Interstellar Betting, ‘The White Knight’ and Lunar Agreements

Time to take a break from the tinfoil conspiracy thing today to post some space science, mainly interstellar issues and future plans for star probes. Paul Gilster over at Centauri Dreams posted this piece Monday:

Tibor Pacher has gone out on a limb. The founder of peregrinus interstellar and an active supporter of interstellar research, the Heidelberg-trained physicist (now a freelance software consultant) has made a wager on the Long Bets site that should raise eyebrows: “The first true interstellar mission, targeted at the closest star to the Sun or even farther, will be launched before or on December 6, 2025 and will be widely supported by the public.” Note that no crew is assumed, the vehicle presumably being an unmanned flyby probe. We must also assume it will be targeted at the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri. Even so, to pull off the attempt in a mere seventeen years?

But my friend Tibor is a gadfly as well as an optimist. He knows as well as anyone that the time frame is outrageous, but he wants to inspire discussion and keep people thinking about interstellar issues. In the same spirit, he notes the motivations that exist, from the challenge of a seemingly impossible destination to fears about the future and the need to ensure the survival of our species. All of which is true, but I find the challenge of Tibor’s bet irresistible, and have wagered $500 on the Long Bets site that he is wrong. The proceeds would go to the Tau Zero Foundation, so both Tibor and I can win. Come on, Tibor, take the bet.

I’m not a betting man either, but I think it’s fairly safe to assume no interstellar probes will be launched by 2025. But you never know, some rich people like Branson or Elon Musk could wager each other which one would fund and build one first!

Betting On An Interstellar Future


Speaking of Richard Branson, the unveiling of WhiteKnightTwo took place Monday. He named the plane “Eve”, after his mother:

British tycoon Richard Branson on Monday unveiled a futuristic aircraft that will ferry tourists to the edge of the heavens as part of Virgin Galactic’s much-anticipated space program.

The aircraft — WhiteKnightTwo — was rolled out for media and invited guests, including Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, at an early morning ceremony in the Mojave desert north of Los Angeles.

The high-altitude aircraft, also named “Eve” in honor of Branson’s mother, will act as the mothership for the spacecraft Spaceship Two, which in turn will launch in midair and send two crew and six passengers hurtling into space.

The first flights of WhiteKnightTwo are expected to take place later this year, with Spaceship Two being attached for a maiden flight sometime in 2009.

Virgin Galactic is hoping to send its first paying customers into suborbital space some 110 kilometers (70 miles) above the earth in 2010. The company has said more that more than 200 passengers have already signed up for the first flights, which will cost 200,000 dollars each.

Some of my friends say this won’t last long because there’s only so many millionaires and eventually Branson will run out of customers. I think maybe after the initial fervor dies down, he might see a drop, but it’ll level out because the price will likely to come down as the technology matures. And as he says, they’ll eventually build ships that are space capable and do orbital work like servicing satellites, or placing new ones into orbit.

People are watching this closely.

Branson unveils space tourism craft ‘WhiteKnightTwo’.


Lastly, it looks like some of the Earth’s ‘kids’ would like to play in the sandbox (okay, regolith for you purists) of the Moon together:

India, along with seven other countries, has signed a landmark agreement with the United States to carry out lunar exploration. The agreement was signed at American space agency NASA’s Ames Research Centre here this week and it would be formally announced on Tuesday.Apart from India, the countries which signed the pact with the US are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and South Korea.

The agreement, which lays the groundwork for a new generation of lunar exploration, will see a multinational fleet of robot spacecraft returning to the moon in coming years, with countries like India, Germany and South Korea playing key roles, the San Jose Mercury News has reported.

It also allows NASA to share costs. While the United States has budgeted money for four lunar spacecrafts, scientists want it up to eight landers on the surface.

Cost sharing is the big thing here, especially with the US. The next US president is rumored to likely cut funding for the Moon and Mars initiatives because of the deficits caused by the War on Terra. At least this way, some Moon exploration gets done.

Maybe by that time Branson, Musk or even Google will have a Lunar hotel set up!

Multinational Agreement Signed To Carry Out Lunar Exploration


5 responses

  1. Interstellar Betting, ‘The White Knight’ and Lunar Agreements…

    Time to take a break from the tinfoil conspiracy thing today to post some space science, mainly interstellar issues and future plans for star probes. Paul Gilster over at Centauri Dreams posted this piece Monday: ……

  2. Hi dad2059 et al. …

    If we are going to take a trip to the stars then we should go to where there’s a possibility of life having emerged. Such a star has been discovered in the constellation Scorpius at a about 45 ly distance.

    If we were to use the Bussard Ramjet type of technology then we could possibly acquire the star system in about 70 years, then to orbit its system gathering as much data as possible sending it back to earth.

    The ship would be assembed in sections in earth orbit. It’s shape doesn’t even have to aerodynamic and could look like a cube that the Borg fly in Star Trek.

    I firmly believe that state of the art robotics; is where its at as far as these far distant explorations are concerned. Interstellar travel is far too boring for humans unless put in some type of futuristic sci-fi suspended animation. In reality humans are far too weak to stand up to the rigor of lengthy interstellar travel in terms of the ravages to their consciousness etc.

    Transmission along the way would be achieved by powerful onboard transmitters sending a continual ever redundant stream of data, not only the new data, but that which has been sent already to preclude the loss of any along the way and the long wait between queries from earth to the probe then back again. The probe would be programmed to be ever curious by using a state of the art fuzzy logic front end digital comb filter to it’s sensory inputs. The data never stops for the entire 70plus years of its journey operating within its designed perameters. So this probe is not only a programmed probe, but it’s using state of the art AI along with fuzzy logic to catalogue its gathered data.

    Obviously large redundancy of various operating systems would be necessary including its main drive in the event the primary drive should crap out.

    Earthbound scientists would not get bored because over the many decades of this probes one way journey to 18 Scorpii they would be getting a steady stream of useful data including the conditions of the density of matter found in interstellar space etc.

    There is always the chance that the ramjet probe might just strike a particle of interstellar matter and be destroyed by the intense kinetic energy from the impact. My only suggestion for this is to have muliple probes dispatched at the same time over a one year period possibly as many as six to the same star system with the hopes that one of the six will make it.

    Due to the fact there’s no need to engineer life support for humans it will keep the costs down. Humans are very fragile and need intense, very expensive technological coddling to keep them alive. Truly a waste of resources as far as I’m concerned.

    It would gladden my hear that we could create someone like Commander Data of the Star Trek series and send his kind to the stars and back.

    So with multiple probes and systemic redundance along with a plan for continual data streaming over the life of the mission from these probes there’s a chance that we could make it to a system that will give us meaningful data since it’s a star system almost identical to that of sun; ie., a type G with almost the same lifespan etc.

    Also as these probes stream data to earth we can stream data back the same so once the probes arrive they’l have the latest data and info from earth that could be broadcast out to the planetary systems, if any in the 18 Scorpii system; ie., if we care to do so. We may think twice of doing so, since we don’t want to attract possible “space wolves” to our system.

    Cost, no doubt approaching that of a trillion plus bucks, not a project for the U.S. alone, but requiring the cooperation of all the major technological nations on earth including China for this long term project. Rewards, immense in terms of the possiblity of gained knowledge of life in distant star systems and their possible earthlike planets. A trip to Alpha Centauri or it’s sister stars is a waste as far as I’m concerned. We need to journey where the possibilities are best for the monies expended.

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. Hi dad2059, been a little busy with building work at the villa (and little or no time for the internet or blogging in July)

    A sort of working holiday – lol!

    But I hope to have time to catch up and keep abreast of my favourite blogs in August.

    Glad to see you are still taking interstellar bets – odds on favourite

  4. Carl: A lot of what you say makes sense, but to take some of your points you’ve made over the months, sending robot probes to planets bearing its own life-forms wouldn’t be good for them, especially when humans are involved. Any AI built by humans would share human traits, even if the AI is highly evolved. We all take on the combined characteristics of our parents and those that came before them. In my mind, AI wouldn’t be any different, it doesn’t matter what Ray Kurzweil says about it’s inherent superiority. Such things wouldn’t be any more moral than we are.

    That’s why Proxima Centauri would be a good proving ground, it’s close ( in interstellar terms ), the chances that life beyond the microscopic are low, so if an early model interstellar probe AI happens to become insane, minimal damage is done.

    Q9: So that’s what you’ve been doing, working on your villa? Must be nice, LOL!

    Well, you gotta have a place to take your many female admirers for some ‘star-gazing’ I suppose! *more lol!*

    See ya around the ‘Tubes my friend!

  5. Hi dad2059…

    Thanks for your input concerning the project. I thought I’d supply a profile link concerning Proxima Centauri; ie., a red-dwarf star that’s now in senescence being several billion years older than our sun, Sol.

    I just don’t care for its stellar profile and other than to say we made it the nearest star and gathered data, I’m highly confident we will not find any lifeforms on associated planetary bodies if any are to be found. No doubt there’s planeteary bodies orbiting this older sun.

    In all honesty I don’t think earthmen are going anywhere all that soon. A great depression is stalking the earth along with the necessary associated global wars that will be the result of such a depression. Earthmen will be spending the greater portion of their technological skills and lives killing each other for the last easily obtainable resources on earth. It’s going to be lights out for humanoids…!

    Carl Nemo **==

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