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Re: starship-design: Go Starwisps

In a message dated 6/27/97 7:23:30 PM, TLG.van.der.Linden@tip.nl (Timothy van
der Linden) wrote:

>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.

How about thousands of scopes over hundreds or thousands of miles?  ;)  If we
can mass produce striped down hubble telescopes.  ( Say simple optics for a
couple million dollars each?  Like clemmintine technology.)  Launch a
thousand scattered over hundreds of thousands of miles of space.

>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
>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.

The photos would spark public interest.  

The geology and stuff would be interesting.  But if the robots got that much
info, why send the people?  ( a major question we never successfully
resolved.)  This mission would cost a fortune, and scientific curiosity never
got funding for a major space program.