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  1. #1
    Matt Browne SFW matt-browne-sfw's Avatar
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    Interstellar space travel: Can we send frozen human embryos to the stars?

    There are many concepts on how to achieve interstellar space travel. Which designs have the best chances of getting implemented? What do you think?

    Here's a Wikipedia overview en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstellar_travel

    Interstellar space travel is unmanned or manned travel between stars. It is tremendously more difficult than interplanetary travel due to the vastly larger distances involved. Given sufficient travel time and engineering work, both unmanned and generational interstellar travel seem possible, though representing a very considerable technological and economic challenge unlikely to be met for some time, particularly for crewed probes. NASA has been engaging in research into these topics for several years, and has accumulated a number of theoretical approaches.

    Wikipedia lists several designs (including a human crew):

    A: Slow interstellar space travel based on generation starships (normal lifespans)
    B: Extented human lifespan to reduce number of generations on the starship
    C: Sleeper ships with hibernating human passengers (using cryopreservation)
    D: Embryo space colonization approach (using artificial wombs and androids)
    E: Fast sub-light-speed travel using light sails (slow but long acceleration process)
    F: Fast sub-light-speed travel using fusion engines (e.g. based on Bussard ramjet)
    G: Fast sub-light-speed travel using antimatter engines
    H: Locating and using a wormhole (as a “shortcut” to get to a distant star)
    I: Creating and using an artificial wormhole
    J: Faster than light travel based on “warped” spacetime or other currently unknown concept

    A – E: are all “slow” approaches with trips that can take thousands of years
    F + G: are all “fast” approaches with trips that can take many dozens of years
    H – J: are all “extremely fast” with trips that can take months or years

    Can you name your TOP 3 designs which have the best chances of getting implemented by the end of this century?

    Here are mine:

    TOP 1 - D: Embryo space colonization approach (using artificial wombs and androids)
    TOP 2 - B: Extented human lifespan to reduce number of generations on the starship
    TOP 3 - C: Sleeper ships with hibernating human passengers

  2. #2
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    I don't think we'll be much past early outpost colonies on the moon and mars by the end of the century... at the rate things are going, anyway. We'll be lucky if those outposts are self sustaining.

  3. #3
    If your androids are good enough to raise children why do we need the humans?

  4. #4
    Matt Browne SFW matt-browne-sfw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arrgh View Post
    If your androids are good enough to raise children why do we need the humans?
    Well, the idea is that both humans and intelligent machines should found colonies on other worlds in our galaxy. It's a friendly AI model based on Asimov's laws opposed to a unfriendly "Cylon"-like version.

  5. #5
    I don't see B as highly feasible since mankind has spent pretty much every waking moment trying to extend human lifetimes, and 100 years is about the best we've done, with extreme performance issues in the last 20-30 years. I don't see a breakthrough anytime soon.

    Freezing people is something we haven't spent a lot of time on, so a breakthrough here is more likely if we work on it. Freezing eggs and fertilizing them is current tech, so the artificial womb is the only required breakthrough in that scenario. Aritificial wombs are something we have indeed spent time and money on with very limited progress, so I think this one is less likely than freezing people, but still feasible in the next 80 years.

    So I put it at:

    TOP 1 - C: Sleeper ships with hibernating human passengers
    TOP 2 - D: Embryo space colonization approach (using artificial wombs and androids)
    TOP 3 - B: Extented human lifespan to reduce number of generations on the starship

    My friend recently worked on a solar sail mission so I guess I place that fourth, even though his bird didn't make it.

    The Legacy of Heorot by Niven, one of my favorite sci-fi books, uses embryos and hibernating passengers as its technology. I think generational ships both face technological problems like the longterm lack of gravity, and social ones, like living a life knowing you are just on a ride that you will never finish. "Birthdays" by Saberhagen is a great short story that deals with this concept in a fascinating way.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by matt-browne-sfw View Post
    Well, the idea is that both humans and intelligent machines should found colonies on other worlds in our galaxy. It's a friendly AI model based on Asimov's laws opposed to a unfriendly "Cylon"-like version.
    Why would let unfriendly ones raise your kids?

    Anyway wouldn't it be safer to send out bands of androids then to pre-colonize? Prepare the world and sit around for a century or so to prevent any KHAAAAAN type mishaps? They could then report back that all was well and you could send your egg crate.

  7. #7
    Galactic Mercenary Halcyon Dayz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arrgh View Post
    Anyway wouldn't it be safer to send out bands of androids then to pre-colonize? Prepare the world and sit around for a century or so to prevent any KHAAAAAN type mishaps? They could then report back that all was well and you could send your egg crate.
    Or just keep the eggs in the freezer until such time that there is a viable colony.
    Eggs are small and expendable.
    No need for a second mission.

  8. #8
    Voyage from Yesteryear by James P Hogan is a good example of the D option.

    It's a good story, albeit a little simplistic in some of it's assumptions.

  9. #9
    Matt Browne SFW matt-browne-sfw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Boultbee View Post
    Voyage from Yesteryear by James P Hogan is a good example of the D option.

    It's a good story, albeit a little simplistic in some of it's assumptions.
    I would agree with that. My novel goes into more detail exploring the D option also in terms of the preparation efforts involved. But the book "The Future Happens Twice" is only for people who like long novels (it's 730 pages)

  10. #10
    Just saw an intersting article at Space.com about this topic:

    http://www.space.com/businesstechnol...ri-travel.html

    It looks at the current technologies for getting man to Alpha Centauri.

  11. #11
    Sperm, oocyte (eggs), and embryo freezing is still not perfected. They last for months to years (sperm for perhaps decades). None with the current technology would last long enough for such a long flight, or at least there would be a marked reduction in viability over the years, so it would not be a predictable program. So, for right now, there is no way any of these are feasible, except for a huge, huge biosphere multigenerational ship. I've forgotten the name of the biosphere experiment done about 10-20 years ago, but it was not totally independent in the end. Better to hope for no supernova, self-destruction, or alien invasion, and just wait while we plod through the solar system and advance technology. If we were willing to wait, sending off terrafarming ships to prepare planets for us to colonize in 1000 years might be the best idea. Hoping, of course, that they don't start terrafarming a planet with a technologically superior species already there, and without a sense of humor.

    There is a set of books by Shane Dix and Sean Williams, the Orphans of Earth series. In this series the earth sends out colonization ships (just one of the givens, not the actual plot of the story, it is more involved than that) with nanobots which terrafarm planets and construct colonies, and then download human engrams into androids to continue man's legacy there. Interesting read, and interesting ideas, just not technically available yet either.

  12. #12
    shire dweller NilsDesperandum's Avatar
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    Love the sleeper ships idea, just the comedy (and i'm sure this has been done - examples please) of waking up say 1000 years and god knows how many light years down the line only to find that people have been sending themselves left right and centre via intergalactic email for centuries!

    Hang on, i might be onto something there.
    ND

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by NilsDesperandum View Post
    Love the sleeper ships idea, just the comedy (and i'm sure this has been done - examples please) of waking up say 1000 years and god knows how many light years down the line only to find that people have been sending themselves left right and centre via intergalactic email for centuries!

    Hang on, i might be onto something there.
    ND
    Ah, you've been beaten to this one several times. I've come across colony ships arriving to find the colony already exists thanks to FTL travel. I've also read the debate, post FTL discovery, as to whether to expend time trying to track down colony ships or just leave them to complete in original timescale.

  14. #14
    Matt Browne SFW matt-browne-sfw's Avatar
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    Maybe you've heard about the Longbet system with predictions and bets. This one is about embryo space colonization

    http://www.longbets.org/341

    The essential requirements include the ability to build an artificial womb, i.e. a machine that nurtures and grows a human embryo outside of a woman's body, create androids based on advanced robotics that are capable of raising children and running on linguistic software that passes the Turing test, and construct a spaceship for slow interstellar travel using strong and durable materials such as carbon nanotubes which will last for several 10,000 years.

  15. #15
    This one is about embryo space colonization
    I know I've mentioned this on other threads, but Fred Saberhagen wrote an awesome short story about this concept called "Birthdays", which is unfortunately not available online from what i can google.

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