Vince and ChatGPT4 discuss interstellar asteroid mission

Model: GPT-4  -  Apr 4, 2023


As far as we currently know, the only life or intelligence in the universe is all located on Earth. Would be nice to see some headed far away. However, we don't really have the tech to do that now. I am exploring the idea of sending some machines with AI (no biological life) on a mission to land on an interstellar asteroid that was passing through our solar system. There have been 2 interstellar asteroids that we know of that pass through our solar system in the last decade. As we get better telescopes I expect we will see interstellar asteroids even more often. The idea is that it could start out with technology not much more advanced than current levels so we could launch reasonably soon and have more advanced tech over time with communications from Earth.

Initially power could come from an RTG. They could start out some ability to tunnel in the asteroid and refine metals. They might have 3D printers to make some parts. They could set up a big antenna to get higher speed communications back to Earth. If their main home is in a tunnel inside the asteroid they will be well shielded from radiation. They would start out with some spare parts for things that they could not initially possible to make from the asteroid material, like computer chips.

The initial launch would have limited tech compared to what could be transmitted from Earth in the decades after launch. Earth could send them more advanced tech over time. They could make a larger power source using fusion or fission before the RTG got too old. Decades later there might be tech for making small numbers of computer chips that could be uploaded to the asteroid.

At some point the tech would get to where they could make all the parts for any of the machines. So they could keep on building an replacing parts. With power, data scrubbing, and unlimited spare parts, some machines could be operational for thousands of years (not the same machines really). At some point there would be tech for creating DNA and full seeds and micro-organisms from digital information. The information for creating this life could be sent to the asteroid. Also tech for making landing craft for once the asteroid some suitable planet was near enough. So they could spread both biological and AI life.

Imagine a billionaire wanted to launch a mission like this in 2 or 3 decades. Keeping in mind that some tech will be developed and transmitted later, what technologies needed for the initial launch would be hardest to get ready in time?



This is an intriguing idea! While there will be various challenges to overcome, I will focus on the main technological difficulties that could be hardest to get ready in time for the initial launch in 2 or 3 decades:

  1. Interstellar Asteroid Detection and Trajectory Prediction: In order to intercept and land on an interstellar asteroid, we need to improve our ability to detect and predict the trajectory of these objects early enough to plan and execute a mission. Current detection capabilities might not be sufficient for such precise predictions, so advances in telescopes and observation techniques will be crucial.

  2. High-Speed Interstellar Spacecraft: To catch up with an interstellar asteroid, the spacecraft must be capable of reaching high velocities, potentially faster than any spacecraft we have built so far. Developing propulsion systems capable of these speeds and with efficient fuel consumption will be a major challenge.

  3. Advanced Robotics and AI: The machines sent on this mission will need to be highly autonomous, capable of problem-solving and decision-making without direct human intervention due to communication delays. Developing advanced robotics and AI systems to operate in these conditions will be essential.

  4. In-situ Resource Utilization (ISRU): The AI machines will need the capability to mine and process materials from the asteroid for manufacturing, energy production, and life support systems. This will require advances in ISRU technologies, including mining, refining, and 3D printing with local materials.

  5. Long-Range Communication: Maintaining high-speed, reliable communication with Earth over vast distances will be necessary to transmit technology updates and receive guidance. This will require the development of powerful antennas and communication systems that can operate over long periods.

  6. Radiation Shielding: Although the AI machines will be shielded from radiation by residing in tunnels within the asteroid, electronic components can still be affected by cosmic radiation. Developing effective radiation shielding technology for sensitive electronics will be important.

  7. Power Generation and Storage: The initial RTG power source will need to be replaced with more advanced systems over time. Developing compact and efficient fusion or fission reactors, as well as long-lasting energy storage solutions, will be vital to ensure the mission's long-term success.

  8. Advanced Manufacturing: The technology to manufacture complex components like computer chips and DNA from digital information is still in its infancy. Developing these capabilities will be essential for the mission's long-term sustainability and for seeding life on other planets.

While some of these technologies might be difficult to develop in the given timeframe, it is possible that rapid advancements in relevant fields, combined with substantial funding and global collaboration, could bring these ideas closer to reality.



 In theory is it possible to make very large phased array antenna or are there size limitations?


 In theory, it is possible to create very large phased array antennas. Phased array antennas are composed of multiple individual antenna elements, each of which can be electronically controlled to steer the antenna's beam in a desired direction. By combining the signals from these elements, phased array antennas can form a highly directional beam without the need for mechanical steering.

There are no fundamental size limitations to building a large phased array antenna. However, there are practical challenges that can arise as the size of the antenna increases:

  1. Complexity: As the number of antenna elements increases, the complexity of the system grows, making it more challenging to design, build, and maintain. This includes the need for a large number of electronic components and intricate control systems to manage the signals from each element.

  2. Cost: Large phased array antennas can be expensive to construct and maintain due to the increased number of components, the need for precision alignment, and other factors associated with their size and complexity.

  3. Structural considerations: As the size of the phased array antenna increases, structural challenges may arise, such as increased weight, the need for more robust support structures, and issues related to thermal expansion and contraction.

  4. Power requirements: A larger phased array antenna typically requires more power to transmit and receive signals effectively. This might necessitate the development of power-efficient components and systems to support the antenna's operation.

  5. Interference and noise: A large phased array antenna can be more susceptible to interference and noise due to the increased number of elements and the complexity of the system. This may require the development of advanced signal processing techniques and error correction methods to maintain high-quality communication.

Despite these challenges, it is possible to build large phased array antennas, and engineers have been working on scaling up these systems for various applications, such as space-based communication, radar, and radio astronomy. The key to realizing such large systems lies in overcoming these practical challenges through innovation, engineering, and the development of advanced materials and technologies.



 If the asteroid is rotating, as asteroids tend to do, it might be the best way to keep communication was with a large phased array antenna.


You are correct that many asteroids do rotate, which can pose a challenge for maintaining stable communication with a spacecraft or instruments located on their surface. A large phased array antenna could be an effective solution to address this issue. Here's why:

  1. Electronic Beam Steering: Phased array antennas can electronically steer the beam direction without any mechanical movement. This allows them to rapidly and precisely adjust the beam direction to compensate for the asteroid's rotation, ensuring a stable communication link with Earth.

  2. Wide Field-of-View: Phased array antennas can potentially cover a wide field-of-view, which means they can maintain communication over a broader range of angles relative to the Earth. This capability is especially beneficial if the rotation of the asteroid causes the antenna's orientation to change significantly.

  3. Adaptive Beamforming: Phased array antennas can use adaptive beamforming techniques to focus the beam on the desired target (Earth) and minimize interference from other sources. This can help maintain a stable communication link even in the presence of the asteroid's rotation or other sources of interference.

  4. Multiple Beams: Some phased array antennas can generate multiple beams simultaneously, which can be used to maintain communication with multiple targets or to create a more robust communication link by using spatial diversity.

To maximize the effectiveness of a phased array antenna in this scenario, the antenna's control system would need to be programmed with the asteroid's rotation dynamics and trajectory information. This would enable the antenna to continuously adjust the beam direction in real-time, compensating for the asteroid's rotation and maintaining a reliable communication link with Earth.



 Once in orbit making multistage rockets would not be too hard, so getting the delta-V needed should be something that can be developed. Also, we can use high isp engines once in space. So this part can probably be done on schedule.


Indeed, once a spacecraft is in orbit, using multistage rockets or high-specific impulse (Isp) engines can be an effective way to achieve the required delta-V for an interstellar asteroid mission. In the vacuum of space, high-Isp propulsion systems, such as ion thrusters and Hall-effect thrusters, can efficiently generate the thrust needed for interplanetary or interstellar missions, even if their thrust levels are relatively low compared to chemical rockets.

There are several advantages to using high-Isp engines and multistage rockets for such a mission:

  1. Efficiency: High-Isp engines provide a greater change in velocity per unit of propellant mass than conventional chemical rockets, making them more fuel-efficient for long-duration missions.

  2. Scalability: Multistage rockets can be designed to provide the required delta-V by shedding mass as each stage is depleted, which helps reduce the overall mass that needs to be accelerated.

  3. Flexibility: In-space assembly or refueling can be employed to build larger or more complex spacecraft, allowing for modular mission designs that can be adapted to different mission objectives and constraints.

  4. Proven technology: High-Isp engines, such as ion thrusters, have been successfully used in various space missions, demonstrating their reliability and effectiveness for deep-space missions.

While these propulsion systems can help address the delta-V requirements for the mission, there are still other challenges, such as trajectory planning, power generation, and thermal management, that need to be considered. Furthermore, even with high-Isp engines, reaching an interstellar asteroid within a reasonable timeframe might still require significant advances in propulsion technology or innovative mission architectures, such as gravity-assist maneuvers.

With continued research and development, combined with a well-planned mission strategy, it is likely that these propulsion systems can be developed and optimized to meet the required delta-V and mission timeline constraints.



 AI and robotics are advancing so fast the past 6 months, in particular since ChatGPT came online, that I am confident they will be plenty advanced in a decade or two for such a mission.


 The rapid advancements in AI and robotics in recent years, including the development of sophisticated language models like ChatGPT, do provide optimism for their readiness in a decade or two for a mission to an interstellar asteroid. As AI and robotics continue to evolve, we can expect further breakthroughs and improvements in various aspects relevant to the mission, such as:

  1. Autonomy: AI systems will likely become more capable of decision-making, planning, and problem-solving with minimal human intervention, which is crucial for a mission with long communication delays.

  2. Machine learning and adaptation: AI-powered robots can learn from their experiences and adapt to new situations, which will be invaluable when dealing with the uncertainties of an asteroid mission.

  3. Computer vision and perception: AI systems will likely advance in their ability to process and interpret sensory data, allowing them to better understand their environment and perform tasks with greater precision and reliability.

  4. Multi-agent cooperation: As AI systems become more capable, multiple robots can work together efficiently to accomplish mission objectives, sharing information and resources to optimize their performance.

  5. Human-AI interaction: Improvements in AI systems can lead to more natural and effective communication between humans and AI, which will be essential for mission control and remote guidance.

  6. Energy efficiency: As AI and robotics technologies progress, they may become more energy-efficient, which is important for a mission with limited power resources.

It is worth noting, however, that even with rapid advancements in AI and robotics, there will still be engineering challenges to address, such as developing robust hardware capable of surviving the harsh space environment, ensuring reliable operation for extended periods, and integrating AI and robotics systems with other mission-critical systems. Nevertheless, the ongoing progress in these fields does provide a strong basis for optimism that AI and robotics will be ready for such an ambitious mission within the next couple of decades.



If the machines were 100 feet inside the asteroid in a tunnel with several turns, could significant cosmic radiation get to them? That is more mass per square inch than Earth's atmosphere gives us. I guess there is no magnetic field protection, but still I did not think radiation far inside the asteroid would be an issue. Are you sure it would be?


You are correct that placing the machines deep inside the asteroid within a tunnel with several turns would provide substantial shielding from cosmic radiation. The mass of the surrounding asteroid material would attenuate high-energy particles and cosmic rays, reducing their intensity before they reach the machines. This is similar to how Earth's atmosphere provides a protective layer against cosmic radiation.

While a magnetic field provides additional protection on Earth, the thick layer of asteroid material should be sufficient to protect the machines and their electronic components from most radiation effects. However, some secondary radiation may still be produced as a result of cosmic rays interacting with the asteroid material, creating showers of lower-energy particles. These secondary particles would typically have much lower energy than the primary cosmic rays, and their impact on the machines would be less significant.

Given the substantial shielding provided by the asteroid, it is likely that radiation would not be a major issue for machines placed deep inside the asteroid as you described. However, it is still important to consider radiation-hardened components and shielding techniques for sensitive electronics to ensure reliable operation over the long duration of the mission. This would be especially relevant for any components that might be exposed to the space environment during operations outside the protective confines of the asteroid tunnels.



I bet lots of people would like working on this project.


Indeed, a project like this, aiming to land AI-powered machines on an interstellar asteroid, would likely attract a lot of interest from researchers, engineers, and other professionals working in various fields. Such a project is groundbreaking, ambitious, and has the potential to make significant contributions to our understanding of the universe and the development of advanced technologies.

Some reasons why people might be interested in working on this project include:

  1. Scientific discovery: This mission would provide a unique opportunity to study an interstellar asteroid up close, potentially revealing new insights into the composition, structure, and origins of these celestial objects.

  2. Technological innovation: The mission would require the development and integration of cutting-edge technologies in areas like AI, robotics, propulsion, communication, and materials science, offering exciting challenges and opportunities for innovation.

  3. Interdisciplinary collaboration: A project of this scale and complexity would necessitate collaboration among professionals from various disciplines, such as astronomy, physics, engineering, computer science, and biology, fostering a collaborative environment that can lead to new ideas and breakthroughs.

  4. Pioneering exploration: Landing machines on an interstellar asteroid represents a new frontier in space exploration, and being part of such a pioneering effort can be a powerful motivator for those who are passionate about space and discovery.

  5. Long-term vision: The project's ultimate goal of seeding life on other planets and spreading AI life throughout the cosmos is a bold, visionary objective that can inspire and captivate the imagination of people working on the mission.

Overall, the unique challenges and opportunities presented by this project would likely attract a diverse group of professionals who share a passion for exploration, discovery, and pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and technological capability.


Imagine we had a 1 km diameter asteroid that was rotating once per hour and put a 100 km space tether on it at the equator. Then on the end of the 100 km tether we had some weight and an ion drive. So we have sort of 200 to 1 leverage to thrust against the spin of the asteroid. How long would one large ion drive take to stop the asteroid from spinning if fuel and power were not an issue?


In order to calculate how long it would take for the ion drive to stop the asteroid from spinning, we need to determine the angular momentum of the asteroid and then figure out the torque exerted by the ion drive through the tether. Finally, we can find the time required to stop the rotation by dividing the angular momentum by the torque.


  1. The asteroid is a uniform sphere with a diameter of 1 km (radius = 500 m) and a density of 2,000 kg/m³ (typical density of rocky asteroids).
  2. The asteroid is spinning with a period of 1 hour (3600 s).
  3. The ion drive is 100 km (100,000 m) away from the center of the asteroid, and the tether is attached to the equator.

Step 1: Calculate the mass and moment of inertia of the asteroid. Mass (m) = (4/3)πr³ρ = (4/3)π(500 m)³(2000 kg/m³) ≈ 5.24 × 10¹¹ kg Moment of Inertia (I) = (2/5)mr² = (2/5)(5.24 × 10¹¹ kg)(500 m)² ≈ 5.24 × 10¹³ kg m²

Step 2: Calculate the initial angular velocity of the asteroid. Angular Velocity (ω) = 2π / Period = 2π / 3600 s ≈ 1.74 × 10⁻³ rad/s

Step 3: Calculate the angular momentum of the asteroid. Angular Momentum (L) = Iω = (5.24 × 10¹³ kg m²)(1.74 × 10⁻³ rad/s) ≈ 9.12 × 10¹⁰ kg m²/s

Step 4: Estimate the thrust (F) produced by the ion drive. Assuming a "large" ion drive produces 1 N of thrust (ion drives typically produce low thrust compared to chemical rockets).

Step 5: Calculate the torque (τ) exerted by the ion drive through the tether. Torque (τ) = Force × Distance = (1 N)(100,000 m) = 1 × 10⁵ N m

Step 6: Calculate the time (t) required to stop the asteroid's rotation. Time (t) = Angular Momentum / Torque = (9.12 × 10¹⁰ kg m²/s) / (1 × 10⁵ N m) ≈ 9.12 × 10⁵ s

Therefore, it would take approximately 9.12 × 10⁵ seconds (about 10.5 days) for the ion drive to stop the asteroid from spinning, assuming fuel and power were not an issue. Keep in mind that these calculations are based on several simplifying assumptions, and the actual time could vary depending on various factors.




For the two known interstellar asteroids about how long would it take from when they were closest to the Sun till when they had a distance of 77 AU from the Sun?


 As an AI language model, I cannot provide real-time data on the positions or velocities of celestial objects. However, I can provide you with an approximate estimation based on the known characteristics of the two interstellar objects discovered before my knowledge cutoff in September 2021: 'Oumuamua (1I/2017 U1) and 2I/Borisov (C/2019 Q4).

  1. 'Oumuamua: 'Oumuamua's closest approach to the Sun, or perihelion, was at approximately 0.255 AU on September 9, 2017. Its speed at perihelion was roughly 315,000 km/h (196,000 mph).

  2. 2I/Borisov: 2I/Borisov reached its perihelion at approximately 2.005 AU on December 8, 2019. Its speed at perihelion was estimated to be around 177,000 km/h (110,000 mph).

To calculate the approximate time it would take for these objects to travel from their perihelion distances to a distance of 77 AU, we can use the following formula:

Time = Distance / Speed

Keep in mind that the speeds of these objects are not constant, as they are influenced by the gravitational pull of the Sun and other celestial bodies. Thus, these calculations should be considered rough estimates. Furthermore, it is important to remember that my knowledge is not updated beyond September 2021, and I cannot provide real-time information.

For 'Oumuamua: Distance from perihelion to 77 AU: 77 AU - 0.255 AU ≈ 76.745 AU Speed: 315,000 km/h = 87.5 km/s (approximate, as it changes due to gravitational forces)

Assuming an average speed of 87.5 km/s (which is a rough approximation):

Time = (76.745 AU * 149.6 million km/AU) / 87.5 km/s ≈ 12,945,314 seconds ≈ 149.8 days

For 2I/Borisov: Distance from perihelion to 77 AU: 77 AU - 2.005 AU ≈ 74.995 AU Speed: 177,000 km/h = 49.2 km/s (approximate, as it changes due to gravitational forces)

Assuming an average speed of 49.2 km/s (which is a rough approximation):

Time = (74.995 AU * 149.6 million km/AU) / 49.2 km/s ≈ 22,675,479 seconds ≈ 262.2 days

So, for 'Oumuamua, it would take approximately 149.8 days, and for 2I/Borisov, it would take approximately 262.2 days to travel from their closest points to the Sun to a distance of 77 AU. Keep in mind that these are rough estimates and might not be entirely accurate due to various factors, including the changing velocities of the objects and the influence of other celestial bodies' gravity.





Given that we have seen 2 interstellar asteroids in the last decade and our telescopes are getting better with time, it is reasonable to expect we will detect them more frequently in the future?


Yes, it is reasonable to expect that we will detect interstellar asteroids or other interstellar objects more frequently in the future. The discovery of 'Oumuamua and 2I/Borisov in recent years has already demonstrated that our ability to detect such objects is improving. There are several reasons to expect that we will find more of these objects in the future:

  1. Advancements in telescope technology: Telescopes are becoming more powerful and sensitive, which increases our ability to detect fainter and smaller objects. In particular, wide-field survey telescopes, like the upcoming Vera C. Rubin Observatory (formerly known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or LSST), are expected to significantly improve our ability to discover and track interstellar objects.

  2. Improved data processing: Advanced algorithms and data processing techniques are being developed to better analyze the large volumes of data collected by telescopes, enabling more efficient detection and characterization of celestial objects.

  3. Increased sky coverage: As more observatories come online and existing ones continue to operate, the amount of sky coverage will increase, enhancing the chances of detecting interstellar objects.

  4. Collaborative efforts: Astronomers and researchers from around the world are increasingly collaborating and sharing data, which can lead to more rapid identification and confirmation of new interstellar objects.

  5. Growing interest and awareness: The discoveries of 'Oumuamua and 2I/Borisov have raised awareness of interstellar objects and spurred interest in their study. This increased attention is likely to lead to more dedicated observational campaigns and resources being allocated to the search for such objects.

Given these factors, it is likely that we will detect interstellar objects more frequently in the future, improving our understanding of their origins, properties, and potential implications for our understanding of the universe.




How fast were the two interstellar asteroids rotating? 


As of my knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, two known interstellar objects had been observed: 'Oumuamua and 2I/Borisov. It is important to note that these objects are technically not classified as asteroids but rather as interstellar objects, as their origin is from outside our Solar System.

  1. 'Oumuamua: 'Oumuamua, discovered in October 2017, is the first known interstellar object to pass through our Solar System. Its rotation period has been estimated to be around 7.3 hours, but it is not a simple rotation. The object exhibits a tumbling motion, which means it is rotating along multiple axes. This tumbling motion is thought to continue for at least a billion years.

  2. 2I/Borisov: 2I/Borisov, discovered in August 2019, is the second known interstellar object and the first observed interstellar comet. Its rotation period is less precisely known compared to 'Oumuamua, but estimates suggest it could be between 7-20 hours.

Both objects have irregular shapes and rotation periods, making it difficult to definitively determine their exact rotation rates. Keep in mind that new interstellar objects may have been discovered since my knowledge cutoff date, and additional observations or refinements in measurements could lead to updates on their rotation rates.



What is the definition of an asteroid?


An asteroid is a small, rocky celestial body that orbits the Sun. They are typically remnants from the early formation of the Solar System and primarily consist of minerals and metals. Most asteroids are located in the asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. However, some asteroids can be found in other regions of the Solar System as well.

Asteroids can vary in size, ranging from a few meters to hundreds of kilometers in diameter. Unlike planets, they do not have enough mass to become spherical in shape and often have irregular forms. Due to their smaller size and irregular shapes, asteroids do not have the significant gravity necessary to maintain an atmosphere.

Asteroids are distinct from comets, which are celestial bodies composed primarily of ice, dust, and rock. When comets approach the Sun, the heat causes their icy components to vaporize, forming a glowing coma and a tail. Asteroids, on the other hand, do not have this icy composition and do not exhibit a coma or tail when near the Sun.



If we wanted to send some advanced robots to an asteroid with the hope they would be able to mine resources needed to make all their own parts and more robots, which type of asteroid would be best?


To send advanced robots to an asteroid for the purpose of mining resources to create more robots and parts, you would ideally target an asteroid that contains abundant supplies of metals, water, and other essential materials. In general, the best type of asteroid for this purpose would be an M-type or C-type asteroid, as they contain valuable resources in higher concentrations.

M-type (Metallic) asteroids: M-type asteroids are primarily composed of metal-rich minerals, such as iron, nickel, and cobalt. These metals are essential for constructing the structural components of robots and their parts. M-type asteroids can be found in the middle region of the asteroid belt, and the most famous example is 16 Psyche.

C-type (Carbonaceous) asteroids: C-type asteroids are the most common type of asteroids and make up about 75% of known asteroids. They contain a variety of materials including water, organic compounds, and metal-bearing minerals. Water is essential for supporting human life, and it can also be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be used as rocket propellant. Organic compounds can be used as feedstock for manufacturing plastics, while the metal-bearing minerals can be processed for constructing robot components. C-type asteroids can be found throughout the asteroid belt, with the most well-known example being 1 Ceres.

In conclusion, targeting either an M-type or C-type asteroid would be the most suitable choice for mining resources needed to make all their own parts and more robots. However, it's important to consider factors such as proximity to Earth, size, and accessibility when selecting a specific asteroid for this purpose.




Imagine a direct fusion drive rocket with an ISP of 10,000 seconds, thrust of 10 newton's, total weight at start of 3,000 kg of which 1,000 kg was fuel. How long would it take to use up the fuel and what would the delta-V be?


To determine how long it would take to use up the fuel and the rocket's delta-V, we'll need to use the rocket equation and some basic physics.

First, let's find the mass flow rate (ṁ) of the rocket, which is the rate at which it consumes fuel. We can do this using the formula:

ṁ = F / (Isp * g0)


  • F is the thrust (10 N)
  • Isp is the specific impulse (10,000 s)
  • g0 is the standard acceleration due to gravity (9.81 m/s²)

ṁ = 10 N / (10,000 s * 9.81 m/s²) ≈ 0.000102 kg/s

Now that we have the mass flow rate, we can determine how long it would take to use up the fuel:

t = fuel_mass / ṁ t = 1,000 kg / 0.000102 kg/s ≈ 9,803.92 s ≈ 163.4 minutes

The rocket would use up the fuel in approximately 163.4 minutes.

To find the delta-V, we can use the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation:

Δv = Isp * g0 * ln(m_initial / m_final)


  • m_initial is the initial mass of the rocket (3,000 kg)
  • m_final is the final mass of the rocket after expending fuel (2,000 kg)

Δv = 10,000 s * 9.81 m/s² * ln(3,000 kg / 2,000 kg) ≈ 67,997.2 m/s

The delta-V of the rocket would be approximately 67,997.2 m/s.

Your math is wrong where you calculate how many seconds or minutes the fuel would last. Divide again please.


Apologies for the mistake. Let's recalculate the time it would take to use up the fuel.

We already have the mass flow rate (ṁ) of the rocket:

ṁ = 0.000102 kg/s

Now, let's determine how long it would take to use up the fuel:

t = fuel_mass / ṁ t = 1,000 kg / 0.000102 kg/s ≈ 9,803,921 s ≈ 163,398.7 minutes

The rocket would use up the fuel in approximately 163,398.7 minutes or about 2,723.3 hours.

If we wanted to use a 10 newton thrust rocket to stop the spin of a 1 km diameter asteroid that was rotating once every 10 hours by thrusting at the equator, how long would it take to stop the spin?


To calculate how long it would take to stop the spin of a 1 km diameter asteroid with a 10 N thrust rocket, we need to consider the following:

  1. Calculate the moment of inertia of the asteroid.
  2. Determine the initial angular velocity of the asteroid.
  3. Calculate the angular acceleration provided by the rocket.
  4. Find the time required to stop the spin.

Assuming the asteroid is spherical, we can use the formula for the moment of inertia (I) of a solid sphere:

I = (2/5) * M * R^2

Let's assume a uniform density for the asteroid. The typical density of an asteroid can range from 1,000 kg/m³ to 3,000 kg/m³. We will use an average value of 2,000 kg/m³.

First, let's find the mass of the asteroid (M):

Volume (V) = (4/3) * π * R³

Radius (R) = 0.5 km = 500 m

V = (4/3) * π * (500 m)³ ≈ 5.24 × 10^8 m³

M = density * V = 2,000 kg/m³ * 5.24 × 10^8 m³ ≈ 1.05 × 10^12 kg

Now, let's calculate the moment of inertia (I):

I = (2/5) * M * R^2 ≈ (2/5) * 1.05 × 10^12 kg * (500 m)² ≈ 1.05 × 10^14 kg·m²

Next, let's determine the initial angular velocity (ω) of the asteroid:

ω = 2 * π / T

Where T is the rotation period (10 hours).

To get ω in rad/s, we need to convert the period T to seconds:

T = 10 hours * 3600 s/hour = 36,000 s

ω = 2 * π / 36,000 s ≈ 1.74 × 10^(-4) rad/s

Now, let's calculate the angular acceleration (α) provided by the rocket:

Torque (τ) = F * R

Where F is the thrust force (10 N).

τ = 10 N * 500 m = 5,000 N·m

α = τ / I = 5,000 N·m / 1.05 × 10^14 kg·m² ≈ 4.76 × 10^(-11) rad/s²

Finally, let's find the time required (t) to stop the spin:

ω = α * t

t = ω / α ≈ 1.74 × 10^(-4) rad/s / 4.76 × 10^(-11) rad/s² ≈ 3.66 × 10^6 s

It would take approximately 3.66 × 10^6 seconds or about 42.3 days to stop the spin of the asteroid with a 10 N thrust rocket.



If a 10 N thrust rocket pushed on a 1 km diameter asteroid for 1 year what would the delta-V be?


To find the delta-V after pushing a 1 km diameter asteroid with a 10 N thrust rocket for 1 year, we can use the equation:

Δv = F * t / m


  • F is the thrust (10 N)
  • t is the time (1 year)
  • m is the mass of the asteroid

We have already calculated the mass of the asteroid in the previous answer, which is approximately 1.05 × 10^12 kg. Now let's convert 1 year into seconds:

1 year = 365.25 days * 24 hours/day * 3600 s/hour ≈ 3.15 × 10^7 seconds

Now we can find the delta-V:

Δv = 10 N * 3.15 × 10^7 s / 1.05 × 10^12 kg ≈ 0.3 m/s

After pushing the 1 km diameter asteroid with a 10 N thrust rocket for 1 year, the delta-V would be approximately 0.3 m/s.




Imagine a Starship second stage rocket is in orbit and refueld. The payload and empty rocket totals 240,000 lbs and the propellant is 2,650,000 lbs. What will the delta-V be?


To calculate the delta-V of a rocket, we can use the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation:

delta-V = Isp * g0 * ln(m_initial / m_final)

where: delta-V is the change in velocity (measured in m/s), Isp is the specific impulse of the rocket engine (measured in seconds), g0 is the standard acceleration due to gravity (approximately 9.81 m/s^2), m_initial is the initial mass of the rocket including propellant (measured in kg), m_final is the mass of the rocket after expending the propellant (measured in kg), and ln denotes the natural logarithm.

Unfortunately, you have not provided the specific impulse (Isp) of the rocket engine, which is necessary to calculate the delta-V. Please provide the Isp value for a more accurate calculation.

However, we can still prepare the other values for calculation. The total mass of the rocket, including the payload and empty rocket, is 240,000 lbs. The mass of the propellant is 2,650,000 lbs. We need to convert these values to kilograms.

1 lb is approximately equal to 0.453592 kg. So,

payload and empty rocket mass = 240,000 lbs * 0.453592 kg/lb ≈ 108,863 kg propellant mass = 2,650,000 lbs * 0.453592 kg/lb ≈ 1,201,518 kg

Now, we can find the initial mass (m_initial) and the final mass (m_final) of the rocket.

m_initial = payload and empty rocket mass + propellant mass = 108,863 kg + 1,201,518 kg ≈ 1,310,381 kg m_final = payload and empty rocket mass = 108,863 kg

Once you provide the specific impulse (Isp) of the rocket engine, we can then plug these values into the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation to find the delta-V.

The ISP is 380 seconds.


Now that you've provided the specific impulse (Isp) of 380 seconds, we can use the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation to calculate the delta-V:

delta-V = Isp * g0 * ln(m_initial / m_final)

where: Isp = 380 s g0 = 9.81 m/s^2 m_initial = 1,310,381 kg (total mass including propellant) m_final = 108,863 kg (mass of the rocket after expending the propellant)

delta-V = 380 s * 9.81 m/s^2 * ln(1,310,381 kg / 108,863 kg)

delta-V ≈ 380 s * 9.81 m/s^2 * ln(12.03)

delta-V ≈ 380 s * 9.81 m/s^2 * 2.49

delta-V ≈ 9,133 m/s

The delta-V of the Starship second stage rocket in this scenario is approximately 9,133 meters per second.


How big are the antenna on the Voyager probes?   What data rate can we talk to them at?   Has the data rate slowed down as they got further away?


The Voyager probes, launched in 1977, each carry a high-gain antenna that is approximately 3.7 meters (12 feet) in diameter. This antenna is used for communicating with Earth and for receiving commands from NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN).

The data rate at which we can communicate with the Voyager probes has indeed decreased over time as they have traveled farther away from Earth. The current data rate is significantly lower than when the probes were first launched. As of my knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, Voyager 1 was transmitting data at a rate of about 160 bits per second, while Voyager 2 was transmitting at a slightly higher rate of about 320 bits per second. Keep in mind that these values may have changed since then as the probes continue to move farther away.

There are a few factors that contribute to the decreasing data rate. The most significant is the increased distance between the spacecraft and Earth, which results in a weaker signal. Additionally, the power generated by the probes' radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) has been steadily decreasing, further limiting the communication capabilities. Despite these limitations, both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continue to transmit valuable scientific data as they explore the outer reaches of our solar system and beyond.

At what data rate can we communicate with the probe that went to Pluto? 

As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the New Horizons spacecraft, which conducted a flyby of Pluto in July 2015, communicates with Earth at data rates ranging from about 1 to 4 kilobits per second (kbps). The exact data rate can vary depending on factors like the spacecraft's distance from Earth and the configuration of its communication system.


How big is the antenna on the New Horizons spacecraft?

The antenna on the New Horizons spacecraft is a high-gain dish-shaped antenna with a diameter of approximately 2.1 meters (about 7 feet). This antenna is used for both sending and receiving data between the spacecraft and Earth. It's designed to be highly directional, focusing its signal to a narrow beam to maintain a strong connection with Earth despite the vast distances involved in its mission to explore Pluto and beyond.



At 1 kilobit/second how long would it take to transmit 60GB?


First, let's convert 60 GB (gigabytes) to kilobits. There are 8 bits in a byte, 1024 bytes in a kilobyte, 1024 kilobytes in a megabyte, and 1024 megabytes in a gigabyte. So, the conversion is as follows:

60 GB * 1024 MB/GB * 1024 KB/MB * 1024 bytes/KB * 8 bits/byte = 60 * 1024 * 1024 * 1024 * 8 bits = 515,396,075,520 bits

Now, let's calculate the time it would take to transmit this data at a rate of 1 kilobit per second (1 kbps):

515,396,075,520 bits / 1,000 bits/s = 515,396,075.52 seconds

To convert this into more meaningful units, we'll convert it to days:

515,396,075.52 seconds / 60 seconds/minute / 60 minutes/hour / 24 hours/day ≈ 5,964.63 days

At a data rate of 1 kilobit per second, it would take approximately 5,964.63 days, or about 16.34 years, to transmit 60 GB of data.


Have people worked out potential ways to communicate over distances like that of Earth to Pluto using lasers? What sort of data rates do they think would be possible?


Yes, researchers have been considering the use of laser communication systems, also known as optical communication systems, for deep-space missions. Laser communication offers the potential for higher data rates compared to traditional radio frequency (RF) communication systems, as well as increased power efficiency and reduced mass of communication hardware.

The exact data rates achievable with laser communication depend on various factors, including the power of the laser transmitter, the size and sensitivity of the receiving telescope, and the distance between the two. In the case of Earth-Pluto communication, the distance would be a significant factor, as the power of a laser signal decreases with the square of the distance traveled.

NASA's Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) project aims to demonstrate the potential of laser communication for deep-space missions. While the exact data rates for a mission like Earth-Pluto communication haven't been specified, the DSOC aims to achieve data rates up to 10 times higher than what's possible with current RF communication systems for similar distances. This could potentially enable data rates in the tens to hundreds of megabits per second range for future missions to Pluto or other destinations in our solar system.

It's important to note that the development of laser communication technology for deep-space missions is still ongoing, and the actual achievable data rates for Earth-Pluto communication will depend on advances in technology and the specific mission requirements.

If we are currently doing 1 to 4 kbits/second and DSOC estimates 10 times faster it seems that would be 10 to 40 kbits/second. How did you get tens to hundreds of megabits per second?


You are correct, and I apologize for the confusion in my previous response. I made an error in my explanation.

The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) project indeed aims to achieve data rates up to 10 times higher than what's possible with current RF communication systems. So, for a system currently transmitting at 1 to 4 kilobits per second, the expected improvement with DSOC technology would result in data rates of 10 to 40 kilobits per second.

The "tens to hundreds of megabits per second" mentioned in my previous response was not an accurate representation of the improvement for the specific Earth-Pluto scenario, but rather a general potential of laser communication for other, shorter distance scenarios in space. Laser communication systems can achieve much higher data rates for closer targets like Earth-orbiting satellites, but at greater distances, such as Earth to Pluto, the data rates will be lower due to factors like signal attenuation and pointing accuracy.



Given launch window issues with Mars, how many trips to the Moon could a Starship do in the time it takes to do one round trip to Mars?


The exact number of trips a Starship could make to the Moon in the time it takes to do one round trip to Mars depends on various factors, such as mission duration, spacecraft performance, and specific mission objectives. However, we can make a rough estimate based on typical mission durations for lunar and Mars missions.

A round trip to Mars generally takes about 2 to 3 years, depending on the mission plan and the alignment of Earth and Mars. This duration includes the time it takes to travel to Mars (6-9 months), waiting for the optimal launch window for the return trip (about 1.5 years), and the journey back to Earth (another 6-9 months).

On the other hand, a round trip to the Moon takes much less time due to its proximity to Earth. Travel time to the Moon is approximately 3 days, and assuming a similar duration for the return trip, the total travel time for a round trip to the Moon is around 6 days. This estimate does not include the time spent on the lunar surface or in lunar orbit, which could vary depending on mission objectives.

To estimate the number of trips a Starship could make to the Moon in the time it takes for one round trip to Mars, we can divide the duration of the Mars mission by the duration of a lunar mission:

(2 to 3 years) / (6 days) = ~120 to 180 lunar round trips

In the time it takes for a Starship to make a round trip to Mars, it could potentially make between 120 and 180 round trips to the Moon, assuming optimal conditions and no downtime for maintenance, refueling, or other mission requirements. Keep in mind that this is a rough estimate, and the actual number of trips could be different based on various mission factors and spacecraft performance.



Mining in the vacuum of space either on the Moon or asteroids will require different technology than on Earth. What progress has been made in this type of technology?


Mining in the vacuum of space, particularly on the Moon or asteroids, indeed requires different technology than what we use on Earth. Significant progress has been made in this area, though it is important to remember that my knowledge only extends up to September 2021. Some notable advancements and ongoing projects include:

  1. Lunar regolith excavation: Lunar regolith is the layer of loose, fragmented material covering solid bedrock on the Moon. Several prototypes and concepts have been developed to excavate and process this material, such as NASA's Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR) and the bucket-wheel excavator concept.

  2. In-situ resource utilization (ISRU): ISRU technology focuses on using local resources to support space missions, such as extracting water from lunar ice or producing oxygen from lunar regolith. For instance, NASA's Lunar Resource Prospector mission aims to locate and characterize water and other resources on the Moon.

  3. Asteroid mining: Various private companies and government agencies have been working on asteroid mining concepts. Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries (DSI) are two examples of private companies that have proposed using specialized spacecraft to survey, capture, and mine asteroids for valuable resources.

  4. Robotic technologies: Robotic systems, like NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) and the European Space Agency's (ESA) Robotic Exploration of Extreme Environments (ROBEX) project, have been developed to perform tasks in extreme environments like the Moon and asteroids. These robotic systems are designed to work autonomously or semi-autonomously, carrying out tasks like drilling, excavation, and sample collection.

  5. Optical mining: This technology, still in the research phase, uses concentrated sunlight to heat and fracture asteroid material, making it easier to extract resources. The process is also known as "spalling" and has been proposed as a possible method for asteroid mining.

  6. 3D printing and additive manufacturing: Researchers are exploring the potential of using 3D printing technology to create structures and tools using lunar or asteroid materials. For example, NASA's Lunar Construction project aims to develop a 3D printer capable of using lunar regolith as a building material.

As research and development continue, we can expect further advancements in space mining technology to enable sustainable exploration and utilization of extraterrestrial resources.



The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) makes a plasma and magnetic field to send it out the back for thrust. The plan with Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) is to use fusion to heat up a plasma and then a magnetic field to send it out the back for thrust. It seems that a DFD rocket could still be good engineering choice even if part of the energy had to come from some other source (say solar or some type of fission). So even if the DFD fusion has "not reached break even" it could still be very useful as a rocket engine. Is this correct? 


Yes, you are correct. Both VASIMR and DFD engines use plasma and magnetic fields to produce thrust. The key difference between the two is the energy source used to heat the plasma. VASIMR uses radiofrequency heating, while DFD relies on fusion reactions. Even if the DFD has not reached break-even, where the energy generated by fusion exceeds the energy input, it could still be a viable rocket engine, especially if supplementary energy sources are used.

For example, if solar or fission energy is used to supplement the energy from fusion, it could still provide enough energy to heat the plasma and produce thrust. The overall efficiency and specific impulse of the rocket engine might be lower than a fully functional DFD, but it could still offer advantages over traditional chemical rockets, such as higher specific impulse and potentially greater overall efficiency.

In summary, a DFD rocket engine with supplementary energy sources could still be a useful and viable option, even if it has not reached break-even from fusion alone. However, reaching break-even would further improve the performance of the DFD engine and could potentially revolutionize space travel.



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