h a l f b a k e r y
"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
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The Artificial Comet would be a satellite like vehicle traveling a comet-like trajectory with a special purpose: visit the earth every couple of decades, record some history, and beam back old history.
The vehicle would equipped with a broad spectrum radio wave recorder/transmitter and a solar
reflector that can be modulated to send morse-code messages down to earth during visits. [The message would be something like "This is Halley Prime on its 274th decennial visit to Earth. Transmitting on frequencies x, y, z, etc.]
Upon approaching earth, the vehicle would send very simple morse-coded messages using its solar reflector (such that people have a chance of decoding the message or at least realizing that there IS a message no matter at what stage the technology is on Earth during the visit) as well as transmit snippets of what it recorded during its previous visits, some pictures it had taken during the previous visits, and possibly telemetry from the time it was away from Earth.
I envision the design to be made in such a way that the Artificial Comet would survive several centuries or millenia, such that future generations (that may or may not have a record of what went on during earlier visits) would have some "new" history to work with.
The visits should be frequent enough that people (ideally) do not forget about how to interpret the RF coded messages, but infrequent enough to be a novelty. (Every 10 years, 15 years perhaps?). On board data storage would necessarily be limited, and technology may evolve (or devolve) to a point where the vehicle can't record anything from Earth except pictures during future visits -- but I'm sure something like this would have good historical value by tha time.
Returns in 50,000 years. Same concept, slightly longer orbital period however. [tatterdemalion, Dec 31 2009]
or the short version
orbital elf promotion. [FlyingToaster, Jan 01 2010]
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||A fantastic idea. Now to send it off to NASA...
||[leinypoo13], I don't speak Morse code.
||he said "in 70 years time nobody will be able to decipher our transmission protocols"
||either that or "does 4-bit make my butt look big?"
||I read that the trip to Mars and back to Earth is supposed to take around ten years. You could possibly set up a figure eight slingshot effect between the two.
Wow, the math on something like that must be nutty.
||Will this be still interesting if in the next 30 years we'll end up having as many spacecraft flying up there as we today have airplanes in the atmosphere?