Energy for Space Travel

Vertigo

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perhaps it might get to wondering why it was carrying a bomb or why there was a device to turn off the power without its control.
Our AI abilities are still a massively long way from that sort of spontaneous thought process. It's a bad mistake to think AI is or maybe ever will be capable of doing anything like 'wondering'. One thing that is almost certain is that AIs will probably never have anything remotely like our own thought processes. Maybe the ability to mimic them but not actually doing them.
 

JimC

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"And that isn't likely to happen this Century, unless some rich, adventurous individual decides on a private venture"

I wonder who that might be?
 

Swank

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Intelligent space robots need to be aware of their surroundings in real time.

Satellites using AI to control their operations are coming. How smart will they be.

Currently the satellites are given preprogramed steps to carry out their operations. 7 months ago China allowed ground based AI to control one of their observational satellites for 24 hours and supposedly they have no idea why it picked the targets to picture that it did. Apparently the Chinese have launched at least one satellite with onboard AI, possibly already doing things on its own.

The idea being that the satellites spend a lot of time doing nothing or collecting meaningless data and by using AI, the satellites could be actively looking for things to look at based on human activity, natural or unusual events. Sounds like they would be scanning the Earth 24/7. It is also hoped that the satellite could avoid collisions, monitor space junk, and look after its own operational health. The European Space Agency is developing on board AI systems. The observational satellites need to be able to figure out what kind of human activity is worth monitoring.

To operate in space, the AI satellite would probably need to be aware of its immediate surroundings. There would probably be a remotely operated kill switch installed in AI satellites. Would it just be a simple on off switch or be a destructive device, or both. If it could analyze its own operational health and was capable of figuring out what people were up to down on Earth, perhaps it might get to wondering why it was carrying a bomb or why there was a device to turn off the power without its control.
You don't need orbital AIs because there is no time lag. Unless you're concerned about jamming.
 

paranoid marvin

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I think the communication delay would always make this approach impractical.

I'm not sure that a time delay matters when the only other things moving are those being controlled on a similar time delay; it would just be a case of synchronisation, or developing intelligence that caters for any delay.

But these are technological problems that are far easier to surmount than finding a way to send half a dozen people on a 3 year space mission and to get them home safe.
 

Vertigo

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Yes but that's why an avatar approach is, to my mind, unlikely. Far more like is ever smarter probes and rovers. Where they are directed from Earth but all their real time decisions are made by the on board systems. Look at the most recent landings and rover operations. This is far more likely to be the model going forward.
 
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Robert Zwilling

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Giving the monster eyes and ears.

If the AI program is monitoring the satellites health, it might detect the power required to operate the kill devices. One way to defeat this would be to make the kill switch completely disconnected from the rest of the satellite. That could be a problem if the wrong people got their hands on the kill switch commands. Or maybe kill switches will never be put in them. How possible would it be for radiation in space to alter an electronic circuits composition such that it is still operating, but defectively, without any signs of being damaged. A lot greater chance of that happening in space than on the ground.

Using AI for satellite image analysis will save people from wasting their time because a lot of the data sent back to Earth is a waste of time. Apparently the 260 Chinese surveillance satellites waste a lot of time idling waiting for instructions and then a lot of time is wasted by people wading through useless data that gets sent back. Filtering image data by AI discovers a lot of interesting things that people never see. Aerial views of ancient structures stick out like sore thumbs to AI while those same areas have ben overlooked by people for a couple hundred years.

Because there is no appreciable time lag, that allows AI programs real time direct surveillance of the Earth. The AI program can probably make maximum use of the satellite fleet's fuel versus people just picking spots to look at for individual satellites. Right now the AI program has a back seat in handling the data. If it is hooked up straight to the satellite's eyeballs and ears it might find other uses for the data. The Chinese satellite picked out its own targets which proved to be interesting sources of relevant data while at the same time the handlers say they have no idea why it picked the sites that it did. Google and other companies do not have a complete understanding of how their programs work even though they can physically see every move the programs make.

Will the AI programs recording of data be turned off while the satellites travel from target to target or will everything from here to there be recorded for future analysis when the program has nothing to do. If the AI is directing where the satellites go, then there might be no control of what it ends up recording, especially if it is looking at everything between points A and B. Whose decision will it be to leave the cameras on or not. With people deciding what to look at, that limits how much can be looked at. With AI programs doing all the work, there might be no limit to what can be seen.

Data is shared and worked on by multiple operations, eventually the data will be locked up out of reach of competitors or the public pool will get very big which will probably create interactions some of which will not be understood. Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest changes.
 
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paranoid marvin

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There is no lack of people today willing to take the chances the first astronauts did.

As far as everyone else goes - we have no idea if we would have made it to the moon if any of our crewed rockets had Challengered prior to Apollo. But we got lucky, and the only deaths were a pad fire.

I think the main thing was that people of the '50s and '60s were living in the future. We are mired in our pasts, and don't believe in the future - unless it is a dystopia.

The Moon landings took place in the period of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, when sending young men on dangerous missions was the norm rather than the exception.

The Cold War was just an extension, and from an American perspective it was imperative that they got to the Moon before the USSR, and (to keep JFK's promise) by the end of the 60s. The government were willing to take a gamble, and it paid off. Half a century later, and with technology far beyond that of the Apollo missions, and we still aren't able to confidently land people there - which shows just how much of a gamble it was

Once that 'win' had been achieved, any further advances in human space exploration were put on hold.

Personally I don't see the point in spending billions (trillions?) on a project which has little chance of being pulled off, and even if it is, little reward coming from.

As I think I've mentioned elsewhere, putting so much money, time and resources into sending humans to a dead rock, rather than using it to combat the deplorable state of our planet, is akin to planning your next vacation whilst your house is on fire. Or spending all your money on a new sports car rather than paying the mortgage. It's a crazy way to do business.

We've only got one planet. We've only got one home. Once it's gone, so are we.
 

Swank

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The Moon landings took place in the period of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, when sending young men on dangerous missions was the norm rather than the exception.

The Cold War was just an extension, and from an American perspective it was imperative that they got to the Moon before the USSR, and (to keep JFK's promise) by the end of the 60s. The government were willing to take a gamble, and it paid off. Half a century later, and with technology far beyond that of the Apollo missions, and we still aren't able to confidently land people there - which shows just how much of a gamble it was

Once that 'win' had been achieved, any further advances in human space exploration were put on hold.

Personally I don't see the point in spending billions (trillions?) on a project which has little chance of being pulled off, and even if it is, little reward coming from.

As I think I've mentioned elsewhere, putting so much money, time and resources into sending humans to a dead rock, rather than using it to combat the deplorable state of our planet, is akin to planning your next vacation whilst your house is on fire. Or spending all your money on a new sports car rather than paying the mortgage. It's a crazy way to do business.

We've only got one planet. We've only got one home. Once it's gone, so are we.
Well, you've both insisted that fear of killing astronauts is the reason the space program died, and then articulated what really happened: "Why are we spending money on something that won't be good for me?"

The reason to solve space related engineering problems is so when we have a real problem - like an inbound asteroid, or a runaway hothouse, we can use what we learned to save ourselves.

Which doesn't seem like such a stupid use of "precious tax dollars" when people start using terms like "extinction level event" all too often.
 

Parson

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I don't know enough physics to say something more about this. But is there a propulsion possibility in Zero Point Energy? I know I've read about it in some SF novels.
 

Vertigo

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I don't know enough physics to say something more about this. But is there a propulsion possibility in Zero Point Energy? I know I've read about it in some SF novels.
Sadly I think not; problems with the uncertainty principle I believe. But I suspect it is the kind of thing that, largely because is not fully understood yet, SF writers will employ for suitable hand wavium science. Which ultimately I don't have a problem with. There was a similar one in a recent Stephen Baxter book I read where he essential had a bussard ram jet which, rather than scooping reaction mass, was scooping up dark energy and using that for propulsion. Ultimately it's using relatively new science terms to legitimise pure hand wavium. But heck almost all SF interstellar travel is ultimately pure hand wavium.
 

Swank

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I don't know enough physics to say something more about this. But is there a propulsion possibility in Zero Point Energy? I know I've read about it in some SF novels.
Reynolds' reactionless engines are probably based on some science.
 

feralreason

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I've mentioned this in a different thread, but as a race we are far more risk-averse than we were 50 or 100 years ago.

One of the reasons why I think people question the Moon landings today is because it was such a risky business. But we have to remember that those first astronauts were test pilots and decorated war veterans; they were already risking their lives daily, so one more risk was part of the job.

Today we have a much more cautious approach, and a failure - especially one that caused a fatality - would set the programme back quite some way. I would say that in today's world there is no way that astronauts would have been sent to the Moon in 60s technology.

The surprising thing is the US didn't press for a mission to Mars in the 1970s. But the Moon was as much a political statement as anything else. The first manned mission to Mars will only set off when the safety of its crew and the likelihood of success of its mission are as close to 100% as it is possible to be.

And that isn't likely to happen this Century, unless some rich, adventurous individual decides on a private venture, as did those who attempted to scale unconquered mountains.
I agree that we are more risk averse than we were in the '60s. However, the major motivation for the risks, taken by both USSR and US during that time, was the race to achieve ICBM superiority. The USSR had already acquired everything we learned in the Manhattan project. Nagasaki and Hiroshima were fresh in everyone's minds. We had gone toe to toe with Khruschev over missiles in Cuba in 1962. The threat of nuclear anihilation probably seemed much more "real to us". So, we both had the weapons. We both needed delivery systems. And we both considered the other an "existential" threat.

Given that backdrop, it shouldn't be any surprise that, in almost every Apollo mission our mission objectives either paralleled or were heavily influenced by the USSR's objectives. For example -- we took huge risks with Apollo 8 to make sure we were the first to orbit the moon (Robert Kurson's book, "Rocket Men", probably does the best job of covering Apollo 8.)

The bigger picture in 1968 (Apollo 8 mission), included other factors. Life was shorter. US men were expected to live to 66. Today, US men can expect to live to 74. So our health is now better. We are wealthier (look at per capita numbers). We still complain about a huge gap between the Billionaires and the rest of us -- but we also seem to be very picky about what jobs we take and many more people have made the conscious decision to remain out of the workforce -- living on their savings. Maybe we're too fat and comfortable to get excited about Mars. On the other hand, we now have a commercial space industry that could do most of the heavy lifting. And it's likely that any of the wealthiest 10 Americans could fund a Mars mission without really serious impact to their financial position. (Although they could not fund colonization.)

So mutual nuclear annihilation no longer seems to be the threat it was in the '60s. We need another stick. What is the treat in the 2020s? My favorites are:
1) The affects of climate change. We can expect the lower 3rd of Florida and much of the East coast to disappear under rising seas. Temperature will become a deadly threat. We'll see a range of new (or perhaps very old) viruses and bacterial infections.
2) The erosion of democracies in the face of increasing authoritarianism - which will likely increase wealth stratification.

Investments in preventing or lessening the effects of either of these would have a much greater impact (on the lives of the general population) than colonizing Mars. Although Science and Technology always seem to advance. Politics and Economics always seem to throw speed bumps in their path.
 
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