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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.