Re: SPACE/IDEA FUTURES: Is the Pluto Mission a silly idea?

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Wed Dec 05 2001 - 18:58:32 MST

On Tue, 4 Dec 2001, Amara Graps wrote:

> Robert wrote:
> >Now here is the rub. It isn't supposed to get there until 2020.
> Why do you make this an issue? The outer solar system is a loooooong
> distance away.

For the reason I mention -- that it is in theory possible Pluto
will not be there when the probe gets there.

It isn't the fact that the outer solar system is a long distance away.
Its the fact that we don't have the energy budget to launch a probe
at 0.1c to get there! At 0.1c (the Project Daedalus Starship design
speed), it only takes 1.9 days to get to Pluto. So assuming its
an unmanned probe (no need to accelerate & decelerate at 1g), we
could probably launch a probe in 2019 and have it get there before
the 2006 launched probe.

Part of the point I'm trying to make is the possibility of a future
depression in conventional engineering applications. When it becomes
obvious that "real" nanotech is just the blink of an eye away, where
the "blink" may be anything from a year to 20 years (as is the case
with the NASA probe), it will become pointless to do certain construction
or exploration activities the "old" way.

Given that it will probably take 10 years to rebuild the WTC
(if they decide to rebuild it), does it not make sense to wait
until you can build it out of diamondoid which is much stronger
than steel and/or titanium carbide which has a much higher M.P.?

NASA runs into the problem before most engineering firms because
some of its missions have such long lifetimes. Because some of
them are so expensive -- I think the Pluto-Kuiper mission price
tag is $400M -- looking at the big picture one has to ask at what
point shifing that amount of funds into nanotech development
would payoff with the same science being done sooner because
it would have accelerated the development curve?


Homework problem for Amara -- how much energy/radiation is the probe
going to produce encountering inner solar system dust at 0.1c?
(Another way of looking at the question is, "What should the inner
solar system speed limits be set at?".)

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