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What would an interstellar spaceship look like?

brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
I don't think we're far from ready to send the first ships out of the Solar system. In fact, I believe that as soon as the first off-Earth colony proves viable we'll see the first ship head out to the stars. We aren't there yet, but the technological pieces are coming together.

Everyone will immediately begin to mention propulsion technology as the limiting factor, but it isn't even close. We could currently put a ship with a .001g drive into operation, its ultimate speed only limited by its fuel. A ship which is 99% fuel could accelerate for years, achieving speeds which would result in a century or so of travel time to the many nearby stars.

The power supply for such a ship would be a problem. Conventional nuclear reactors could do the job if they are breeder type reactors, but most radioactives used in conventional nuclear reactors have half-lives in the 5 year range, and you cannot carry extra fuel pellets because when they are needed they too will be depleted. But we are narrowing the gap on Fusion power, which may in just a few years begin to unleash great power. Current experimental fusion generators are kilometers long rings, which would not fit very well in a Borg Cube.

We're also nowhere near achieving artificial gravity, but spin works for pseudo-gravity. Of course, the greater the radius, the less speed needed to generate centripetal force, so cylindrical or spherical shapes would have to spin very fast, even if large, and leave the majority of the vessel in reduced or negligible pseudogravity.

And of course, there must be a self-sustaining habitat for a minimum of two hundred people if the eventual colony is to avoid inbreeding and genetic stagnation. So the habitat must be large, and if animals are going along for the ride their needs must be accomodated. At anything approaching interstellar speed, even microscopic dust becomes potentially lethal. Earth protects us with magnetic fields, and so can a spacecraft, but for every negatively charged ion such a screen would repel, it would attract a positively charged one. There must be a means for this material to miss the craft, which means there must be a hole in the center.

So, it turns out there is an optimal shape for such a craft: the bicycle tire. Its ring shape makes pseudogravity easy and its internal volume would be at about the same centripetal acceleration. Its ring shape accomodates a ring shaped fusion reactor, and thrusters mounted on gimbals could be directed to spin up or down the vessel and even reverse to slow the craft at the so-called 'halfway point', (which is actually more than halfway because as fuel is consumed the thrusters become relatively more powerful, slowing down the craft faster than it could accelerate due to its vastly reduced mass.) Because 99% of the ship's mass would be fuel, storing it on the leading edge of the wheel would create an ablative shield for the bits of matter that don't bounce off the magnetic field generated by the electromagnets of the fusion ring.

The problem of creating a self-sustaining biosphere seems to be far more daunting than the other technical hurdles, but given that single advance, (which won't happen until we live in space for a generation or two,) we already have the tdchnological capacity to do this. Heck, if we create self-sustaining biospheres, we'll never need a planet again: just Oort Cloud debris and an occasional venture into a star's gravity well for metals.

We're not there yet, but we're close. Two generations at most, and I might live long enough to see my grandchildren go to the stars.
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    starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 11,556 Arc User
    Depending on the restrictions of interstellar travel, a ring ship might be completely useless or extremely slow due to the lack of inertia dampeners. It might take hundreds or thousands of years for humanity to reach the nearest stars even if the ships were launched at the end of this century. If humans can't survive interstellar travel, then there are other methods of creating human colonies which don't require the use of adding expensive life support systems to the interstellar ship. We could download our consciousness into synthetic bodies or we could send a ship that uses a 3D printer to print humans and buildings at the colony site. Then there is the possibility of sending a probe to build a wormhole station at a particular site and the colony ship only spends at most a few days travelling.
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    lordrezeonlordrezeon Member Posts: 399 Arc User
    There is also the issue of finding a suitable place to go. Spending centuries going someplace only to find out it is a dud isn't an acceptable proposition.

    Ultimately if manned interstellar space travel is going to ever be a reality we will need faster than light propulsion. There is just no way around that. Sadly our current theories on that are all speculative at the moment. There are some math equations that look like they would work on paper, but they require either crazy amounts of power or some way to defy physics.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    Actually, with fractional g drives, the time to the stars is two years plus the distance in light years. That puts every star within 50 light years within one lifetime's distance. And so what if there are no habitable planets there? The model colony would be no different from a Mars colony or an asteroid/planetoid colony. What's the difference if your colony orbits Jupiter for hundreds of years or breaks Sol orbit for other stars?

    As for inertial dampers, my .001g ship wouldn't need any. Its acceleration would hardly be noticeable without instrumentation. Besides, once we get control of gravity microfusion becomes possible and every colony ship will be powered by its own artificial microstar.

    We aren't even close on control of gravity, short of some serendipity, but we're marching hard towards fusion power. I'll probably live to see commercial fusion power plants. Everything else is a matter of time, money, and trial and error.
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    jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 10,397 Arc User
    starkaos wrote: »
    Depending on the restrictions of interstellar travel, a ring ship might be completely useless or extremely slow due to the lack of inertia dampeners. It might take hundreds or thousands of years for humanity to reach the nearest stars even if the ships were launched at the end of this century. If humans can't survive interstellar travel, then there are other methods of creating human colonies which don't require the use of adding expensive life support systems to the interstellar ship. We could download our consciousness into synthetic bodies or we could send a ship that uses a 3D printer to print humans and buildings at the colony site. Then there is the possibility of sending a probe to build a wormhole station at a particular site and the colony ship only spends at most a few days travelling.
    However, Brian's original post dealt with existing or near-future technologies. Uploading consciousness is a mainstay of cyberpunk-style SF; however, we haven't a clue how to begin, or even if it's possible. Heck, we haven't even managed a simple AI yet, just some interesting expert systems. As for 3D printing human beings, that's even further out than FTL or wormholes - at least there's a wormhole theory (although Einstein-Rosen bridges require a black hole at each end, which makes them rather less than useful for our purposes).

    OTOH, STL ships, whether generational or otherwise, take a simple extrapolation of existing technology, rather than anything that isn't even theory yet. It was long thought that Bussard ramscoops could harvest interstellar hydrogen for fuel for a fusion ramjet; later work with the maths demonstrated that the top speed would be limited to approximately 12% of lightspeed before the drag from harvesting the hydrogen would equal the thrust provided by the drive. A low-thrust fusion drive, on the other hand, would provide constant acceleration (for the first half of the trip, of course, then rotate and apply the exact same thrust the other direction to slow down). According to the online sources I've found (as I lack the mathematical knowledge to run the calculations myself), a ship with a constant acceleration of 0.01g would take 40 years to reach Proxima Centauri, which may have a terrestrial planet in its Goldilocks zone (of course, it's a red dwarf, with the usual tendency of red dwarf stars to flare, so said planet may not be habitable, assuming it even exists). Take that up to 0.1g, and trip time is only 13.6 years. Of course, you're going to want to build a really, really sturdy lifesystem, as it might be necessary to go check out another star (Tau Ceti appears to have one terrestrial planet on the inner edge of its life zone, and another on the outer, but it also has a thicker Kuiper belt than Sol so said planets might have been bombarded into uselessness by comets; TRAPPIST-1 is much further away, and I believe in a different direction).

    I'm still holding out hope that Alcubierre and White have described a real phenomenon in their theory, and not just self-consistent numbers; if so, that provides a way of traveling FTL without outraging Einstein, as the ship itself sits in a bubble of flat space - it's the bubble itself that "moves", as space contracts before it and expands behind. (Relativity places no limits on how rapidly space itself can propagate, after all - it merely regulates the velocity of mass/energy through space.) So far, experimental results have been inconclusive, as the only method we have so far to generate negative energy density involves placing two extremely flat metallic objects less than a Planck length apart, and it's really difficult to keep your laser shining through that space to look for distortions.
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    mirrorchaosmirrorchaos Member Posts: 9,844 Arc User
    lordrezeon wrote: »
    There is also the issue of finding a suitable place to go. Spending centuries going someplace only to find out it is a dud isn't an acceptable proposition.

    Ultimately if manned interstellar space travel is going to ever be a reality we will need faster than light propulsion. There is just no way around that. Sadly our current theories on that are all speculative at the moment. There are some math equations that look like they would work on paper, but they require either crazy amounts of power or some way to defy physics.

    it isn't just FTL, our data needs to be accurate before we even get out there.

    we also need to build ships that are capable of withstanding FTL and landing on a potentially heavier world gravity or pressure wise, far more than what we can usually do. we also need to find out if the flora isn't poisonous or highly toxic to humans or even if they provide the same type of nutrients as a typical plant from earth like cabbage, lettuce, carrots... the local fauna also needs to be explored as well. we also need to explore out if the land is stable enough to allow human settlement or if our impact would cause a mass extinction..

    there are so many unanswered questions that we got to take into consideration beyond just a ship and it's engine, from excellent to absurd within reason.
    T6 Miranda Hero Ship FTW.
    Been around since Dec 2010 on STO and bought LTS in Apr 2013 for STO.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    See, that's an issue that hangs up many people who think about space travel: the idea that you need to end up on a habitable planet.

    Why?

    At the point that you can travel 13 years inside a closed habitat, you don't need planets any more. Why stop at Proxima or even Alpha Centauri? Since you won't be coming back anyway, why not head on out to Beetle Juice, (or however they spell Betelgeuse.)

    There are a round dozen G type stars within 10 parsecs, (30 light years,) and another two dozen in twenty. And there are nine red dwarfs in that same volume for each of every other type of star. Why not check them out? You will need stars to harvest volatiles and replenish fuel supplies, but you'll only want a planet if it has suitable conditions for Terraforming. Otherwise, you'd probably want to stay out of a star's gravity well while you harvest comets and plant flags.

    As far as worlds with existing life: no. You really want to leave those alone, and not just for preservation of their ecosystems. We currently have exactly one sample of life to study, and it is malignant, tenacious, adaptive, and virulent. Even to creatures which evolved from a common ancestor unknown life forms pose great danger.

    For example, bubonic plague appears to be endimic to India, but unleashed into Europe via trade networks, it became a plague that decimated Europe. And the Europeans spread smallpox and siphilus to the natives of many other nations, some of which no longer exist as a result. Look at what rats and cats did to Australia and the Pacific Islands.

    And we're not certain our kind of life is the more aggressive. Imagine an Ebola type germ for which humans not only have no immunity, but lack the ability to develop one. Such a germ could wipe out all foreign life in a short time. It need not even directly kill us. We are hosts to symbiotic life forms that sustain us. Now imagine how well we'd feel if the alien germs simply displaced our gut bacteria?

    There is a reason Earth beat the Martians in War Of The Worlds. The novel was certainly fiction, but it did illustrate a very important point, and we're not sure if we'd be the Martians in an alien Earth biosphere or if we are really the most hostile life form ever to spawn. Why take the chance? There are lots of stars out there waiting for life to arrive. Live and let live, I say.
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    mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,963 Arc User
    edited August 2017
    The forum is deleting my posts. Gargh.
    Star Trek Online Advancement: You start with lowbie gear, you end with Lobi gear.
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    mirrorchaosmirrorchaos Member Posts: 9,844 Arc User
    all of which comes down to the same thing regarding how we will get there, how far our technology has advanced and our understanding.

    we can't just go to an alien world and trash it, it's unique. it's the same type of thinking we face today regarding global warming on earth, there are those people who want to cut the emissions and eliminate it through cleaner vehicles and industry and those who don't care and want the most dirty cars and industry to pump out smog and choke the atmosphere killing anything in it's path and when the UK no longer exists without the gulf stream because the air has become too warm for the effect to work any more, it will be an eye opener.

    what i am saying is that we need to think about these things out first and very seriously before we can take the next step, be it a rocketship to explore or finding a world to colonise or adjust it's planetary atmosphere. in the case of worlds truly devoid of life, terraforming could be a good first step to rebuilding a world.

    We don't know how aggressive we are yet, but we can be quite destructive to everything around us if we don't take care. i hope when we do make it into space that we don't cause trouble on the first attempt.
    T6 Miranda Hero Ship FTW.
    Been around since Dec 2010 on STO and bought LTS in Apr 2013 for STO.
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    mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,963 Arc User
    edited August 2017
    bla2
    I think the only feasible way with sublight would require building a mostly self-sustaining ecosphere aboard a starship. I give leeway for mining stuff from asteroids or comets, and maybe even planning for the occassional visit to a star system where you could gain power from the sun, but counting on finding a habitable ecosphere somewhere else seems too risky. Even if you were to find a planet with life, you might find it's mostly poisonous to humans and you'd need time to cultivate plants or animals or reeingineer human biology to be able to survive there. This could take an unpredictable amount of time.

    (Maybe we should attach rockets to Earth.)

    With current technology, I don't really see it as feasible. I don't think we have technology that is low enough in maintenance to do it. Maybe it would be possible to do so, we just don't build them like that because no one really needs that. Technology advancement in most sectors would still have you replace the item after a few decades at most.

    We would need lots of fuel, and ideally a very fuel efficient engine. Ion Engines are slow, though.
    We would need an energy source that we can replenish in space. (Nuclear Batteries that can be recharged with solar power once we're close enough to a star again to use solar collectors?)
    We would need mining facility that we can use in space on comets or asteroids to extract non-recycable materials and replenish stuff we simply lost due to accidents or whatever.
    We need (very, very close to) 100 % good water and air recycling system.
    We need plants and probably animal life to grow food and have a "recycling" system for the organic material.
    We need a shielding against cosmic radiation.
    We need lots of spare parts, and machines that can build new spare sparts. (3D Printers or traditional factories...)
    We need machinery that is easy to maintain and rebuild.
    We need lots of documentation and lots of backup.

    We need a crew/colonists with a diverse set of skills.
    These colonists also need to be prepared to produce off-spring that will eventually take over the ship.



    I found the series "Ascension" quite fun. It's about a space ship from the 50s or so that is on its way to Alpha Centauri. They touch some of the concepts.
    But they cheat. The space ship is actually not a space ship at all. It's standing in an underground complex and carefuly observed by scientists and researchers to study the effects of such a long space voyage.




    Star Trek Online Advancement: You start with lowbie gear, you end with Lobi gear.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    I did say that 99% of the ship's mass would be fuel and volatiles, and that we need to develop self-sustaining artificial biospheres. After that it's just a matter of money and time before someone sets off toward the stars.
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    mirrorchaosmirrorchaos Member Posts: 9,844 Arc User
    i agree with what you are both saying, a self-sustaining complex and off-world mining and the ability to recycle all the rubbish and waste products would be exactly what we need. if we can manage that, perhaps after the attempt on Mars in a decade or so from now and gain experience and feedback on what needs to be done. i think there is a very good chance we could consider colonies and if we do scout around these world, some form of protective suit could be useful to have incase of contamination. some form of hover vehicle that has no effect on the flora, fauna and the planet would be nice and any study to these worlds would have to be carefully handled.
    T6 Miranda Hero Ship FTW.
    Been around since Dec 2010 on STO and bought LTS in Apr 2013 for STO.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    We've already invented hover vehicles which are cheap, reliable, easy to manufacture, and inexpensive to operate: helium baloons.
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    markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 35,231 Arc User
    Part of the reason the world ship idea is popular in the more hard scifi is that it means that you have a functional colony flying through space. IF you find a world that can support life you can expand out of the ship onto the planet. Otherwise you keep moving until you find something.
    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
    My character Tsin'xing
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    mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,963 Arc User
    I think the world ship is also the only plausible idea for interstellar travel with humans aboard.
    (And for Sci-Fi, no one really wants to hear the story of non-sentient robots exploring space over millenia. Or do they?)
    Star Trek Online Advancement: You start with lowbie gear, you end with Lobi gear.
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    brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
    edited August 2017
    The forum is deleting my posts. Gargh.

    Always copy your post before you hit the Post button. Make it a habit.
    I think the world ship is also the only plausible idea for interstellar travel with humans aboard.
    (And for Sci-Fi, no one really wants to hear the story of non-sentient robots exploring space over millenia. Or do they?)

    I don't know about non-sentient, but Saberhagen did a good job with Berserker.
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    theraven2378theraven2378 Member Posts: 5,993 Arc User
    Would something like the Epstein drive from The Expanse be practical?
    The Expanse ships were practical designs just there to do a function not to look good
    NMXb2ph.png
      "The meaning of victory is not to merely defeat your enemy but to destroy him, to completely eradicate him from living memory, to leave no remnant of his endeavours, to crush utterly his achievement and remove from all record his every trace of existence. From that defeat no enemy can ever recover. That is the meaning of victory."
      -Lord Commander Solar Macharius
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      mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,963 Arc User
      brian334 wrote: »
      The forum is deleting my posts. Gargh.

      Always copy your post before you hit the Post button. Make it a habit.
      I did, but then it wouldn't let me post it, and I had to trick it with posting something else first. I figure the latter is some anti-spam/double-post protection, it detects that I already submitted a similar post before and thus blocks it... except the old post has disappeared in the buggy bughell of bugs.
      Star Trek Online Advancement: You start with lowbie gear, you end with Lobi gear.
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      mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,963 Arc User
      edited August 2017
      Would something like the Epstein drive from The Expanse be practical?
      The Expanse ships were practical designs just there to do a function not to look good
      The Epstein drive itself is unfortunately science fiction and not based on anything realistic. Epstein apparently stumbled upon some unexpected way to make his drive much more effective and efficient, but the details are completely fictional.

      And the ships are "only" designed for interplanetary travel in the solar system.

      Otherwise, the Expanse is pretty good at this. Because they have such an efficient and high performing drive, they also create artificial gravity in a very simple manner - operating the drive at 1G acceleration and aligning the decks so the acceleration serves as your artificial gravity. They don't need to use spin that way. (Of course, if the engine fails, they need to maneuver a lot, or need to fly very fast, this benefit goes away, and it's just random acceleration, often too strong for humans to be able to operate normally.)

      I forgotten the name of the ship that religious sect is building, but that would be the Expanse solution to interstellar travel. Since they have the Epstein drive, they obviously don't need those 99 % of their mass as fuel. But if they did, you would need to imagine that ship, and then add a giant fuel tank about 100 times as large as the ship.

      At least in the TV show, there is also an example of how their life support systems can utterly and catastrophically fail after some damage, even if it first appears it might be recoverable. Things fail so fast that they can't seem to save the station, and that is with access to other stations and planets that could lend help. On a interstellar space ship,it would be even more difficult.
      Of course, it's a work of fiction, so things ultimately fail as fast as the plot requires, but I suspect it's reasonably fast.
      Star Trek Online Advancement: You start with lowbie gear, you end with Lobi gear.
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      starfarerthetastarfarertheta Member Posts: 740 Arc User
      edited August 2017
      The British Interplanetary Society conducted a study, Project Daedalus, between 1973 and 1978 on this subject:
      Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Daedalus
      BIS page: http://www.bis-space.com/what-we-do/projects/project-daedalus

      There is also a new initiative conducting the same kind of investigation, Project Icarus, along with other related stuff:
      Icarus Interstellar projects page: http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/projects


      Edit: I know these are mostly unmanned probes, but if we do make a manned ship it might not look too different to what's being proposed in this links. It would probably need to be a bit bigger though.
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      theraven2378theraven2378 Member Posts: 5,993 Arc User
      Would something like the Epstein drive from The Expanse be practical?
      The Expanse ships were practical designs just there to do a function not to look good
      The Epstein drive itself is unfortunately science fiction and not based on anything realistic. Epstein apparently stumbled upon some unexpected way to make his drive much more effective and efficient, but the details are completely fictional.

      And the ships are "only" designed for interplanetary travel in the solar system.

      Otherwise, the Expanse is pretty good at this. Because they have such an efficient and high performing drive, they also create artificial gravity in a very simple manner - operating the drive at 1G acceleration and aligning the decks so the acceleration serves as your artificial gravity. They don't need to use spin that way. (Of course, if the engine fails, they need to maneuver a lot, or need to fly very fast, this benefit goes away, and it's just random acceleration, often too strong for humans to be able to operate normally.)

      I forgotten the name of the ship that religious sect is building, but that would be the Expanse solution to interstellar travel. Since they have the Epstein drive, they obviously don't need those 99 % of their mass as fuel. But if they did, you would need to imagine that ship, and then add a giant fuel tank about 100 times as large as the ship.

      At least in the TV show, there is also an example of how their life support systems can utterly and catastrophically fail after some damage, even if it first appears it might be recoverable. Things fail so fast that they can't seem to save the station, and that is with access to other stations and planets that could lend help. On a interstellar space ship,it would be even more difficult.
      Of course, it's a work of fiction, so things ultimately fail as fast as the plot requires, but I suspect it's reasonably fast.

      This is the generational ship the religious sect were building
      http://expanse.wikia.com/wiki/Nauvoo
      NMXb2ph.png
        "The meaning of victory is not to merely defeat your enemy but to destroy him, to completely eradicate him from living memory, to leave no remnant of his endeavours, to crush utterly his achievement and remove from all record his every trace of existence. From that defeat no enemy can ever recover. That is the meaning of victory."
        -Lord Commander Solar Macharius
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        brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
        The British Interplanetary Society conducted a study, Project Daedalus, between 1973 and 1978 on this subject:
        Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Daedalus
        BIS page: http://www.bis-space.com/what-we-do/projects/project-daedalus

        There is also a new initiative conducting the same kind of investigation, Project Icarus, along with other related stuff:
        Icarus Interstellar projects page: http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/projects


        Edit: I know these are mostly unmanned probes, but if we do make a manned ship it might not look too different to what's being proposed in this links. It would probably need to be a bit bigger though.

        As a personal opinion, I am wholly uninterested in unmanned probes. They can only ever answer the questions we knew to ask before they were sent. They cannot arrive at a point then say, "Hey, what's that over there?"

        Real space exploration, again, in my opinion, must be done by people. People can adapt to new knowledge acquired after the mission is at its destination and devise new means of studying something nobody expected to find. People can repair broken stuff. As an example, one of the Mars Rovers broke a wheel. Had there been a human nearby it would have been a simple thing to fix. Lacking a human, the machine just sits there corroding.

        And what about phenomena for which the machine was not built with instruments to study? An example of this is the Hexagon on Saturn. Voyager took pics of it by accident and went on its way. It took seven years for those studying the Saturn puctures to notice the hexagon. Then Cassinni took pictures more recently and the hexagon is still there.

        Currently we don't know why it's there, but the prevailing hypothesis is that it is a complex interaction between layers of different winds. Had a human been on Voyager, he might have noticed the feature just by looking out a window, and noticing it directed cameras and other instruments to focus on the anomaly. He might then have built and launched a few wind monitoring balloons to drop into it. By now we'd have a much clearer idea of what is going on out there.

        But robots were sent, and having photographed in the directions and times it was programmed to do so, Voyager went on its merry way never realizing it had photographed a miracle. How many miracles which would jump out and grab a human's attention did these robot probes fly past, totally oblivious to the miracle's existence?

        Robotic exploration is cheaper, but it is infinitely slower and far less comprehensive. We only learn decades later which instruments and instructions we failed to send, and interstellar robots will only increase the time scale.

        Of course humans will die while exploring space, if by nothing else by old age. But humans die every day and there doesn't appear to be a cure for it. The risk to the humans should not be minimized, but as the quote on the Icarus Project's home page says,

        "...if he is destined not yet to reach the sun and solve finally the riddle of its constitution, we may yet hope to learn from his journey some hints to build a better machine."
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        markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 35,231 Arc User
        I think the world ship is also the only plausible idea for interstellar travel with humans aboard.
        (And for Sci-Fi, no one really wants to hear the story of non-sentient robots exploring space over millenia. Or do they?)
        It's even been seen in Star Trek! :D
        -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
        My character Tsin'xing
        Costume_marhawkman_Tsin%27xing_CC_Comic_Page_Blue_488916968.jpg
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        jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 10,397 Arc User
        Most bacteria and viruses don't even like to cross species barriers here on Earth. Try as you might, you can't catch parvovirus or feline leukemia, much less tobacco rust or dutch elm disease. Why would you assume an alien virus, native to an entirely different evolutionary chain, would find us useful or tasty at all?
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        brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
        jonsills wrote: »
        Most bacteria and viruses don't even like to cross species barriers here on Earth. Try as you might, you can't catch parvovirus or feline leukemia, much less tobacco rust or dutch elm disease. Why would you assume an alien virus, native to an entirely different evolutionary chain, would find us useful or tasty at all?

        Because assuming they are not dangerous is playing Russian Roulette. Most aren't harmful, sure, but what if one isn't?

        And such life forms need not actually be harmful, but still outcompete Terrestrial life on its home turf. Soil for planting is more than clay and sand; it is alive. To grow what we need to live a complex soil ecology must be established in direct competition for resources with the surrounding biosphere. And alien life has had time to adapt to its environment.

        It is much simpler to watch alien life, but otherwise leave it alone.
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        markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 35,231 Arc User
        jonsills wrote: »
        Most bacteria and viruses don't even like to cross species barriers here on Earth. Try as you might, you can't catch parvovirus or feline leukemia, much less tobacco rust or dutch elm disease. Why would you assume an alien virus, native to an entirely different evolutionary chain, would find us useful or tasty at all?
        Hehe. Me and some buddies watched that ENT ep with the silicon virus. They were kinda like "wow that looks realistic"... until I pointed out one simple thing... How would a silicon based virus replicate inside a human body?
        -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
        My character Tsin'xing
        Costume_marhawkman_Tsin%27xing_CC_Comic_Page_Blue_488916968.jpg
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        mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 12,963 Arc User
        patrickngo wrote: »
        brian334 wrote: »
        jonsills wrote: »
        Most bacteria and viruses don't even like to cross species barriers here on Earth. Try as you might, you can't catch parvovirus or feline leukemia, much less tobacco rust or dutch elm disease. Why would you assume an alien virus, native to an entirely different evolutionary chain, would find us useful or tasty at all?

        Because assuming they are not dangerous is playing Russian Roulette. Most aren't harmful, sure, but what if one isn't?

        And such life forms need not actually be harmful, but still outcompete Terrestrial life on its home turf. Soil for planting is more than clay and sand; it is alive. To grow what we need to live a complex soil ecology must be established in direct competition for resources with the surrounding biosphere. And alien life has had time to adapt to its environment.

        It is much simpler to watch alien life, but otherwise leave it alone.

        simpler,but so is doing nothing until the sun expands and kills your homeworld.
        Still doesn't require interacting with alien life. If your worry is the sun's expansion, you have time to terraform a suitable planet over a few million years.
        jonsills wrote: »
        Most bacteria and viruses don't even like to cross species barriers here on Earth. Try as you might, you can't catch parvovirus or feline leukemia, much less tobacco rust or dutch elm disease. Why would you assume an alien virus, native to an entirely different evolutionary chain, would find us useful or tasty at all?
        Of course, this works both ways. And it doesn't just apply to diseases. It can also apply to the ability to actually consume plants or animals. Our system might lack enzymes needed to effectively process it (like we can't get nourishment from grass), and the same issue might exist for alien animal and plant life trying to consumeus.

        And of course, we're only talking about the kind of life we know from Earth. (Though I think that at least if we're talking about pure chemical based life, it might turn out that carbon-based life like ours in general is really the only way to go. But maybe some Silicon based lifeform on another world is arguing the same thing on a message board...)
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        brian334brian334 Member Posts: 2,214 Arc User
        patrickngo wrote: »
        brian334 wrote: »
        jonsills wrote: »
        Most bacteria and viruses don't even like to cross species barriers here on Earth. Try as you might, you can't catch parvovirus or feline leukemia, much less tobacco rust or dutch elm disease. Why would you assume an alien virus, native to an entirely different evolutionary chain, would find us useful or tasty at all?

        Because assuming they are not dangerous is playing Russian Roulette. Most aren't harmful, sure, but what if one isn't?

        And such life forms need not actually be harmful, but still outcompete Terrestrial life on its home turf. Soil for planting is more than clay and sand; it is alive. To grow what we need to live a complex soil ecology must be established in direct competition for resources with the surrounding biosphere. And alien life has had time to adapt to its environment.

        It is much simpler to watch alien life, but otherwise leave it alone.

        simpler,but so is doing nothing until the sun expands and kills your homeworld.

        Because, guess what? that is a thing that is definitely going to happen (though barring some major incident, not while you're alive.)

        the process of life, of being alive, is to resist entropy. Nature is a competitive environment and species go extinct all the time. they were doing it before we came along, they'll be doing it after we're all gone.

        I'm going to give you the utilitarian argument, because that's the one a lot of self-styled 'naturalists' seem to miss.

        Manned flight isn't about taking pretty pictures, or setting records, or spectaculars. it's about the fact that our species, our civilization, including all those folks who love Nature and hate technology, can die in a single burning instant, and if we don't spread out from this single solar system, that goes from 'could' to 'will.'

        Exploration is about survival. You don't explore to take nice pictures and win nobel prizes, you explore because eventually you'll need to go there, to get out, to spread beyond the single fragile basket perched precariously on a cliff face.

        going there? means you're going to have to do that thing that Nature does-you'll have to compete with the local ecology (if there even is one), you'll have to accept that extinction happens, and accept that you don't want it to happen to YOU.

        But I don't advocate doing nothing. In fact, I am advocating going to the stars in just a few generations, once we get a handle on key technologies like a long term power supply and a stable closed biosphere.

        And while I strongly advise we not mess with alien life other than to study it, our current experience shows that only one in eight planets can harbor life. Include some large moons and the ratio is 1:30 or so. Even if life proves to be common in the universe there's going to be a lot of empty real estate waiting for development.
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        rattler2rattler2 Member, Star Trek Online Moderator Posts: 58,156 Community Moderator
        Right now one of our main problems is keeping supplied. Another is some form of gravity for long term expeditions. I don't think we're going to be leaving our solar system just yet, but WITHIN our solar system is another thing entirely.

        I think we're probably gonna have ships with rotating sections to provide some form of gravity, as seen in Interstellar and Babylon 5. From there... we're probably gonna have to develop a reliable craft that can enter and leave a planet's atmosphere without the need of a launch aid of some kind. Until then I don't see interstellar exploration really happening until we solve some issues that will take more advances in technology to solve.
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