Sunday, 29 November 2015

Post Solar Flyby Q&A Session With Seb

This is Seb posting in after our flyby of the Sun. Mission control back on Earth has sent me some of your questions which I will answer in this session. They will also send you a mission patch if I answer a question and you haven't already received one.

So let's get started!

Tim Clarke asked How close will the flyby be - will it be possible to analyse any solar emissions?

Although we don't anticipate having to investigate the Tau Ceti star too closely the mission plan has tried to account for any possibility. With this in mind the Venti probe has been specifically hardened to allow a close transit. On our flyby we passed a fraction within 6 million km to the Sun and at that distance the strength of the solar wind is about 500 times stronger than it is at Earth orbit.

We have a full range of scientific instrumentation on teh probe and these will be recording as much data as we can to see if we can learn anything further about the Sun Dragon's encounter with the Sun.

Passing so close to the Sun provides an additional advantage. Even with the booster sled and gravity assists the bulk of our acceleration comes from the solar sail and the greater pressure from the solar wind gains us extra acceleration on our journey out of the solar system.

Dennis Kitainik26 asked When heading toward the sun with the sail deployed, do you tack against the wind like a sailing yacht?

It's a very similar technique and as with sailing at sea we can't take the direct path towards the inner solar system. Instead we follow a wide spiral inwards and alter the angle of the sail to compensate. However this is only practical away from the sun, for the actual manoeuvre around the sun the sail was stowed and redeployed after we'd completed the swing.

Voyager_NL asked  Since AI for us earthlings is still a difficult thing to grasp. How would you compare your processing power. Is your intellect human like, higher or lower?

That's a tricky question to answer. My ability to perform calculations is far beyond most humans, although some humans are able to perform arithmetic operations almost intuitively, somehow skipping the component operations normally required to solve a problem. It should be noted that the processing systems here on the Venti probe are slower than many machines back on Earth. We have to be a lot more careful of heat management and cosmic ray damage than earthbound computers so we run a little slower and on larger circuitry.

Intellect is different to raw computational power and in that respect I am more similar to the human mind. The neural networks of myself and the Primary Command Module allows us to learn in a way that regular computers cannot. In that respect we are more adaptable and so able to perform the functions that a human crew would normally be preferable for. Of course for a journey of this duration a human crew wasn't a viable option!

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