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Re: Argosy Mission Overhaul

>From Brian,

>Your story about probes made me remember a story of Startrek. An alien 
>probe "programmed" one of the crew-members who became very intelligent. 
>Driven by his new intelligence the crew member changed the matrix of
>quantum-space-time in such a way that the whole Enterprise traveled 10,000
>ly in a few seconds. There an alien race waited for them. That alien race
>figured it was much easier to make other races come to them than the
>otherway around. (I found the whole idea, quite fascinating)

I saw that episode and thought it would have been cool if the Enterprise had 
spent a few more episodes just exploring strange new worlds in that corner 
of the galaxy.  Would have been a little like Voyager come to think of it.

>Think about it.  The maser/laser driven sails need 1E18 (probably  1E20 to
>account for efficiency) to fly.  That means planet size power arrays if the 

>source is solar.  The RAIRs need lots of fuel that has to be packaged and
>put into position by some kind of infrastructure.  That _just_ might be
>within the capabilities of human manpower.  Anti-matter energy has to be
>made from an equal (or greater depending on efficiency) amount of energy.
> That equates to huge power stations to do the matter/anti-matter
>conversion.  Simply launching rockets with fusion pellets as their fuel
>(like the Daedalus) may be doable for small loads but we would quickly run
>out of rare isotope  fusion fuel.  Unless, of course, A LOT more could be
>made by some trick of physics involving fusion techniques perhaps.  Of
>course, a rare isotope factory would most likely require a huge power array 

>to run it.

>Although the use of robots is tempting, we should try to focus on other
>ideas that include less intelligent automation.

I agree that it would be better, but since I've sunk so much time into this 
design already, I'll go ahead and write up an Argosy paper that assumes the 
high robotic tech.  Who knows, it may turn out useful for the LIT charter 
purpose after all.  And then I'll try to come back to the 20th/21st century 

>We "know" AI-robots could make anything work but that solution would be a 
bit >too simple, unless we could come up with a rough design for such kind 
of >robot.

Actually, I'm assuming that robots would have limits based on their 
programming.  I imagine that the first working, completely automated systems 
would, in some ways, be less efficient in computer controled hands than if 
humans were doing the same job.  For example: how do you think computers and 
robots would have handled the job of bringing home the  Apollo 13 crew?

Suppose that computers and robots were acting as mission control.  Also 
suppose that these computers were dependant on programming that told them 
what to do when hazardous "what if" situations threatened the mission (like 
an exploding oxygen tank disabling the Odyssey).  If  the only programming 
that the computers had for dealing with problems was what the programmers 
had anticipated, then Apollo 13 would never have made it back to Earth.  The 
computers would have never used the LEM to do course corrections because 
none of the gremlin guys responsible for anticipating problems had even 
bothered to simulate using the LEM for course corrections and so that would 
never have been programmed in to be considered as a possibilty (that is a 
long sentence!).

Now that is how the computers (that I am aware of) work.  A more advanced 
computer program in place of the imaginary mission control computer that 
would have just lost Apollo 13 might have been given different programming 
that would have told it to consider this problem (that's another long 
sentence): Service module disabled.  Need to make course corrections.  What 
is there onboard the spacecraft/LEM combo that could be used to make needed 
course corrections for spacecraft return to Earth given the guidance 
accuracy's of working onboard computers?  The computer, knowing through 
other programming that the LEM had an engine, might select the possibilty of 
using the LEM's landing engine.

I realize this is a sketchy and even inaccurate description of just some of 
the complications of artificial intelligence.  And the purpose of our 
discussion is to build a starship that will take us to TC.  But needless to 
say, a computer would have lost the Apollo 13 mission because it was a dead 
ship, with no power to even run the guidance computers.   So even if the 
computers had thought to use the LEM to correct the ship's course, it 
wouldn't have been able to carry that decision through for lack of power 

The spacecraft would have been written off as a loss by the computers.  In a 
robotic society something else would have been built and launched to take 
Apollo 13's  place (unfortunately Lovell, Swigert, and Hayes would be a 
little bit more difficult to replace ;).  This would have been done because 
the self-automated robot society is based on MASS production where every 
part of the robotic civilization is easy to build, and, therefore, easily 
replaceable.  This mass production approach accounts for defects in the 
system that, while repairable through human intervention, are considered too 
insignificant to bother with.  Why worry about a dying drone when you have a 
million others to handle its job?  Fortunately, this system doesn't apply to 
human societies where we do bother to heal the sick.

This is my conservative twist for my already unconservative assumption of 
robotic automation and it is designed to help me believe in my own automated 
robot solutions.  I'll try to give the group a baseline plan for how such a 
robotic system would work.  It will probably have components inferred by the 
previous discussion and you can bet it will be filled with problems that 
might possibly even spark another avalanche of disscusion letters.  By the 
way.  I have 41 unread messages right now.  Most of which I probably won't 
read till Spring Break later this week.

>I'm wondering if you haven't given up sails too fast, anyway continue
>your search for new possibilities.

I haven't up on the sails.   I've just given up on retro-sails.  At least 
for now.  I'll probably reconsider it one of these days.

The Argosy design that I have in mind is, in fact, a maser driven sail 
attached to a ion rocket with a habitat that carries colonists and explorers 
to a starsystem already visited by Pathfinding/Pathmaking robots.  Those 
robots are assumed to have set up a maser system for decelerating the ship. 
 This solves what has always been our biggest problem, stopping.