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Telepresence — Our Best Bet For Exploring Space

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the until-we-perfect-the-bussard-ramjet dept.

Space 309

Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute recently wrote an opinion piece for the NY Times discussing the limitations of our space technology. He makes the harsh point that transporting human beings to other star systems isn't a reasonable goal even on a multi-generational time frame. However, advances in robotics and data gathering could instead bring the planets and stars to us, and do it far sooner. Quoting: "Sending humans to the stars is simply not in the offing. But this is how we could survey other worlds, around other suns. We fling data-collecting, robotic craft to the stars. These proxy explorers can be very small, and consequently can be shot spaceward at tremendous speed even with the types of rockets now available. Robot probes don't require life support systems, don't get sick or claustrophobic and don't insist on round-trip tickets. ... These microbots would supply the information that, fed to computers, would allow us to explore alien planets in the same way that we navigate the virtual spaces of video games or wander through online environments like Second Life. High-tech masks and data gloves, sartorial accessories considerably more comfortable than a spacesuit, would permit you to see the landscape, touch objects and even smell the air."

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309 comments

frirst pst (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637469)

frirst

Re:frirst pst (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637757)

First post, last in spelling bee.
 

Latency (4, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 years ago | (#27637493)

Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light?

Unless they solve the FTL comms problem it takes seconds even for a short distance like Earth to Moon.

So if you are going to explore some far away place, telepresence will still require you to ship some human to the general vicinity.

Re:Latency (-1, Redundant)

peragrin (659227) | about 5 years ago | (#27637519)

shh don't spoil their self delusional rants. I rather enjoy them. It's like watching a B sci-f movie.

Not to mention if you want to bring something back larger than samples the you need big machines and people to control them.

Re:Latency (4, Funny)

LogarithmicSpiral (1463679) | about 5 years ago | (#27637529)

You mean you still haven't figured out about the ansible?

Re:Latency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637567)

That's what I thought, but in TFA they're talking about virtual environments constructed from the data gathered.

Or...exactly like using google-earth or ms flight sim.

But hey, they mention "Second life" so it must be news.

Re:Latency (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 5 years ago | (#27637583)

Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light?

Unless they solve the FTL comms problem it takes seconds even for a short distance like Earth to Moon.

Yep. I guess this would be very useful for experiencing an alien place in a holodeck-like way, but it'll be all cached up. It's inevitable that to explore deep space we'll need autonomous robots, the 8.5 year round trip to the nearest star is a bit long to be waiting around...

Re:Latency (1)

Nailor (999083) | about 5 years ago | (#27637589)

Duh. Just use Fatline transmitter or step through a farcaster, in case the endpoint is inside the Web.

Re:Latency (5, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | about 5 years ago | (#27637607)

Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light?

Yes, because a member of the SETI institute never thought of that.

Honestly, Slashdotters really think *way* too highly of themselves... or way too little of the average scientist.

So if you are going to explore some far away place, telepresence will still require you to ship some human to the general vicinity.

No, because the idea isn't interactive exploration, in the sense that you remotely control the robotic probe in real time. The idea is that you collect massive amounts of data about a world, transmit it back, and then use that data to build a virtual model that you can then explore at your leisure.

Of course, such an approach will have limitations (if you decide you want to see what's under a rock, unless you knew ahead of time to turn it over, you'd have to then send instructions to a probe and then wait for the new data to come back). But its certainly an interesting idea, IMHO.

Re:Latency (4, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 years ago | (#27637745)

It's fine for exploring nearby places like Mars. But other than that it doesn't solve the main problem.

The nearest star is 4 light years away.

If we really want to explore space we should seriously figure out plans and methods to construct space colonies that can build space colonies - and maybe one day, ones that can survive interstellar journeys.

Then it doesn't matter so much how long we take to get to various places in the solar system or even the galaxy.

Re:Latency (2, Insightful)

durrr (1316311) | about 5 years ago | (#27637931)

If we really want to explore space we need to start with developing a propulsion system that would get the bloody colony ship to the target destination in say, less time than it takes for the colonists to evolve until they're about as related to us as bacteria.

Our probe farthest from earth(voyager 1) is a puny 14-15 lightours away from the sun. And it's been at it for 32 years. If my mathemagics are right that means those puny 4 lightyears will take roughly 75000 years to travel.

That's definitely not an acceptable timespan. Relativistic spaceflight is a must if we're too see more than our backyard.

Re:Latency (1, Informative)

mathx314 (1365325) | about 5 years ago | (#27637955)

If we can push a spacecraft to very near the speed of light, then the time it takes from our perspective will be the same as the time it takes light to reach us. So to get out to that 14-15 light years you mentioned will take 14-15 years. By modern physics, we cannot go faster.

That said, it wouldn't be too difficult to send humans on that trip. From the perspective of the people on the ship, very little time would have passed. They merely would have accrued a very large time-debt compared to us. So we don't have to worry about the colonists evolving into something unrelated from us. We have to worry about us evolving away from the colonists.

Re:Latency (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#27637877)

The author would have a much easier time making his case if he called it computer simulation instead of telepresence (which sort of implies a near real time experience) and referred to experiencing other worlds, rather than exploring them.

I would say blame the journalist, but the author of the Op-ed works at the Seti Institute, so he probably knew exactly what he was doing.

Re:Latency (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | about 5 years ago | (#27637919)

We don't have a word for what he's describing. Technically the best word is telepresence but verryyyy laggy telepresence.

Re:Latency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27638051)

I know it is flameish, but even the Frosty Post aficionados understand out of order execution and most programmers realize that an inadvertent cosmic ray that changes the state of even one bit in a sequential process can have unexpected consequences.
I welcome our returning V'ger berserker.
It seems that by the time the robot gets there and reports back, Moore's law would have made it obsolete and if you happen to hit an inhabited intelligent world that is billions of years ahead of us in technology? They might ask 'Who threw that rock?' and throw something bigger back.
MHO is that a chained sequence of control with limited point to point latency and self assembly is a far more intelligent approach and I doubt that scientists originated this, it is most likely a budget conscious PHB.

virtual astronauts .. (2, Funny)

viralMeme (1461143) | about 5 years ago | (#27637643)

"Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light?"

Send a craft with a virtual reality simulation of a crew running on board. On the journey have the VR simulation recreate contemporary earth culture. The VR program fabricates various crises for the 'crew' so as to keep them occupied and to distract them from the knowledge that they are in a simulation.

When the craft arrives at the destination connect the VR simulation to robots through short-range-high-bandwidth radio connections. Have the VR simulation be updated by the robots interactions with the real world. Then beam the simulation back to Earth and run it locally with humans plugged in to it.

'Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world [imdb.com] and the real world?'

Re:Latency (-1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#27637695)

Not exactly that long. Earth-Moon takes 1/4 of a second. Earth-Sun takes 8 seconds. But still way too long. ^^

Re:Latency (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 5 years ago | (#27637749)

0.25 second lag, I can tolerate it especially for RPGs and RTS, etc.

But at 8 seconds, forget it. I'm not playing online with your Sunian friends.

Re:Latency (3, Interesting)

mfnickster (182520) | about 5 years ago | (#27637809)

Not exactly that long. Earth-Moon takes 1/4 of a second.

Which speed of light are you using? The moon is about 385,000 km from Earth.

Re:Latency (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 years ago | (#27637821)

Really? I thought Earth-Sun was 8 light minutes.

Earth-Moon on average is 1.25 seconds. So round trip time is 2.5 seconds.

Even earth-geostationary takes 0.12 seconds (round trip is about 0.25 seconds).

Maybe the universe has changed since I last checked.

My ping still sucks, I guess I should tell my ISP they should stop giving lame excuses and the speed of light has increased.

Re:Latency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637831)

Not exactly that long. Earth-Moon takes 1/4 of a second. Earth-Sun takes 8 seconds. But still way too long. ^^

Actually Earth-sun is on the order of 8 minutes rather then seconds. Earth moon is 1.28 seconds one-way, so about 2.5 seconds for a closed loop system.

Re:Latency (4, Informative)

Burdell (228580) | about 5 years ago | (#27637853)

Wow, I can't believe you've been moderated "Informative" with completely wrong information. Light travels from the Sun to the Earth in a little over 8 minutes, not 8 seconds. You are a little closer on the delay between the Earth and the Moon, but it is about 1.25 seconds, not .25.

Also, anything interactive requires a round trip, so for practical purposes, the delay is double that (about 16.5 minutes for the Sun and 2.5 seconds for the Moon).

Re:Latency (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 years ago | (#27637875)

Not exactly that long. Earth-Moon takes 1/4 of a second. Earth-Sun takes 8 seconds. But still way too long. ^^

Speed of light: 300,000 km/s.

Earth to Moon: 384,000 km. I fail to see how we can manage a 0.25 second delay when we're more than 1.25 seconds away at lightspeed. 2.6 seconds turn-around for input-response.

Earth to Sun: 149,600,000 km. Looks a bit more than 8 light seconds. More like 8 light minutes. So nearly 16 minute turn-around for input-response.

Earth to Mars: varies from 90,000,000 km to 390,000,000 km. 5 light minutes to 23 light minutes, with turn-around double that.

Re:Latency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637699)

Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light?

Unless they solve the FTL comms problem it takes seconds even for a short distance like Earth to Moon.

So if you are going to explore some far away place, telepresence will still require you to ship some human to the general vicinity.

It's a planet, it would be pretty amazing to have a robot digitize it and convert it into a game for people to explore, even if it's just JPEG's on a wireframe. Most humans won't get to explore the moon anytime soon, but I'd try a Second-life type game if I could walk around it freely. Even though the chances are slim of finding anything beyond rock, it'd still be cool to go where no one has gone before.

Re:Latency (2, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 5 years ago | (#27637711)

Yeah. It won't be remote controlled robots, that's for sure.

In general, we have a defeatist attitude regarding space exploration. I want to see people on the moon before I die. Even if it's only a VERY small colony with a dozen scientists and techs, with support personnel, it's a start. I want to hear plans for a Mars colony. Putting colonies in space will help to prevent the extermination of mankind due to a single cataclysmic event.

A few people have died exploring space, and we whine and cower, afraid to put people out there.

One single asteroid can kill us all. Robotics are all fine and dandy, but we need to move into space for the good of mankind.

Re:Latency (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#27637923)

Building a moon base probably won't give us better launch propulsion. Better launch propulsion would make it much easier to build a moon base.

Given current rocket technology, there isn't any reason to rush into anything (because it isn't particularly practical).

Re:Latency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637713)

Duh! Just communicate via sub-space. Captain Picard had real-time conversations all the time.

Re:Latency (3, Interesting)

Joren (312641) | about 5 years ago | (#27637733)

Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light? Unless they solve the FTL comms problem...

Using quantum entanglement, that may not be so far off. If it turns out information can be transmitted near-instantaneously, telepresence could become a reality. Available bandwidth would only be limited by our capacity to create and address these particles and how fast we can read and write to them.

Of course, that's a big "if"...

Re:Latency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637851)

Just a thought -- what about making use of quantum entanglement to communicate?

Re:Latency (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | about 5 years ago | (#27637995)

I feel the author is ignore major points in the discussion. Yes, taking out the human factor makes space travel more attainable. The issues of designing a craft that will survive for the decades that it will take to reach distant planets is unrealistic. There are likely unexpected phenomena in interstellar space that we have yet to predict and would be unable to account for. Communication would be a logistical nightmare as the radio waves need to be aimed at a tiny speck once the space craft wanted to relay information.

It sounds like a good idea now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637495)

But let's see what you think when some other alien civilization's robotic probes start enslaving our planet.

'Human' (4, Interesting)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 5 years ago | (#27637541)

The real first step in exploring the stars will be re-evaluating what it means to be human. This article assumes that our descendants will be flesh-and-blood, with all of the weaknesses that that entails. But why should we bind our offspring to the ancient, easily-corrupted, and not so easily amended DNA that we ourselves use, when we could give them minds of silicon and arms of steel which fold up in an instant to sleep for the journey from star to star? Or better still, why not send a simple automaton, and transmit its brain at the speed of light? Human is as human does, I suppose, and the human era will quickly draw to a close if we decide that human must mean flesh and blood.

Re:'Human' (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637615)

I find your idea fascinating, may I subscribe to your newsletter?

Re:'Human' (2, Insightful)

DavidChristopher (633902) | about 5 years ago | (#27637765)

Yes! We could start out with robotic, sentient bipedal metal human analogs.

But why limit them to exploration? They could also work in our factories, mines, and ... oh... even better - wage our wars. We could call them "Centurions", in honour of our ancient roman brothers. I suppose we could also give them one red back-and-forth scanning eye, too.

Why does this all sound familiar suddenly?

Human exploration IS worthwhile IF... (4, Insightful)

kulakovich (580584) | about 5 years ago | (#27637569)

...you are interested in something other than sports, iPods, and Coach bags.

If your society can't be bothered, you're damned to spend more willingly on the NFL each year than you begrudge the entire space program.

Enjoy your cell phone.

kulakovich

Re:Human exploration IS worthwhile IF... (4, Interesting)

canadian_right (410687) | about 5 years ago | (#27637611)

The long term goal of all space exploration should be a permenant human presence on another planet, Mars most likely. All the science is great, but I want the human race to survive if the Earth takes a big hit.

Re:Human exploration IS worthwhile IF... (1)

spydink (256993) | about 5 years ago | (#27637817)

High-tech masks and data gloves not withstanding, I've wondered why there's no plan to shoot unmanned ships to the nearest ten or twenty star systems [atlasoftheuniverse.com] even if it's 100 - 200 years before they get there and we start getting data back and even if in the meantime technology advances enough to make these initial ships pointless - e.g. warp drive is developed. There's a reasonably good chance that FTL travel won't be developed in the next 1,000 years (if ever) so why not try to accomplish something in the nearer term?

Is it possible to aim well enough to place a ship in orbit of a star 8 - 30 light years or so away? How much could we learn about a star system with a satellite orbiting a star at a distance roughly the same as between Jupiter and Saturn for example? Would it be any better than current or near-future Earth based imaging can provide? If such a satellite came into orbit of our solar system sent by another civilization, would we readily be able to detect it?

Re:Human exploration IS worthwhile IF... (3, Insightful)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | about 5 years ago | (#27637953)

Simple. If it takes longer than ~8 years to get benefits from an expensive project, it becomes much harder to get funding, at least in the US. Also, if development takes more than 8 years on something high-profile and expensive, there's a good chance you lose funding at the start of a new administration. Doing this would take longer to even get going. I'd venture a guess that in other countries there are similar election-cycle limited periods for project funding. In other words, we'd need a completely new structure for the way we conduct this kind of business, something thats better able to (forgive the phrase) stay the course as well as better able to see and understand very long term benefits.

Also, we have no data on maintaining systems that would last that long autonomously, so while you could theoretically make something capable of getting there and braking into orbit, its unlikely you could build it to have a reasonable expectation of success. That of course is a technical problem, so solutions are out there; the political problems are the ones that'll kill you.

Re:Human exploration IS worthwhile IF... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637985)

You wonder why there are no plans?

Exactly what communications device do you have sitting on the shelf that's ready to transmit data and a strength and focus that we will be able to read it 5 or so light years away? And how are you powering it? It's going to take a ton of juice. You said it was HOW big??? And how big will the rocket have to be to get it to those stars?

You don't have the answers, because right now it's undoable. We tend to not plan things until they are doable.

Re:Human exploration IS wortransportithwhile IF... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27638139)

Yes, a slow Ion Drive to get the vessel up to speed, enough power to change direction if the ship isn't on target exactly, and solar sails to deploy for the deceleration phase at the target star system with an aim to go into orbit in the habitable zone. From there the vessel can launch probes at interesting objects in the vicinity, acting as a hub for data collection to resend to Earth (although there is an argument for a lot of redundancy, but it might be easier to just send three vessels to each star systems).

It'd probably only cost a few hundred billion.

IF?!? (2, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | about 5 years ago | (#27637915)

I want the human race to survive if the Earth takes a big hit.

Did you mean to write "when" instead of "if" here?

Re:IF?!? (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | about 5 years ago | (#27638039)

Eh, we're at the level of technology where we can stop a wide variety of Earth impactors, and where we're pretty good at tracking them now. Given another 20 years of development, I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes routine to move potential impactors into non-threatening orbits.

So as long as we maintain this level of technology, an assumption I'd say this whole argument hinges on, "if" is a more appropriate word. Of course, in the long-term, it's not hard to imagine a situation where we do lose that capability, so I'd still say its important to create sustainable off-world settlements.

Re:Human exploration IS worthwhile IF... (1)

sneilan (1416093) | about 5 years ago | (#27637669)

Society can spend on cell phones & a space program. It's not us who decide if we go to space or not. It's congress.

Re:Human exploration IS worthwhile IF... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637751)

...you are interested in something other than sports ...

If your society can't be bothered, you're damned to spend more willingly on the NFL each year than you begrudge the entire space program.

Stop putting down football, football players and those who like to watch football. There will always be a place for such people, even in a space-faring society.

After all, someone has to scrape space-barnacles off of the hull in hi-rad environments not to mention that someone has to be the first to pop the seal on their helmet to see if the eggheads did their atmospheric analysis and bio-agent screening right.

Re:Human exploration IS worthwhile IF... (1)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | about 5 years ago | (#27637891)

I agree, we need to focus more on space exploration. There are some locations on Mars that would be kick-ass locations for Starbucks.

Re:Human exploration IS worthwhile IF... (1)

grahamd0 (1129971) | about 5 years ago | (#27637901)

...you are interested in something other than sports, iPods, and Coach bags.

Personally, I'm a big supporter of the space program, but it's totally unrealistic and, I'd argue, immoral, to ask individuals to disregard their own interests for benefits that almost certainly won't be realized in their lifetimes and may very well never be realized at all.

If your society can't be bothered, you're damned to spend more willingly on the NFL each year than you begrudge the entire space program.

NASA's budget is approximately $18B/year [nasa.gov] . The NFL's revenue is approximately $6B/year [plunkettresearch.com] .

Enjoy your cell phone.

Thanks, I do. I consider it to be a technological marvel, and a great example of how dedication to scientific research and technological achievement can better the lives of ordinary people.

Just ask one of the ET's ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637573)

Check out Project Camelot [projectcamelot.org] interviews and/or the Disclosure Project [youtube.com] if you wish to know what is hidden from you...basically the posted article is crap.

Re:Just ask one of the ET's ;) (2, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 5 years ago | (#27637787)

On second thought, let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.

Re:Just ask one of the ET's ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637889)

Mod parent informative, though he is also extremely funny.. He deserves karma for that one.

Re:Just ask one of the ET's ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27638069)

It's only a model...

Re:Just ask one of the ET's ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27638091)

Ignorance and apathy are the two most dangerous diseases of our time, and very difficult to cure. Take the Red Pill ;)

He dosn't know about hyperspace? Well... (1)

cibus (670787) | about 5 years ago | (#27637591)

...come to think about it, they will need to send robots to build the jumpgates. But once they are in place hyperspace will take us anywhere! I can hardly wait!

Round trick tickets? (4, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | about 5 years ago | (#27637633)

Put me on the first ship that isn't coming back. I think the prospect of living out your life as part of a colony on its way to who-knows-where in the cosmos is a pretty neat idea.

Re:Round trick tickets? (2, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | about 5 years ago | (#27637719)

If that ships enables you to live (even in suspended life form) till you reach almost anywhere outside the solar system, probably you will be the only earth survivor by the time you reach there, at least with most current technologies. Sending seeds of human civilizations out there could well count as a backup system, specially counting the amount of times things happened here that could wipe the entire race or at the very least the current civilization.

Sending "watchers" first, robots, AIs, telepresence, etc, could avoid some of the risks, but will we have enough time?

What risk? (2, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | about 5 years ago | (#27638027)

Sending "watchers" first, robots, AIs, telepresence, etc, could avoid some of the risks, but will we have enough time?

If there is one resource we have a shitload more than we need or know how to handle its - people. Should we really care for their safety back on Earth?
1.8 people die every second. 106 every minute. Do we hold a minute of silence for those 106 every other minute? People are highly expendable.

Safety is not a problem. If you send colony ships time is also not a problem. Even technology is not really a problem - even now.

Problem is in the liftoff price per kilogram.
Once we get it down to around the price of an intercontinental flight today - colonial-sized ships will start costing something like cruise ships today.

When we get it down to what it costs in gas to drive 100 km today - colony ships will be cheap as jumbo-jets are now.
Only then - we will not be interested in going outside the solar system cause there is enough to keep us busy and well fed here for couple of centuries.
Well... most of the people that is.
Some of us will be busy digging habitat holes in an asteroid or two, strapping some engines to it and pointing it towards the nearest exoplanet.

Me too (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 5 years ago | (#27638023)

The purpose to the universe may be to create a life form capable of propagating throughout it. We will do this or the universe will eventually wipe our slate clean and start over, as it has repeatedly done before.

To venture out into the great dark with course perilous and fate unknown, to almost certain death. Of hope none for return, and faint to survive to my dotage. With a prize no less than the survival of human life after the inevitable apocalypse?

Sign me up too.

Wow (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 5 years ago | (#27637641)

And I thought GoLive had a lag time challenge.

Re:Wow (1)

grahamd0 (1129971) | about 5 years ago | (#27638131)

GoLive will probably get the juicy contract for setting up the data networks for any far reaching space exploration.

With their new, proprietary FTL compression algorithms, they have the technology to render HD quality video in the cloud and transmit it to end users in better than real-time.

Ignores time dilation (3, Informative)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 5 years ago | (#27637645)

"Alas, despite these snappier speeds, such craft are still untenable for manned journeys to the stars, taking at least a dozen lifetimes to reach the nearest."

The closer you get to the speed of light, the slower time goes (relative to home).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_dilation#Simple_inference_of_time_dilation [wikipedia.org]

So while the distance to the nearest star system is (let's say) 100 light years (in earth time frame), a traveler at a velocity 0.9 times the speed of light will make the trip in only a few years (in his time frame).

What we need is really really fast ships, and astronauts willing to say goodbye to everyone they know on earth.

Re:Ignores time dilation (2, Funny)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 5 years ago | (#27637785)

I'm ready. Hell, I'm 52 (errrr, uhhhhm, 53 tomorrow) and I'm ready to go. What's wrong with the younger generation? For that matter, what's wrong with MY GENERATION?!?!?!

Build that big assed Roman Candle, give me some room and some food, and light that bastard off!!

Re:Ignores time dilation (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | about 5 years ago | (#27637979)

3 weeks after reaching the new star system. Hmm... guess I'll just off myself now. We need more in place. The ability to MOVE there would do it. We'd fork into a group of earth folk and space faring folk. With the earth so incredibly tiny the last few years it is hard for us as a society to give up being connected. But 500years ago people could do it I'm sure there would be enough people willing to do it now. Actually I think some people would be willing to zoom around the earth at light speed to go into the future a few hundred years even if they didn't get to leave the planet :p.

Re:Ignores time dilation (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 5 years ago | (#27637887)

The closer you get to the speed of light, the slower time goes (relative to home).

Only at significant fractions of c. Accelerating and decelerating people to those speeds will take many years.

Re:Ignores time dilation (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 5 years ago | (#27637977)

So I guess the questions are:

(A) What is the maximum acceleration that the human body can withstand?

(B) At that acceleration, how long does it take to reach a significant fraction of c?

Re:Ignores time dilation (4, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 years ago | (#27638061)

(A) What is the maximum acceleration that the human body can withstand?

Who cares, we're not going to be accelerating at much more than 1g in any case, and probably a great deal less.

(B) At that acceleration, how long does it take to reach a significant fraction of c?

0.95c is about turnover speed for a 1g trip to Alpha Centauri. It'll take about 21 months to reach that speed, and another 21 months to stop. So Alpha Centauri at 1g is about 3.5 years away.

Everything else is farther, of course. But not a lot farther, since you've done the slow part already. Twenty years can get you anywhere in the galaxy at one g.

Re:Ignores time dilation (1)

mfnickster (182520) | about 5 years ago | (#27638121)

Everything else is farther, of course. But not a lot farther, since you've done the slow part already. Twenty years can get you anywhere in the galaxy at one g.

Huh? The galaxy is 100,000 light years across. Even at .95c, that's a lot longer than twenty years... or were you planning to accelerate past c?

Re:Ignores time dilation (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | about 5 years ago | (#27638047)

At a constant deceleration of 10gs it would only take a month. This is survivable by humans probably in good conditions as provided by a spaceship. 5gs is definitely survivable for 2months. I take it you are using current ship speeds.

Re:Ignores time dilation (2, Informative)

colinrichardday (768814) | about 5 years ago | (#27638093)

Humans can sustain an acceleration of 10m/s^2 (a little more than 1g). One day (86,400s) would lead to a speed of 864,00m/s. To reach a speed of .9c (270,000,000m/s) would require about a year. It would require the same amount of time to decelerate. The problem is that even a speed of .9c does not give you much time dilation. We have gamma=1/sqrt(1-.9^2), which is 1/sqrt(1-.81) or 1/sqrt(.19), which is 1/.44, or about 2.3. Hence, one would age 44 years on a 100-light-year voyage.

Re:Ignores time dilation (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 years ago | (#27638013)

So while the distance to the nearest star system is (let's say) 100 light years (in earth time frame), a traveler at a velocity 0.9 times the speed of light will make the trip in only a few years (in his time frame).

48 years to go 100 light years at 0.9c. That's a bit more than "a few years".

Sooner or later (4, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 5 years ago | (#27637679)

we are going to have to put some human beings somewhere else besides this one ball of rock.

Saying that even multi-generational ships are not "a reasonable goal" begs the question (and is debatable... after all, this is an "opinion piece").

Reasonable or not, eventually it will be done. I have nothing against robotic explorers, but only as precursors to something better.

But will we ever get there? (1)

Johnny99.1 (1452683) | about 5 years ago | (#27638017)

There was quite a good discussion of this on Charlie Stross's blog [British sci-fi author] some time ago:

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/06/the_high_frontier_redux.html [antipope.org]

It goes on at quite some length, but even if you can't be bothered to read the whole thread the initial essay is quite interesting.

For those who can't be bothered to RTFA, he questions firstly the practicality of ever sending humans out of the solar system, and secondly asserts that within the solar system

there's not really any economically viable activity on the horizon for people to engage in that would require them to settle on a planet or asteroid and live there for the rest of their lives. In general, when we need to extract resources from a hostile environment we tend to build infrastructure to exploit them (such as oil platforms) but we don't exactly scurry to move our families there

Re:But will we ever get there? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 5 years ago | (#27638081)

So? What's his point?

Whether it is settlement OR just resource mining, it will happen, eventually. I understand his opinion, but that is all it is, and I do not agree with it.

Idiots (3, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 5 years ago | (#27637683)

Not the proposal exactly (well with latency actually yes), but...

Robot probes don't require life support systems, don't get sick or claustrophobic and don't insist on round-trip tickets.

They also can't use intuition and years of training and curiosity combined to go, "hey what's that" as they glance over to the side at something a rover would have just rolled past.

We could learn more in a day of manned exploration of Mars for example than we have with the entire exploration effort to date.

Humans are too flexible not to send out for exploration, and I hate to say it but far cheaper to build (though again you have the issue of latency).

I also refuse to believe we'll never be able to freeze and re-animate a living person hundreds of years later, though that will take a good long while to get right.

Re:Idiots (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 5 years ago | (#27637807)

I also refuse to believe we'll never be able to freeze and re-animate a living person hundreds of years later, though that will take a good long while to get right.

Futurama did it!

Erm (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637689)

The humans on earth can only "experience" what has been observed by the remote observer. If the remote observer passes by a planet and scans it at a great distance, the human explorer will be placed into a distorted bizarro world with poor resolution, and lifting a rock cannot be done because the remote explorer could not check to see what was under the rock.

Alternatively, you can have an AI "fill in the gaps" and assume what was under the rock. In that case you might as well play a video game.

Misleading article (5, Insightful)

janoc (699997) | about 5 years ago | (#27637691)

Unfortunately, the author doesn't have a clue what he is talking about. He seems to be talking about sending a probe, collecting information and then building an offline environment to explore, not a real-time remotely-controlled robot. That is actually a potentially feasible task. It has only one major flaw - it is not telepresence.

For telepresence ("feeling being present in a remote place") you need to be able to have real-time response to your actions, not only watching what essentially amounts to a souped up QuicktimeVR. The interactivity is not optional and that doesn't come from VR goggles and gloves but from the realtime feedback look. Which is obviously missing, unless your want to do something like use alien planet data for playing CounterStrike or be happy with 6.47*10^11 ms ping ... (that is the roundtrip time to Epsilon Eridani mentioned in the article - 10.5 light years away).

It is a pity that people talk about virtual reality and related fields without even understanding the basics - but that is the consequence of media hype surrounding this field, together with people calling non-immersive, often even non-interactive applications "virtual reality". Computer games, SecondLife, QuicktimeVR are not VR, period - you cannot really achieve meaningful feeling of presence there. Of course, it sounds and sells better if you stick a gee-whizz sticker on the box ...

Re:Misleading article (1)

ciderVisor (1318765) | about 5 years ago | (#27637913)

Of course, it sounds and sells better if you stick a gee-whizz sticker on the box ...

"Windows Vista Capable" ?

Re:Misleading article (1)

Revenantus (1379757) | about 5 years ago | (#27638111)

While my consciousness happens to be at this time running on biological neurons, current technical limitations aside, there is no reason why the underlying process logic that makes up my consciousness could not one day be made to run on a different medium, one more suited to traveling large distances through space.

I don't think that it's practical or necessary to preserve a physical human being during space travel, instead we could invest in technologies that would allow a consciousness to be stored and assume a form that is adapted to the environment it wishes to explore.

Don't let second lifers at the data (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637709)

My God ... It's full of flying phalluses

Wait (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | about 5 years ago | (#27637783)

Wait, do Klingons use Webex? I know the Borgs Twitter but it's always the same line over and over. They've got a social network that would make Facebook look absolutely amateurish.

A.I. (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 5 years ago | (#27637813)

What to do if something unespected happens? Abort, Retry or Fail?

Telepresence will enable us to see what happened a lot of time ago, but takes out human choices for all practical reasons for interesting enough distances.

Am I missing something? (1)

Steneub (1070216) | about 5 years ago | (#27637815)

How is this news? The goal is already to gather data in as high a resolution as possible. Simulations are already in place for the data we have.

Sorry, but I simply fail to see the novelty.

i just got off the toilet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637841)

i shit out an obama.

plop!

Re:i just got off the toilet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637963)

Please do that before you get off the toilet, next time.

Bah @ negative people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27637907)

"transporting human beings to other star systems isn't a reasonable goal even on a multi-generational time frame"

Transporting human beings to other continents across the Atlantic isn't a reasonable goal even on a multi-generational time frame - commonly held view until people actually ignored the negative "can't do it" speakers and did it.

Did you humans lose something? The Game, maybe? (1)

ring-eldest (866342) | about 5 years ago | (#27637997)

Great, glad to see we're exhausted our own solar system and are ready to explore the rest of the galaxy using disposable space drones. Yay for space trash.

I swear, if we ever do find intelligent life it will probably be because they've come to serve an eviction notice.

When the robots land, what they'll find is... (4, Interesting)

Alaska Jack (679307) | about 5 years ago | (#27638025)

More advanced robots, that we developed (along with much faster propulsion systems) in the decades since the originals were launched.

Hat tip: Carl Sagan, I think. Or maybe Azimov.

    - Alaska Jack

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