In Janurary of 1998 Dr Allen Tough of the University of Toronto attended the SETI in the 21st century international confrence, held at the university of western Sydney, McArthur campus. There, he presented a paper on micro interstellar probes. I listened attentivuly and thorght that he may be onto somthing as this would be the ideal means for extraterrestial intelligences to explore the universe. It also dawned on me that we Earthlings are already useing the same technology to explore our own solar system.
As I am writing this Pioneer 10 and 11 have long since left our solar system and entered intestellar space, carrying an etched message and gold disc for any extraterrestial intelligence to decipher and listen to, thus alerting them to our existence and where in this Galaxy our planet resides. The technology used in these probes is by today's standards very primitive, as miniaturisation of electronic components is increasing every day. The time will eventually come when a probe equivlent in sophistication to the Pioneers would be the size of a golf ball, the only restriction on total size being the propulsion system and the fuel storage for that system.
If and when we decide in the future to send probes to explore our extrasolar neighbours, a propulsion system would not be required to launch these probes, as they could be released by a shuttle mission, and sent on their way with an initial boost from a cannon or other like device. Once the shuttle achieved orbit, a small pressureised container built into these probes could be used to make small course corrections, through small nozzles and controlled by the probes on board computer. These small Nano probes would eventually enter other solar systems and, on detecting radio emissions from any inhabited planet, could go into orbit around that planet to observe and record any transmissions from that planet.
As space is a hostile enviroment many probes would be lost due to collisions with metorites and component failure. But with hundreds sent on any mission, some would survive intact, to complete the intended mission. A probe, on detecting any extraterrestial intelligent life, could be programmed to locate and "attach" itself to any communication satellites orbiting that world, thus parasitaclly recharging itself from that satellite's power source and recording telemetary and communications streams.The problem of man retrieving the data from the probes "on station" could be done by the other surviving probes acting as relay stations transmitting the data back to Earth for analysis.
This future look at the world of Nano probes may, to some, seem far fetched. But I believe that within the next 20 years such probes will be launched, initally to investigate our outer solar system, then the Galaxy. To believe we are alone in this Galaxy would be as much of a mistake as believing our Earth was the centre of the Universe, so to assume that we are the only technologiclly advanced civilization would be an equal mistake.
As my small research group (Extra Terrestial Research Centre) investigates ways and means to detect ETI's, Dr. Toughs idea of nano probes warrants equal thorght and study as conventional SETI detection methods. Are nano probes released by extrasolar intelligences already here in our solar system, and if so, how do we detect them? To answer this question we must remember what our future probes might do: attach themselves to communication satellites. I propose a system of satellites be put in orbit as "bait" and designed to trap any probe that attaches itself to that satellite. It would then send a signal to the ground station where retrieveal of the satellite and its parasite could be effected. Since man began exploring space early astronauts reported "bogey's" which are still unexplained. Could these "bogey's" be probes? High frequency radar detects unknown fast moving targets on a regular basis. Could these targets be swarms of probes moving through our solar system?
Until we have an actual detection of an extraterrestial intelligence, be it by microwave detection or a pulsed Laser, then we must take into account the possibility of Nano Probes, sent by some extraterrestial intelligence, being present in our solar system evesdropping on us.
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this page last updated 4 January 2003
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