NASA, solar system, exoplanet, press conference

A NASA statement that says that it's examining the prospects of flying a crew on the first Space Launch System launch, is not only naïve, but counterproductive.

Space exploration is not a human game, not if what we want to glean is our chances of actually getting off our planet and inhabiting another world.

There's very little chance that this writer's generation will see little more than the beginning of a manned Mars mission project. Humans heading to the Jovian or Saturnalian moons is a few generations away, at the least.

What we need is to revisit is the Von Neumann probe model that will not only allow us to expand our scientific knowledge of the moons and the speculated oceans beneath the layers of vacuum- and radiation-hardened ice, but also allow the foundation of future human biomes to be laid.

Humans are a slow, ponderous species. We're not Stephen Baxter's Xelee, nor even are we Dan Simmons' Ousters, we're us...bureaucratic, fragile, and somehow scared shitless (SpaceX notwithstanding).

Neumann probes can use resources found on the moons to replicate, and then not only explore the moons, but seek out and analyse any life forms they might find.

The second wave of far more advanced Neumann probes could also begin to build biomes, and begin a primitive sort of terraforming on Europa and Enceladus, for instance (maybe by melting the ice to sow the seeds of a primordial atmosphere).

These probes could lay the groundwork for a manned mission later in the century, or early in the 22nd. To think man, with his feeble flesh and bone is suited to intersolar, or even interstellar exploration is laughable and myopic.

The hard vacuum of space is no country for old men (and trust me, the human species is exactly that). What we need are machines at the vanguard. Glory lies in the end, not the means.

NASA, Elon Musk, et al, should be looking at boosting AI to the extent that Neumann probes have the wherewithal to not only traverse the distance between Earth and the ice moons, but while there, actually lay the foundations for a human settlement.

Trappist-1 is all well and good, but let's face it, we ain't gonna get there till the human race has transformed into something quite unique and different from what we are now...a sort of proto human; half AI-half sentient.

What we need now is pragmatism, not species-specific jingoism. NASA needs to play the long game...the game that is played for millennia, not decades!