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RE: starship-design: Go Starwisps
Given sufficiently large and sensitive telescopes in outer space, you may
be right. I am not sure that we can find out everything we need to know
from telescopes though. We may eventually be able to determine the
atmospheric components of extasolar planets teh size of Earth from here,
but that sort of resolution is way beyond us now. Of course, the spaceborne
infrastructure we would need to construct and launch probes would almost
make building such a telescope an afterthought.
I used to agree with this. But given you can probably gain
about the same amount of info via super sized telescopes, and
the robots would report back for decades (by then the whole
projects likely to be obsolete). I'm woundering if robot
probes aer very usefull?
I had envisioned doing both, finding out as much as possible from here
with telescopes, then sending a probe mission if there were planets or
some other compelling reason to do so. If for instance we can determine
that there are indeed planets of near Earth size in the life zone of
Tau Ceti, and perhaps even that there was an atmosphere, it is unlikely
that we could type all of the components of that atmosphere from here.
What if there were just a few ppm of cyanide gas? We wouldn't be able
to detect that from here with a crystal ball! But knowing that there
was an atmosphere we could send a very basic probe to do initial
surveys and maybe some sampling.
I agree with your point about timing, but I really don't see any other
way of doing it.