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starship-design: unmanned missions
list's been quiet lately, so i thought id float this one.
the idea of a manned starship mission holds considerable appeal in
terms of flexiblilty, public relations, amount of returned data, and
sheer coolness. However these advantages are outweighed by the fact
that manned starflight is not only very difficult, but dangerous
besides. given how much cleverer our computers are getting, letting a
purpose-built AI run things is not unreasonable, and in fifty years,
AI's may be even better 'astronauts' than humans, not being subject to
our frailties and psychosies. On the other hand, if we decided to
-really- explore a starsystem, manned missions would eventually be
desireable. machine-starships would/could still play a major role in a
manned mission. Here are some uses i cooked up for a fleet of automated
starships which could precede a manned flight, if we decide to send
Obviously, they could collect ALOT of data and send it back home. This
would give the manned mission half an idea of what to expect.
Deceleration/Return acceleration assist. a) a single ship carries extra
fuel along with its exploration stuff, this craft might be limited in
amount of exploration it could do, maybe just telescopes, no landers.
b) along with exploraton duties, a fleet of ships carries extra fuel &
supplies, prehaps pressing their engine magnets into sevice as mass
drivers thowing fuel to a decelerating/accelerating manned craft, as
proposed for the -explorer- class starships. c) an unmanned ship beams
(stored solar?) power to a manned sailship. this one could do lots of
subsequent starships, manned and unmanned. however sail power has its
If unmanned ships were nearly identical to their manned counterparts
(same engines, superstucture, etc.) they could be scavenged for parts,
eliminating the need for the manned mission to carry heavy, bulky
construction equipment. This provides a major safety factor for the
Finally, we could, after extensive unmanned exploration, decide that a
particular starsystem is not interesting enough to warrant manned
exploration (or too hazardous) and move on to the next star.
Of course, unmanned is the only choice for distances greater than 50
ly, given realistic estimates of technology over the next 100 years, but
even closer than that, robots hold advantages over people.
please pick apart my ideas.