Re: Marvin Minsky and Eliezer Yudkowsky

From: Brian D Williams (
Date: Wed Feb 28 2001 - 08:12:53 MST

>From: Spike Jones <>

>Eliezer, Minsky was the same guy who was the dinner speaking at
>the first west coast Foresight Nanocon, which was in about 1990 or
>91. He dismissed solar sailing by claiming that even if nanotech
>could produce a sheet of aluminum a single atom thick, then the
>gravitational force of the sun would be greater than the light
>pressure from the sun, and that since both fields fall off as the
>inverse square of the distance, solar gravity is greater than
>solar light pressure everywhere. K. Eric Drexler was standing
>next to me when the comment was made. We looked at each other as
>if to say "Are you gonna let him get away with THAT?" Neither of
>us said anything, nor did anyone else, but his credibility dropped
>about 20dB. An aluminum sheet about 600 atoms thick would balance
>light pressure and gravity, if my calcs are right. Had we the
>intestinal fortitude of Robert Bradbury, we would have shouted in
>unison "THATS NOT TRUE!" We would have looked like this: --->


>Those of us who have met you in the flesh know you to be a
>gentleman and a scholar. In the words of a famous Jew: "turn the
>other cheek." spike

He who laughs last....


For News and Updates on this mission,

Pasadena, CA. - February 26, 2001: The Planetary Society's Cosmos
1: The First Solar Sail mission, sponsored by Cosmos Studios, is
set to test in April with the prime mission scheduled to launch
between October - December this year.

The deployment test flight will launch from a Russian submarine in
the Barents Sea and will be lifted into a thirty-minute sub-orbital
flight from a Russian Volna rocket, a converted ICBM. The main
mission, with the goal of first solar sail flight, will launch into
Earth orbit later this year, also from a Volna rocket.

Once in orbit, the solar sail spacecraft will be as bright as the
full moon (although only a point in the sky) and will be visible
from places on Earth with the naked eye. Images of the sail in
flight will be sent to Earth from two different cameras on-board
the spacecraft.

The mission represents the first private mission of space
exploration technology and the first mission by a private space
interest organization. It will explore and develop technology that
could open the door to future flights throughout the solar system
and beyond. The mission will be carried out by a unique, privately
funded Russian-American space venture.

"This could be a pivotal moment for space exploration, said Louis
Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society and Project
Director of Cosmos 1. "Solar Sailing is a grand adventure as well
as an important leap in technological innovation."

Space sailing is done not with wind, but with reflected light
pressure - pushing on giant sails, changing the orbital energy and
spacecraft velocity continuously. The sunlight pressure is
powerful enough to push spacecraft between the planets from Mercury
out to Jupiter. Beyond Jupiter, and out to the stars, space
sailing can be done using powerful lasers focused over long
distances in space.

"The lasers themselves will be powered by solar energy - keeping
the spirit of solar sailing alive to other stars," added Friedman.

"The many special aspects of this first attempted solar sail flight
-Russian-American collaboration; use of weapons of war for
launching peaceful technologies for humankind's future; attempting
a very low cost, privately funded space initiative in a one-year
time schedule; realizing one of Carl Sagan's dreams; working with
Ann Druyan, Sagan's wife and long-time collaborator, who, together
with Joe Firmage, had the courage to fund this project - make us
extremely proud of what we have accomplished before we've even
launched," said Friedman.

"We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean.
We are ready at last to set sail for the stars," wrote Sagan and
Druyan in their television series, Cosmos.

"This is a Kitty Hawk moment to us. We feel as if we've been given
the chance to outfit the Wright Brothers' Bicycle Shop," said Ann
Druyan, CEO of Cosmos Studios, Inc. "We at Cosmos Studios are
honored to work with the brilliant scientists and engineers of many
countries brought together by The Planetary Society for one great
purpose. We are proud to be part of this historic mission, which
is a critical baby step to the stars. It's also emblematic of
Cosmos Studios' philosophy: to support good science, clean high
technology and bold exploration, and to engage the widest possible
audience in the romance of the adventure."

The low cost of this mission is made possible due to the Russians
ability to "piggy-back" on a successful program in developing an
inflatable re-entry vehicle. Once injected into Earth's orbit,
the sail will be deployed by inflatable tubes, pulling out the sail
material and then rigidizing the structure. The sail is
constructed into eight "blades" or "petals" - roughly triangular in
shape. They can be turned (pitched) like helicopter blades, and
depending on how they are turned, the sunlight will reflect in
different directions. This is how the attitude of the spacecraft is
controlled and how the sail can "tack."

Low cost is also made possible by use of the Volna rocket,
manufactured by the Makeev Rocket Bureau in Russia. The Babakin
Space Center is the prime contractor for the project - the company
is a spin-off organization of NPO Lavochkin, the largest
manufacturer of robotic spacecraft in the world.

The April launch will be a sub-orbital flight test of the
deployment of two solar sail blades. An inflatable re-entry shield
is planned to bring the pictures of the deployment back to a
landing and recovery site in Kamchatka. The actual solar sail
flight will commence from an 850 km circular orbit, with a launch
being planned in a window between October - December of this year.
The sail will be 600 square meters of aluminized mylar, constructed
into 8 blades.

Solar sailing enables space travel without fuel. Applications
from space weather satellites that can hold position against the
force of gravity, to interplanetary shuttles carrying cargo between
the planets and the asteroids and comets are all part of the solar
sailing future. By diving in close to the Sun, future solar sails
will achieve enormous velocities enabling rendezvous with any solar
system object, or, as mentioned above, a flight to the stars.

Cosmos 1 is staffed by a world team of Americans and Russians.
The Planetary Society website has a dedicated section to this
mission, which includes an animation of the mission, spacecraft
details, updates and news releases. It will allow the world public
to follow and participate in this mission. This site is open to
the public and is located at

This will be the first space mission that will utilize a website to
continuously interface the sequence of the mission with the general
public, allowing continued and uninterrupted public participation.
Additional information will also be available at the Cosmos Studios
website located at

The Planetary Society is headquartered in Pasadena, California,
U.S.A. The organization was co-founded by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray
and Louis Friedman in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar
system, and to continue the search for extraterrestrial life. With
100,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society is the largest
space interest group in the world.

Cosmos Studios creates science-based entertainment that seeks to
thrill and engage the broadest possible audience through the
convergence of television, cinema and the Internet. The company
creates programming that makes news, entertains, uplifts and
inspires humankind's quest for knowledge, our understanding of
cosmic evolution, and our place in its great story. Cosmos Studios
is based in Los Angeles, California and is managed from Ithaca, New

 Charlene M. Anderson
 Associate Director
 The Planetary Society
 office: 626-793-5100
 fax: 626-793-5528


Extropy Institute,
Adler Planetarium
Life Extension Foundation,
National Rifle Association,, 1.800.672.3888
Ameritech Data Center Chicago, IL, Local 134 I.B.E.W

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