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starship-design: Go Starwisps

> From: "L. Parker" <lparker@cacaphony.net>
> Now to more mundane matters. The point of my posting the list of stars 
> within 5 parsecs wasn't to poke holes in it (sorry Zenon) 
As a scientists, I am used to carefully check my data before
drawing any conclusions from them  ;-)

> I just wanted 
> everyone to see that there were FIFTY EIGHT stars within our reach NOW. 
> If you expand that another 5 parsecs there are THOUSANDS. I think we are 
> wasting time here...we need a couple of gigawatt free electron lasers 
> in orbit to start pushing out Starwisps as soon as we can. 
> We should be getting the first results back by the time we figure out 
> a better way to push manned starships to the stars.
I do agree.

Generally I consider it obvious that starting interstellar manned 
missions must be preceded by a series of robotic flyby/pathfinder 
missions (various scenarios of this sort were posted on this list,
e.g. by me and, just recently, Lee).
And these robotic probes are far easier to design, build and launch 
using even today's technology. In the same time, they constitute
a good exercise in interstellar flight technology,
necessary to be advanced and tested before any attempts 
to actually build and use a manned starship.
Possibly we should switch (at least for some time...)
into design of such robotic probe(s)?

The only problem I can see is safety - what if our robot
gets caught by some nearby spacefaring civilization?
May be (I am not sure) any interstellar activity of our species
should be suspended until we become well established
technologically within our planetary system so as to be less 
vulnerable to any ill effects that may come from the first 
interstelllar political (or biological) incident...
However, design exercises and simulations pose no such
problems and can be very useful, if only to sample 
and structure the space of design possibilities.

We do already have sent several interstellar probes,
but they will come anywhere near other star system
not earlier than some tens of thousands of years, 
so they seem not to produce any hazard of this sort
in the foreseable future. 

So, why not going robotic for a while?

[Additional benefit - lessening the danger of another outburst
 of that standard Zenon/Kelly flame war on one-way missions... ;-) ]

-- Zenon