RAL)
  • Breakthrough Initiatives (sponsor)


Please consider these nearby hotels and contact directly for booking:

A comprehensive list of hotels can be found here:


Please see the conference schedule for departure times from the Hotel Paradox. Dedicated conference shuttle buses will run to/from the Hotel Paradox and the Breakthrough Discuss conference venue. There will be shuttle buses from the conference venue directly to the reception at the Hay Barn on Thursday afternoon and back again afterwards.


Parking will be available at the Santa Cruz Core West Parking Structure.
Google Maps Location:

You can pick up a free parking pass (mention Breakthrough Discuss) at the information kiosk at the main entrance to campus (about 100 yards from the intersection of High Street and Bay Street).
Information Kiosk address: 936 Coolidge Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Google Maps location of kiosk:

To get to the Core West Parking Structure (after picking up your parking pass at the kiosk). You will exit campus and make a right onto High Street and follow it up the hill to the West entrance of campus and make a right turn at the next stop light onto Heller Drive. Follow Heller Drive up the hill to the Core West Parking Structure.

Detailed directions to Core West can be found here:

There will be a sprinter van to shuttle guests from the Core West Parking Structure to the conference venue. Alternatively, it is a short beautiful walk through the campus.

Walking directions (~10 mins):

Handicapped Parking

There are a number of VIP parking spots reserved for handicapped parking. Please email if you require one of these spots.

Past Content

Content and videos from previous years are available here:

Code of Conduct

The Breakthrough Discuss conference is dedicated to fostering a safe environment where ideas flow freely, which means ensuring a harassment-free conference experience for all in attendance. No harassment of any kind towards any conference participants (including venue staff, etc.) will be tolerated during conference programming, breaks, or at any other conference-related event(s). Harassing behaviors include, but are not limited to, offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, race, age, religion, disability, physical appearance, national origin, etc., as well as deliberate intimidation; harassing photography, recording, or postings; sustained disruption of talks or other events; inappropriate physical contact; and unwelcome sexual attention. If a participant engages in any harassing behavior, event organizers retain the right to take any actions to maintain a welcoming, safe environment for all participants. These actions include, but are not limited to, warning the alleged offender or expulsion from the conference and any associated event. If anyone experiences or witnesses any form of harassment at any point during any of the conference events, please contact:



The Breakthrough Initiatives

The Breakthrough Initiatives were founded in 2015 to explore the Universe, seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth, and encourage public debate from a planetary perspective.

Breakthrough Discuss

Breakthrough Discuss is an annual academic conference focused on life in the Universe and novel ideas for space exploration.