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Space Earth Moon NASA Robotics

Project M Could Send Every Scientist To the Moon, By Proxy 150

Posted by timothy
from the why-leave-the-house dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this interesting bit of speculation: "NASA can put humanoids on the Moon in just 1000 days. They would be controlled by scientists on Earth using motion capture suits, giving them the feeling of being on the lunar surface. If they can achieve this for real, the results for science research of our satellite could be amazing."
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Project M Could Send Every Scientist To the Moon, By Proxy

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  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday February 27, 2010 @02:23AM (#31295062) Homepage Journal
    You can't get instant feedback from the moon. There's a slight delay. So, it doesn't really feel like you are holding something in your hands unless you're standing still. It mostly feels like you're drunk when you operate a waldo with a delay. People are going to have to get trained to deal with that.
  • Seriously (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blakedev (1397081) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @02:26AM (#31295084)
    What's the fun in that?
  • Thanks Bruce (Score:3, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @02:49AM (#31295192) Journal

    I probably would have gone with "You can't take and hold ground with bots - to stake a claim requires Men on the ground." But that works.

    The bot thing is a distraction. If we don't get our genome off this mudball we're as doomed as the dinosaurs. Sooner or later some unpleasantness will occur.

  • Re:Obvious Hoax (Score:3, Insightful)

    by derGoldstein (1494129) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @02:55AM (#31295212) Homepage

    Hey Jesus Diaz, were you sick the day of journalism school when they taught chasing up sources? Maybe if you called JSC and heard the exasperated public relations officer explain, again, that no there is no Project M but thanks for your call, you could save yourself some embarrassment.

    Gizmodo: "jour-nal-ism?..."

    It's also possible to blame /. for picking the story. But looking for journalism on Gizmodo or /. is unrealistic. I'm not mocking here, I'm regulating expectations -- expecting even the "established" blogs to look for multiple sources or contact a company for feedback prior to posting a story is setting the bar too high. It's up to the readers to be more discerning and critical, and most aren't.

  • Re:Obvious Hoax (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Saturday February 27, 2010 @02:59AM (#31295228) Homepage Journal

    If you're a subscriber to Slashdot you see stories like this hit the front page a half hour or so before they go live. There's a link that says "Any serious problems with this story? Drop our on duty editor a line." and there's an email link with prefilled subjected line etc. I sent basically what I wrote here as an email nearly an hour ago.. they chose to ignore me. I've done this before and they've pulled stories.. so it seems some editors are interested in stopping nonsense and some are not. So yes, I do blame Slashdot for being part of the echo chamber. There's no reason to post shit that is obviously fake.

  • Re:Obvious Hoax (Score:5, Insightful)

    by derGoldstein (1494129) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @03:37AM (#31295352) Homepage
    I tend to hold Slashdot to a higher standard too, which is why I'm here rather than Digg/Reddit (where anything that draws clicks is welcome, and any discussion is, well, you know...). However, occasionally Slashdot will post bait stories (not necessarily "flaimbait", just "plain bait"), especially when it comes to anything regarding MS/Apple/YRO where the main purpose is to let people vent. In such cases, I don't really see it as a mistake, or "wrong", partly because anyone with high karma doesn't see ads, so at most it's "pandering", rather than something used to boost page views. In the case of this particular story, I imagine that the editor thought it would make a good discussion piece in its field, and the source (and even validity) was irrelevant because just the theory/concept will produce an interesting discussion (as users discuss the viability of such an undertaking).

    I'd blame Gizmodo, if I visited the site directly, but I don't -- I let other filters point me there if they think there's anything interested posted. As for Slashdot, probably less so in this particular case. If they ignored the comment that you sent, then it changes the "judgment" somewhat, but it may still be arguable that the story was posted just for general interest, and the source/validity wasn't a factor. As you said, it's also (or primarily) up to individual editors, though I'd hope that they at least talk to one another and try to get minimal feedback prior to posting (I've no idea what their actual process is, of course).
  • 25 minutes of moon (Score:3, Insightful)

    by srussia (884021) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @04:11AM (#31295482)
    If "being" on the moon means controlling a humanoid avatar by motion-capture suit, and assuming 2 such avatars. Each scientist in the US (around 1.25 million) could get 25 minutes of "moon time" over a period of 30 years.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @04:12AM (#31295488) Homepage

    In addition to sending human-controlled robots to the moon, lets send along refineries and factories to produce solar panels.

    Yeah, right. Back around 1985, I went to a conference where some AI professors were mouthing off about putting self-replicating factories on the Moon within 20 years. I asked "How soon can you do it in Arizona?" They didn't like that.

  • Re:Obvious Hoax (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter (624760) * on Saturday February 27, 2010 @04:49AM (#31295588) Journal
    "There's no reason to post shit that is obviously fake."

    On the contrary, it will attract a lot of comments, some from people who believe it and some from those who don't. Compared to other sites a disproportionately high number of those comments will be from people who actually know what they are talking about and have the evidence to back it up. Those comments demonstrate to readers the true meaning of skepticisim and even those who already practice the art can learn a great deal from them, just as I have learnt something from you today without having RTFA. Of course being a practising skeptic I'm not just taking your word for it, I did do a bit of googling before posting this. :)
  • by urusan (1755332) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @05:13AM (#31295648)

    In addition to sending human-controlled robots to the moon, lets send along refineries and factories to produce solar panels.

    Yeah, right. Back around 1985, I went to a conference where some AI professors were mouthing off about putting self-replicating factories on the Moon within 20 years. I asked "How soon can you do it in Arizona?" They didn't like that.

    This idea does not require AI or self-replication. The intelligence could be provided by humans remotely controlling the robots on the moon.

    While self-replication would be nice because it would allow the project to grow without bound at a very low cost, it is not needed as long as we can lift enough robots, bases, and other materials that can't be created on-site to the moon. Self-replication might even be realistically achievable with something like a fab lab staffed by remote controlled robots.

    I think a trial run in Arizona is a fantastic idea. If we couldn't get it working in a desert on Earth then there would be no point in spending all that money lifting it to the moon.

  • Re:Thanks Bruce (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cgenman (325138) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @05:54AM (#31295756) Homepage

    The bot thing is a distraction. If we don't get our genome off this mudball we're as doomed as the dinosaurs. Sooner or later some unpleasantness will occur.

    If utilizing remote robots advances our knowledge faster right now than attempting to stuff a human being up there, we'll achieve sustainable space travel faster that way.

    Though to be perfectly honest, we've sent remote robots to other planets many times. The mars rovers come to mind. The only difference is that this would be more representatively shaped... though with a 3 - 6 second lag time, it's going to have to be pretty autonomous anyway.

  • by urusan (1755332) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @06:33AM (#31295858)

    That said, there's no mature technology for doing this kind of processing of regolith and, even when there is, it's unlikely to be something that could be tended by robots or weigh so little that it can be sent up on an existing booster.

    Indeed, this is the main technical challenge for such a project. Is it possible with present-day technology at a reasonable weight or not?

    The robot part can definitely be handled because it doesn't require AI, as they can be remotely controlled by human operators and any AI will merely simplify the process.

    The weight issue seems more promising than the solar satellite idea, which requires millions of tons of material lifted into orbit to cover our energy needs. While there is still no guarantee that we can develop refineries and factories that can meet the needs of such a project at a reasonable overall cost and weight, it should be noted that the project does not need to be lifted in large indivisible pieces. Unlike manned space flight which needs a heavy lifter booster to carry all the essential equipment up in one go, the factories can be lifted in many small pieces in many smaller flights and assembled on-site by the human-controlled robots. The biggest single piece may be an assembler robot.

    Additionally, the returns on the investment could be staggering. Let's say for the sake of discussion that the US carried out the program at a cost of $1 trillion USD (NASA's 2010 budget for 53 years or 7 International Space Stations) and it delivered 5TW of power (covering roughly 0.25%-0.5% of the moon's surface area). At current electricity rates it would generate something like $400 billion USD a month, which would mean it would pay for itself in roughly three months. After three years of operation it would have generated enough revenue to pay off the US public debt (what other trillion dollar program can even consider doing this?). Afterwards there would be a trillion dollar surplus even with taxes reduced to 0%.

    Of course realistically it would cause energy prices to plummet, but the overall benefits would be on the same order of magnitude. The above is merely meant to illustrate the enormity of impact a success would have.

    Also, the above scenario is probably quite pessimistic, as $1 trillion is pretty insane for a space program (would a moon factory really cost seven times as much as the ISS to develop, build, and launch?) and after the concept was proven it would keep expanding beyond its initial capacity as long as it was economical to do so. Getting an accurate figure will require more in-depth research.

    If such extreme returns are reasonably possible, then shouldn't we at least consider the idea very seriously? It's not like we need to start with the part where we lift the equipment to the moon: an in-depth study would iron out the details and if it still looks promising then an Earth-based demonstration of the technology would remove all doubt before we start pouring billions into launches.

  • by AigariusDebian (721386) <aigarius@debiaTIGERn.org minus cat> on Saturday February 27, 2010 @07:22AM (#31295992) Homepage

    That might be true for US cellphones, but for the rest of the world the delays are a few milliseconds within any country.

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