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Re: starship-design: Go Starwisps

Kelly replied:

>>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)?
>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?

First of all you'd need rather big telescopes to resolve something like a
meter. Note that big can also mean two telescopes far apart (big means
something like 1E10 meters).
This number doesn't take into account that the telescope has to gather
enough light to make a visible image. It is likely that the two telescopes
that are far apart still need to be much bigger than anything we have on
Earth to give a bright enough image.

And there are many things we cannot figure out by light alone, that still
may be rather important for a mission.
Although I cannot estimate what would be important, I can give a few examples:
Think about the structure of the planets, and materials that can be found
there. You might be able to do some spectrography to figure out what lies on
the surface, but not what is just under it.
If there are organisms, we may like to know just a bit more than the fact
that they are there. Robots may capture/photograph them.
Kyle's question about airdensity and composition may be useful too.

Besides that having more detail is useful for the mission, it might spark
imagination of Earth's population and get some extra money.