archiv~1.txt: SETISat anyone?

SETISat anyone?

Jordana LeSesne ( jordana@m-net.arbornet.org )
Tue, 2 Mar 1999 14:49:30 -0500 (EST)

Hello all,
I'm new to this list but has anyone investigated the possibility of a
private probe being sent to the moon to do SETI. It seems to me that as
the cost of launching a paylod comes down this will be a viable option for
"amateur" SETI. One could envision the following:

A small probe designed by SETI League members, university students and
many volunteers in the field of aerospace. It would be another AMSAT only
it would orbit the moon rather than the earth.

The spacecraft:

A Modified existing communications satellite design

Several pentium 2 or 3 motherboards to do real-time processing,
analysis, and storage perhaps usinging a specialized version of PAOOS.
They would also be responsible for control of the downlink transmitter

A 10 GB hard disk for short term storage. (routine information - low
priority hits, etc)

A DDS-4 20 GB DAT for longer term storage (high priority hits, repeated
observations, etc)

A custom made radio receiver or a modification of an existing design.

A custom made downlink transmitter or modification of an existing design.

A small dish antenna for data collection (remember since observations
would be made on the lunar farside and thus blocked from earthbound noise
a small antenna might pick up signals that would be missed by larger
earthbound antennas). one might even imagine the use of an inflateable
antenna which would obviously be able to be larger than a rigid one. More
study of inflateable parabolics antennas need have to be done first.

a smaller antenna for the downlink transmitter positioned on the space
craft in such a way that minimal fuel would have to be expended to hit the
earth with the downlink.

The mission:

The satellite would orbit the moon in such a way that once or twice a day
it would be within view of the earth. This would be the time it downlinks
telemetry, health of the spacecraft, and data of interesting hits in the
past period of time the craft has been out of contact.During the time on
the lunar farside it would listen for anything interesting and
begin running tests on the signal according to the automated search
strategies that would have been preloaded into the computer on earth.
[There would would be very little reason for the earth to uplink anything
and this would help keep costs down - should anything *Really* interesting
be noticed the ground station would alert Argus and the larger radio
observatories of the world would be alerted to follow up.

Cost:

I'd imagine the total cost of such a craft and mission (exluding launch
costs) would be around $500,000 US or about twice the cost of SETI@Home.
I'm sure that amount of money could be raised by various amateur
radio, space advocacy, and sci-fi organizations along with some corporate
sponsorship. Perhaps most of the computer stuff could be donated by Intel
or something? Maybe a major Hollywood sci-fi picture would done nate some
of their box office or home video revenue to the project (Contact?) The
main obsticle will probably be in the cost of the launch and even that
could probably be brought down by using one of the new private launch
vehicles. Perhaps promising the merchandising rights to sell "SETI-Sat"
stuff when the discovery is confirmed to a large toy manufacturer or
something would also be a source of revenue.

I'd imagine that the ground station would be nothing more than a beefed up
moonbounce station that some radio amateurs put together to receive the
probes downlink. Again there would be no need for an uplink since the
probe would be artificially intelligent though if absolutely needed an
uplink/downlink system could be designed with a small increase in mission
cost.

This would be Project Argus's "ear in the sky" and it would be a
revolution in the way SETI is done. So the questions are: Has this been
thought of? Is there anything I overlooked? If it is practical When could
we put something together like this? I envision this project leaving the
ground within in the next decade if it were started on today.

just another college student with wide-eyed dreams,
Jordana