Autonomy and Robotics

A Vision to Bootstrap the Solar System Economy

January 20, 2017

Early probes are one thing, but can we build a continuing presence among the stars, human or robotic? An evolutionary treatment of starflight sees it growing from a steadily expanding presence right here in our Solar System, the kind of infrastructure Alex Tolley examines in the essay below. How we get to a system-wide infrastructure […]

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Interstellar Journey: Shrinking the Probe

July 14, 2014

We’ve all imagined huge starships jammed with human crews, inspired by many a science fiction novel or movie. But a number of trends point in a different direction. As we look at what it would take to get even a robotic payload to another star, we confront the fact that tens of thousands of tons […]

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Thoughts on a Spacecraft’s Rebirth

May 22, 2014

According to a recent NASA news release, the agency has never before signed the kind of agreement it has made with Skycorp, Inc., a Los Gatos, CA-based firm that will now attempt contact with the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) spacecraft. You’ll recall that this is the vehicle that scientists and space activists alike have been […]

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Small Payloads to the Stars

April 3, 2014

Making things smaller seems more and more to be a key to feasibility for long-haul spaceflight. Recently I went through solar sail ideas from the 1950s as the concept made its way into the scientific journals after an interesting debut to the public in Astounding Science Fiction. We also discussed Sundiver missions taking advantage of […]

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Keeping the Probe Alive

March 20, 2013

Talking about issues of long-term maintenance and repair, as we have been for the past two days, raises the question of what we mean by ‘self-healing.’ As some commenters have noted, the recent Caltech work on computer chips that can recover from damage isn’t really healing at all. Caltech’s researchers zap the chip with a […]

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Autonomy and the Interstellar Probe

March 19, 2013

Yesterday’s thoughts on self-repairing chips, as demonstrated by recent work at Caltech, inevitably called Project Daedalus to mind. The span between the creation of the Daedalus design in the 1970s and today covers the development of the personal computer and the emergence of global networking, so it’s understandable that the way we view autonomy has […]

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Self-Healing Circuits for Deep Space

March 18, 2013

Computer failures can happen any time, but it’s been so long since I’ve had a hard disk failure that I rarely worry about such problems. Part of my relaxed stance has to do with backups, which I always keep in triplicate, so when I discovered Friday afternoon that one of my hard disks had failed […]

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Data Storage: The DNA Option

January 28, 2013

One of the benefits of constantly proliferating information is that we’re getting better and better at storing lots of stuff in small spaces. I love the fact that when I travel, I can carry hundreds of books with me on my Kindle, and to those who say you can only read one book at a […]

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Robotics: Pushing the Envelope

September 5, 2012

“My increasingly sophisticated laptops are starting to develop personalities of their own,” says Charles Lineweaver (Australian National University), as interviewed by Peter Spinks in The Age. It’s a whimsical remark in the context of a discussion on robotics in space missions, but I think many of us can relate to it. We all tend to […]

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Remembering the Early Robotic Explorers

August 29, 2012

Reflecting back on the history of robotic space missions, Larry Klaes offers a look at the early missions to Venus and Mars, harbingers of the far more complex probes we would later send into the Solar System. The Pioneers, Veneras and Mariners were, in their day, on the forefront of planetary research, blazing the trail […]

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