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RE: starship-design: Zero point energy: Power source
Somehow I think that the INITIAL probes to go out will be "robotic" if you can call something that is intelligent enough to explore an extra solar system on its own, perform self repair (heal) and perhaps even reproduce (clone) itself a robot. Self aware or not, such an entity fits most definitions of life.
This avatar would not even need to be particularly large, something on the order of a Starwisp type of probe that was capable of building additional capability in the target system if it found sufficient resources (and reason) to do so.
The first human explorer would already possess relatively complete astrography as well as limited geographical and biological and environmental data. Starwisps can be mass produced cheaply in large numbers, accelerated to much larger fractions of light speed by smaller and less numerous lasers (or whatever propulsion system may then be available) and would provide an initial return of information far quicker for less cost than a large manned expedition would. The ideal chronology would run something like this:
1) Survey of extra-solar system by Deep Space Array and Lunar Observatories
a) No planets or significant items of interest found - forget it for now
b) Habitable planets or potential resources/scientifically interesting - go to 2)
2) Fly by exploration by first generation Starwisp
a) Planets not habitable/resource poor - forget it for now
b) Inhabited - QUARANTINE - go to 3)
b) Confirmation of habitable planets or resources etc. - go to 3)
3) Robotic exploration by Avatar
a) Inhabited by intelligent non-spacefaring (Level 0) species - build appropriate research outpost and maintain quarantine, no contact yet.
b) Inhabited by intelligent spacefaring (Level 1) species - send second generation Starwisp and maintain quarantine, no contact yet.
c)Uninhabited or not obviously inhabited - build Outpost and begin automated development of spaceborne infrastructure preparatory to arrival of Survey Mission.
4) Outpost or Survey Mission
a) Inhabited Level 0 civilization (we are technically a Level 0 civilization) - Surveillance and intelligence gathering by automated probe until limit of technology to produce information is reached and determination is made whether closer observation is warranted or necessary. Establish Research Outpost. Maintain QUARANTINE.
b) Uninhabited - send Industrial Outpost Mission, Research Outpost Mission or Survey Mission as appropriate - go to 5)
5) Colony Mission - if appropriate.
Definition of terms:
Avatar - a relatively large autonomous, robotic probe capable of deceleration into an extra solar system, movement within the system, exploration of the system, repair/replication of itself. Constructs communication facilities and perhaps limited facilities to aid in the next phase of exploration such as fuel gathering or construction of lasers or some such. This is a one way trip.
Colony Mission - Large (Explorer Class) starship carrying sufficient personnel to establish a permanent colony either in orbit, on a moon or on a planet as necessary. This is primarily a one way trip for the colonists but may be a round trip for the vessel and crew.
Outpost Mission - Large (Explorer Class) starship carrying personnel and equipment to establish a primarily space-borne colony for either research or industrial development. This mission may be designed as one way or round trip for the initial trip depending upon whether there are plans for subsequent trips or no for crew rotation.
Starwisp - Originally a featherweight lightsail probe launched with the aid of lasers on a one way fly-by of nearby star systems. Any propulsion system may be considered in the context of a featherweight probe however. This is a one way trip but may be directed through multiple star systems if vehicle lifetime permits.
Survey Mission - Medium (Pathfinder Class) starship carrying primarily scientific and technical crew to study and fully explore a new system. This mission is designed to return to our solar system.
As you can see, exploring the universe is not quite like Star Trek or Buck Rodgers. It will be a fairly lengthy time consuming process for each and every new system. The cost will tax the mother planet heavily at first, but if enough self replication is built in, the first Avatars can automatically build and launch the next Starwisps in a leap frog fashion that will rapidly cascade into a fairly complete knowledge of at least our local region of space.
The only thing I didn't mention was what if we send a probe to a system with a Level 1 civilization...well, I don't expect the probe to get away undetected, so the response is pretty much up to them, they will know about us LONG before we find out about them.
Long experience has taught me not to believe in the limitations indicated by purely theoretical considerations. These - as we well know - are based on insufficient knowledge of all the relevant factors."
From: KellySt@aol.com [SMTP:KellySt@aol.com]
Sent: Sunday, June 15, 1997 10:35 AM
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: Re: starship-design: Zero point energy: Power source
In a message dated 6/14/97 10:02:00 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org (Steve VanDevender)
But you forget. The rule was that mass was always conserved, AND Energy was
conserved. We didn't know a century ago that you could convert one to the
other. Its only been since then that we take about the conservation of
mass/energy. I.E. that we talk about them as interchangable.
In the same way way didn't used to think time or space were bendable things.
Now its a common assumption.
But you could get it back faster with telescopes, and with less cost.
Beside, a rich explorer might deside to spend his her life on a voyage
knowing he/she would never be able to return the info to the home
civilization left behind. (Yes someone would be back their, but they woun't
be your civilization or culture.) But civilizations (and voters or
investors) don't routinely sign big checks that they know they never see a