Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Use of robotics in space

I made a comment on Transterrestrial Musings a couple days ago about using robotics as a precursor to human settlement.  The post was about Elon Musk's idea of settling Mars.  It was a short comment, but drew a few negative responses.

There seems to be doubt that robots can reach the level of sophistication needed.

My recollection could be fuzzy on the subject, but human level intelligence may not be all that far off.  As early as 2028, according to the earliest estimates.

In my opinion, human level intelligence wouldn't be necessary.  Just some specialized programming in order to prepare the way for humans.

The advantage in using machines lies in not having to keep them alive.  This means an easier task of getting them there.

Rovers have been successfully landed and operated on Mars.  The next step would be to automate a few tasks, such as propellant manufacture, shelter manufacture, and farming for food production.

Some tasks may be combined.  Such as growing something on Mars, like algae.  Algae can be made into biofuels.  Let's say you make some carbon based fuel and the algae will produce the oxygen and propellant.

It is not too much more complicated to grow food, if you can grow algae.

For shelter, you can begin with a means to produce plastics from microbes.

For a water source, Phobos might do.

You could scout Phobos for water, and then decide if it is possible to set up a mining operation there for the purpose obtaining water for life support and making plastics.  From there, you can start working your way towards the surface.  Robots and teleoperation could prepare the way.  If you can subsist on Phobos for months at a time, you could set up a base there so as to control the machines on the ground.

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