Posts Tagged ‘British’

1965-8 – Space Pod – 2001: A Space Odyssey – Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

2001 eva pod taschen x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

EVA Pod – The EVA Pod is a fictional spacecraft used for extra-vehicular activity seen in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Jupiter spacecraft Discovery One carries three of these small, one-man maintenance vehicles.

[EVA - Extra-Vehicular Activity i.e. activity outside of the prime space vehicle.]

2001 pod bay props x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Film stage.

2001 pod bay  x640(1) 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

atkinson pod2 x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Detail of manipulator arms. Illustrations by Simon Atkinson.

It has always intrigued me as to why the manipulator arms were designed they way they were i.e. a pair of forearms on each arm. Practically one can only use a single arm/gripper at one time. In most scenes featuring the pod in action, only one arm/gripper are used at any one  time.

2001 66 getty77453598 x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

I feel the reason may be that, for large objects, the paired forearms act as a large gripper in itself. For the film, it may have been designed this way as the only practical means of recovering Poole's body, as seen in the two images below.

2001 pod catch x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

2001 pod space suit x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

2001 pod quarter x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Fred Ordway III was the key technical consultant for Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey" .

A lucky moment came in January 1965, as Ordway explained in a book, "2001: A Space Odyssey in Retrospect." He was in New York to meet with publishers for a book he and a colleague, Harry H.K. Lange, had written and illustrated about future life in space. He learned that his friend, Arthur Clarke, a British science writer, was in town and so requested they meet. During their discussion about the space program and Wernher von Braun, they learned each was developing story themes in common.

Clarke happened to be working with Stanley Kubrick on a screenplay for Space Odyssey, which was based on Clarke's earlier work, "The Sentinel." Ordway and Lange's book "Intelligence in the Universe", co-authored by Roger A. MacGowan of the Army Computation Center in Huntsville was essentially the same concept: man facing the immensity of the universe and that life may exist out among the stars.

They showed Clarke their artwork and talked more before adjourning for other engagements. Before leaving the club, Ordway got an unexpected call. It was Kubrick, whom Clarke had notified immediately after his meeting with Ordway and Lange. From then on he was engaged as Kubrick's technical consultant on space issues.

Footnote: August 2014:  Sadly, Fred Ordway passed away on July 1, 2014, aged 87. A Harvard graduate and a former NASA scientist for the Saturn V rocket, he had an unquenchable thirst for learning about the universe and excelled as an educator, researcher, consultant and author..

2001podTb x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

2001 pod atkinson front x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Front Elevation.

2001 pod atkinson side x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Side Elevation: Illustrations by Simon Atkinson.

2001pod x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Robert McCall's promotional film poster.

AMAS 2001 Presentation 05 32 08 059 x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Stanley Kubrick on set with the Pods.

clarke 2001 pod portrait x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Portrait of Arthur C. Clarke.

clarke style spacesuit pod nemean x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Nemean's Space Pod design as described in Clarke's earlier short stories such as ‘Who’s There?’ and ‘Summertime on Icarus’ is much more of a stubby cylinder.

podbody x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

podturn x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Space Pod Specification: Sourced from here.


Title: Grumman DC-5 EVA Craft
Number Produced:  45
14 for Space Station Five,
11 for Space Station Four
7 for Space Station Three***
5 Replacement vehicles
4 test vehicles
3 for Discovery One
1 Replica**
1 for Discovery Prototype
Mass at Earth Gravity: 1,387 Kg.
Overall Diameter: 1.98 m.
Capacity: One Person Standard; Three Person Emergency
Propulsion systems: Ten Mk 12 (140 Kgs. Thrust) for major course changes along all axes; Eight Mk 17 (35 Kgs. Thrust) for precision maneuvers; Eight Mk 8 micro-thrusters (10 Kgs.) for low-gravity station-keeping; Five Mk 14 (80 Kgs. Thrust)  provide roll; One Mk 37 (500 Kgs. Thrust) for use in emergency.
Life Support: 12 Hrs. (One Person)
Radar: Grumman EPS-2D; Long Range; Active Pulse
Other Equipment: Explosive Bolt Door Separation*; Short-range Object Approach System and Transponder; Complete HAL 9000 Data link System; Automatic Thruster Control; Auto Hover; Eight-Channel communication system; Advanced Manipulator Control System; Two-hour Oxygen Reserve System.
Notes: The Grumman DC-5 carries can carry little in the way of food and water stocks, due to short life support capacity. A single air conditioning vent is provided.
Misc. Technical Information: (From Frederick Ordway and the British Interplanetary Association)
Propulsion: A subliming solid system provides vernier propulsion, wherein the solid propellent sublimes at a constant pressure and is emitted from a nozzle. Such reaction jets will last for long periods of time, have great reliability and use no mechanical valves. The main propulsion system is powered from by storable liquids.
Mechanical Hand Controls: Selection controls are placed on each side so that the appropriate hand must be removed from the manipulator to select a tool or to park. Selection of a tool returns the arm to the 'park' position, where it leaves the 'hand', then the arm goes to the appropriate tool and plugs in. In doing so, it inhibits the 'finger' controls on the manipulator, so that when the operator returns his hand into the glove he can only move a solid object, not individual fingers.
Television: It was found possible to produce all-round TV coverage with eight fixed cameras. This, however, did not give a sufficiently accurate picture for docking or selecting a landing space. For this purpose, the field of view can be narrowed or orientated; controls are included for this purpose.
Normally, the TV link is occupied by the internal camera, so that the parent craft can monitor the pod interior. The pilot can switch in any other camera for specific purposes (survey, etc.) reverting to interior camera for normal work.
Proximity Detector: This is the safety system with omnidirectional coverage working from the main communication aerials. It gives audible warning when the pod approaches a solid object. This is necessary as a safety measure as the pilot cannot monitor seven or eight TV displays continuously. The system also detects an approach to an object, the speed of which is too high to be counteracted by the vernier thrust settings on the control system. In this event, full reverse thrust is applied, overriding the manual control setting. The system depends upon a frequency modulated transmission and under safe conditions results in a low, soft audible background signal. This continuous signal is considered necessary in order to provide a continuous check on a vital safety system. If the speed of an approach to an object becomes dangerous compared with the distance from it, the tone becomes louder and higher pitched, and, if unchecked, end in a shrill note accompanied by reverse thrust. The system also works in conjunction with a transponder (to the give the necessary increased range) to measure distance from the Discovery.
Flying Controls: Manual controls are considered necessary both as a standby and for local maneuvers. Two hand control sticks, each with two degrees of freedom and fitted with twist grips, provide the necessary control about six axes.
Analog information is presented for attitude, heading rate and distance; these can be referred to local ground (for landing, takeoff, etc.), course (which enables the pilot to face forward, head up, on any preselected course, or parent ship (for docking, local maneuvers, etc.) This data has to be presented, as the pilot has to act immediately on them. This is the most easily assimilated display. A variation in full scale rate, which can be applied by the control sticks, is included; this allows the full stick movements to result in any proportion of vernier motor thrust, thus giving a 'fine' control for local maneuvers.

*When I think about it, I don't think the door ever separated from the pod. It seems that it was simply opened extremely quickly by the explosive bolts. If the door actually WAS blown off, it would have smashed into the airlock's outer door; breaking into several pieces. This would fly back towards Dave, and as many people would put it, that would be a very bad thing.
**This is non-operational, and do not carry any functional systems. The single replica is currently on display at the NASM's "21st Century Space Flight" display.
***Earlier Space Stations are not capable of supporting the design.

PodCockpit x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Interior of the Pod.

preprod art pod x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

Pre-production sketches.

space odyssey 2001 pod jupiter x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

2001 66 getty106951966 x640 1965 8   Space Pod   2001: A Space Odyssey   Clarke (British) / Kubrick (American)

See other early Space Teleoperators here.

See other early Lunar and Space Robots here.

1973-8 – Daedalus ‘Wardens’ (Concept) – Bond, Martin, Grant et al (British)

Daedalus Construction Concepts x640(1) 1973 8   Daedalus Wardens (Concept)   Bond, Martin, Grant et al (British)

An autonomous Warden building, servicing and maintaining Daedalus.

 1973 8   Daedalus Wardens (Concept)   Bond, Martin, Grant et al (British)

 1973 8   Daedalus Wardens (Concept)   Bond, Martin, Grant et al (British)

 Above image source: Robots, by Peter Marsh, 1985

warden 1973 8   Daedalus Wardens (Concept)   Bond, Martin, Grant et al (British)

Autonomy and the Interstellar Probe – Sourced from here.

by Paul Gilster on March 19, 2013


…..The span between the creation of the Daedalus design in the 1970s and today covers the development of the personal computer and the emergence of global networking, so it’s understandable that the way we view autonomy has changed. Self-repair is also a reminder that a re-design like Project Icarus is a good way to move the ball forward. Imagine a series of design iterations each about 35 years apart, each upgrading the original with current technology, until a working craft is feasible.

… The key paper on robotic repair is T. J. Grant’s “Project Daedalus: The Need for Onboard Repair.”

Staying Functional Until Mission’s End

Grant runs through the entire computer system including the idea of ‘wardens,’ conceived as a subsystem of the network that maintains the ship under a strategy of self-test and repair. You’ll recall that Daedalus, despite its size, was an unmanned mission, so all issues that arose during its fifty year journey would have to be handled by onboard systems. The wardens carried a variety of tools and manipulators, and it’s interesting to see that they were also designed to be an active part of the mission’s science, conducting experiments thousands of kilometers away from the vehicle, where contamination from the ship’s fusion drive would not be a factor.

Even so, I’d hate to chance one of the two Daedalus wardens in that role given their importance to the success of the mission. Each would weigh about five tonnes, with access to extensive repair facilities along with replacement and spare parts. Replacing parts, however, is not the best overall strategy, as it requires a huge increase in mass — up to 739 tonnes, in Grant’s calculations! So the Daedalus report settled on a strategy of repair instead of replacement wherever possible, with full onboard facilities to ensure that components could be recovered and returned to duty. Here again the need for autonomy is paramount.

In a second paper, “Project Daedalus: The Computers,” Grant outlines the wardens’ job:

    …the wardens’ tasks would involve much adaptive learning throughout the complete mission. For example, the wardens may have to learn how to gain access to a component which has never failed before, they may have to diagnose a rare type of defect, or they may have to devise a new repair procedure to recover the defective component. Even when the failure mode of a particular, unreliable component is well known, any one specific failure may have special features or involve unusual complications; simple failures are rare.

Running through the options in the context of a ship-wide computing infrastructure, Grant recommends that the wardens be given full autonomy, although the main ship computer would still have the ability to override its actions if needed. The image is of mobile robotic repair units in constant motion, adjusting, tweaking and repairing failed parts as needed. Grant again:

    …a development in Daedalus’s software may be best implemented in conjunction with a change in the starship’s hardware… In practice, the modification process will be recursive. For example the discovery of a crack in a structural member might be initially repaired by welding a strengthening plate over the weakened part. However, the plate might restrict clearance between the cracked members and other parts, so denying the wardens access to unreliable LRUs (Line Replacement Units) beyond the member. Daedalus’s computer system must be capable of assessing the likely consequences of its intended actions. It must be able to choose an alternative access path to the LRUs (requiring a suitable change in its software), or to choose an alternative method of repairing the crack, or some acceptable combination.

Background information on "Project Daedalus":

Project Daedalus – Interstellar Mission – Sourced from here.

Daedalus Interstellar Probe

Daedalus Interstellar Probe – image copyright Adrian Mann[not included]

This was a thirteen member volunteer engineering design study conducted between 1973 and 1978, to demonstrate that Interstellar travel is feasible in theory. The project related to the Fermi Paradox first postulated by the Italian Physicist Enrico Fermi in the 1940s. This supposes that there has been plenty of time for intelligent civilizations to interact within our galaxy when one examines the age and number of stars, as well as the distances between them. Yet, the fact that extra-terrestrial intelligence has never been observed leads to a logical paradox where our observations are inconsistent with our theoretical expectation. This original question from Fermi seemed to also reinforce the prevailing paradigm at the time that interstellar travel was impossible. Project Daedalus was a bold way to examine the Fermi Paradox head on and gave a partial answer – interstellar travel is possible. The basis of this belief was the demonstration of a credible engineering design just at the outset of the space age that could in theory, cross the interstellar distances. In the future scientific advancement would lead to a refined and more efficient design. The absence of alien visitors would therefore require a different explanation because Project Daedalus demonstrated that with current, and near future, technology, interstellar travel is feasible. Therefore, another solution to the absence of extra-terrestrial visitation was necessary.

There were three stated goals for Project Daedalus:

    (1) The spacecraft must use current or near-future technology
    (2) The spacecraft must reach its destination within a working human lifetime
    (3)The spacecraft must be designed to allow for a variety of target stars. The final design solution was published in a special supplement of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society in 1978.

The two-stage engine configuration was powered by inertial confinement fusion using deuterium and helium-3 pellets. Electron beam diodes positioned around the base of the engine exhaust would impinge on the pellets and ignite them to produce large energy gain, at a rate of 250 detonations per second. This would continue for a boost phase lasting over 3.8 years followed by a cruise phase lasting 46 years and travelling at over 12% of the speed of light until the 450 tons science probe would finally reach its destination of the Barnard’s Star system 5.9 light years away, which it would transit in a matter of days due to its flyby nature.
Daedalus Interstellar Probe compared with Saturn V Moon rocket

Daedalus SV sml 1973 8   Daedalus Wardens (Concept)   Bond, Martin, Grant et al (British)

Daedalus Interstellar Probe compared with Saturn V Moon rocket – image copyright Adrian Mann

In the final study reports all of the main vehicle systems were considered including the structure, communications, navigation and the deployment of mitigation sub-systems to deal with the bombardment of interstellar dust. The pedigree for Project Daedalus derives directly from 1950-1960s Project Orion, a vehicle that used Atomic and Hydrogen bombs to propel the spacecraft. The main issue with Orion however was the existence of several nuclear test ban treaties which forbid the use or testing of such technology. Project Daedalus proposed to shrink this technology down to the size of pocket coins but still take advantage of the enormous energy release from a fusion based fuel.

The Project Daedalus study was primarily led by Alan Bond, Tony Martin and Bob Parkinson and even today the study distinguishes itself from all other studies as the most complete engineering study ever undertaken for an interstellar probe. Even if Daedalus is not the template for how our robotic ambassadors will someday reach the distant stars, at the very least it will be a crucial part of the journey for getting to that first launch. Rigorous engineering assessments are the only way to provide reliable information on what is possible today or in the near-future.

Source: Here

The Daedalus Future – Stephen Baxter, 11/11/13 – Sourced from here.


This paper explores the future society assumed by the Project Daedalus team as background to the building of their starship.

The plausibility of Project Icarus – like Daedalus before it – will depend to some extent on the plausibility of an imagined future society that might have the capability and will, socially, economically and technically, to mount such a project. In their introductory essay in the Daedalus final report ([1] ppS5-S7), Bond and Martin noted that ‘Without such a background the results of the study would probably be naive, and would certainly be incorrect’ (pS6).

The Daedalus project was inspired by the propulsion system choice, so the team had to envisage a society that would naturally support a pulse-fusion starship using He3 as fuel. The team drew on precursor work such as Parkinson’s papers [2] [3] [4] on the nature of a society on the brink of interstellar flight, and as Daedalus progressed it became possible for the team to envisage such a society more clearly, a society defined not just by what the team imagined it would be capable of but also by what it would not be capable of.

But what kind of society was this?

Daedalus Construction Concepts x640 1973 8   Daedalus Wardens (Concept)   Bond, Martin, Grant et al (British)

The sketch by Bill Dillon included in the final report (pS4), of the construction of Daedalus at Callisto, gives some indication. Along with an array of specialised craft surrounding the immense bulk of Daedalus itself, we glimpse a wheel-in-space habitat and an astronaut performing an EVA. This is evidently a society capable of mounting a manned construction operation on a massive scale above a moon of Jupiter – and has the will to devote such resources to the peaceful end of scientific exploration.

The purpose of this brief review is to summarise the ‘Daedalus future’ as specifically as possible, as depicted by clues and assumptions spread throughout the report. The hope is that this review will help us more clearly to imagine the assumed ‘Icarus future’ that will underpin the plausibility of our own starship.

Earth and the Solar System

Bond and Martin, in their introduction to the Daedalus report (ppS5-7), described a future Earth that was populous and energy-hungry. Against a background projected from the then-current ‘world energy crisis’, they predicted a demand for future energy sources of ‘minimal impact on the environment of Earth, which will by then be required to house about 1010 people’ (pS6).

What could such sources be? Bond and Martin noted the ‘apparent disadvantages’ then associated with nuclear fission (pS6). But the team did not envisage capabilities much beyond fusion. In their essays on the propulsion system, Martin and Bond said: ‘It is generally hoped that magnetic fusion reactors . . . will be operational . . . before the end of the century’. But producing antimatter for example was seen as requiring ‘large extrapolations of modern-day capabilities’ (pS45).

As for the fusion fuel choice, Martin and Bond go on to suggest a reliance on He3 because of its “cleanness”: ‘The deuterium-helium 3 reaction . . . [is] at present the only “clean” fusion reaction which can seriously be considered for application in reactors, from the point of view of achievable containment conditions and temperatures’ (pS7).

In his essay on propellant acquisition for Daedalus (ppS83-S89), notably the 30,000 tonnes of He3 required, Parkinson backed up this conclusion. With He3 impossibly scarce on Earth – the 1970s estimate of availability from various natural sources was one part in 104 to one part in 107 (pS83) – one option would be to breed the fuel load in ground-based fusion reactors, using either a D-D or D-T reaction. To produce the fuel at a rate of 1500 tons a year for 20 years (the team’s target timescale), either route would require power levels at multiples of Earth’s total present-day output, as well as consuming heroic quantities of other fuels and creating vast amounts of waste. Parkinson opined that a society capable of devoting such resources to a starship might find some other propulsion method easier, such as a laser-powered photon sail. Besides, a fusion-based society would be motivated to use any He3 available in a ‘clean reactor network’ on Earth (pS84).

Therefore, said Parkinson, the tapping of extraterrestrial sources of He3 ‘becomes a logical supply of propellant not simply for Daedalus but for mankind’ (pS84). Bond and Martin estimated that an import of 1000 tons of He3 per year from extraterrestrial sources could supply the world’s energy at 1970s levels; presumably more would be required for the more populous world of the future. And ‘the provision of the fuel for a starship may be merely an upgrading of this level of activity’ (pS7), a sensible projection if the 1500 tons per year for Daedalus is accepted.

The society of the future then would be populous, energy-rich, environmentally conscious, and connected to an interplanetary web of resource extraction and transportation, just as Earth is globally interconnected today: ‘That community will already be employing nuclear pulse rockets for space flight, and will probably be transporting helium 3 from the outer planets to the inner planets on a routine basis’ (pS7).

To build a starship would however require political will, and peace: ‘It seems probable that a Solar System wide culture making use of all its resources would easily be wealthy enough to afford such an undertaking [as Daedalus], and presumably in order to have reached the stage of extensive interplanetary flight would also have achieved reasonable political stability, and an acceptance of this new environment’ (pS7).

The sketched future scenario was in the end quite specific: ‘In summary, then, we envisage Daedalus-type vehicles being built by a wealthy (compared to the present day) Solar System wide community, probably sometime in the latter part of the 21st century’ (my italics) (pS7).

But people would still be people. In their essay on the mission profile ([1] ppS37-S42), Bond and Martin assume in passing that the mankind of the future era of the launch date will be much the same as today, with a ‘useful working life of about 40 years’ (pS38).

Space Operations

An interplanetary society this might be, but Parfitt and White in their paper on structural material selection (ppS97-S103) assumed that most materials for spacecraft and spaceborne structures, including Daedalus, would come from the Earth-moon system. For reasons of economy their choice of materials for Daedalus therefore concentrated on those most abundant on Earth, such as aluminium, ‘even if this imposes a small mass penalty’ (pS99).

In-space construction techniques were assumed by Strong and Bond in their paper on the vehicle configuration (ppS90-96); because Daedalus would not have to withstand the rigours of a planetary launch (and because the ship’s acceleration would be low), the main systems could be hung from a ‘slender structural spine’ (pS90). Bond and Martin sketched the construction programme: ‘The vehicle would be assembled in the inner Solar System, the exact location depending on where the manufacturing complexes may be located at that time. It would be fuelled either in Lunar or Jovian orbit depending on the source of helium 3. During preceding years several engineering mock-up and flight test vehicles would have been flown in an extensive test programme to develop system reliability to the required level’ (pS40). In his paper on navigation (ppS143-8) Richards suggested a full-scale rehearsal flight through the solar system (pS143).

As for other structures in space, in their paper on communications (ppS163-171) Lawton and Wright envisaged ‘the use of a very large array (VLA) “Cyclops” type system as the receiving antenna for the radio link. This can be either sited on Earth itself or (preferably) in space but in the vicinity of Earth’ (pS165). Indeed, it was anticipated that such arrays might be in operation for other purposes by the time Daedalus was launched. Cyclops [5] had been a 1972 study by NASA advocating an array of 1000 radio telescopes 10 miles across for the purposes of SETI.

Parkinson however ruled out very much larger structures. In his essay on propellant acquisition for Daedalus (ppS83-S89) Parkinson considered mining the solar wind for He3, but the number density of He3 nuclei in the solar wind is such that ‘to capture the propellant requirement in 20 years would require a cross-section of some 1011 km2 – or a circle 30 times the diameter of the Earth. Even allowing for large numbers of collecting units operating close to the Sun, it is difficult to imagine the individual collecting units having diameters less than thousands of kilometres’ (pS84). Parkinson remarks that a society capable of handling magnetic fields on this scale could well prefer alternative propulsion schemes.

Similarly an interstellar ramjet, which would require the control of electric and magnetic fields over very large length scales, was considered ‘not within a reasonable extrapolation of modern technology’ (pS45) by Bond and Martin in their notes on the choice of propulsion system.

The main space operation described was of course propellant acquisition. In his paper on the topic (ppS83-89) Parkinson speculated on specific sources of extraterrestrial He3. Mining Titan’s atmosphere might be relatively straightforward: ‘The extraction plant would not be mass-limited, and manned operation would ensure fairly continuous operation. In addition the escape velocity is low and transport costs would be minimal’ (pS89). However the available resource on Titan was probably limited; ‘one starship-load would take away 0.1% of the total available’.

Parkinson settled on mining Jupiter’s atmosphere, envisaging 128 ‘aerostat’ extraction factories, each weighing 130t, operating for 20 years in the Jovian atmosphere, with a power expenditure of ~500MW. Parkinson briefly speculated on the operational requirements of this spectacular venture (pS89): ‘Jupiter’s radiation belts make manned operations difficult within the satellite system, and so it is expected that most of the operation will be unmanned. Callisto, which appears to be outside the hazardous radiation zone, could be used as a base camp, and if manned operations have to be conducted in an orbit at the fringes of the Jovian atmosphere a well-shielded “transfer station” might be placed in an elliptical orbit between Callisto and the minimum altitude orbit.’


Artificial intelligence was seen as key to the success of Daedalus. Grant, in his paper on Daedalus’s computer systems (ppS130-142), gave a clear description of the requirements of those systems, including systems control, data management, navigation, and fault detection and rectification. All this would be beyond the influence of ground control, and so ‘the computers must play the role of captain and crew of the starship; without them the mission is impossible’ (pS130).

In his paper on reliability and repair (ppS172-179) Grant pointed out that Daedalus would have to survive ‘for up to 60 years with gross events such as boost, mid-course corrections and planetary probe insertions occurring during its lifetime’ (pS172). A projection of modern reliability figures indicated that a strategy of component redundancy and replacement would not be sufficient; Daedalus would not be feasible without on-board repair facilities (pS176). AI would be used in the provision of these facilities, partly through the use of mobile ‘wardens’ capable of manipulation.

A high degree of artificial intelligence was also a key assumption for Webb in his discussions of payload design for Daedalus (ppS149-161). Because the confirmation of the position and nature of any planets at the target system might come only weeks before the encounter (ppS153-S154), it would be the task of the onboard computer systems to optimise the deployment of the subprobes and backup probes.

In addition, during the cruise the wardens could construct such additional instruments as ‘temporary (because of erosion) radio telescopes many kilometres across from only a few kilograms of conducting thread’ (pS154), and even rebuild or manufacture equipment afresh after receipt of updated instructions from Earth (pS156). One intriguing possibility was a response to the detection of intelligent life in the target system, in which case ‘the possibility of adjusting the configuration of the vehicle for the purposes of CETI (Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence) in the post-encounter phase should always be borne in mind’ (pS151).

Grant foresaw the continuing miniaturisation of hardware, as was already evident in the 1970s, and envisaged Daedalus being equipped with hierarchies of ‘picocomputers’ (pS132). The design of the controlling artificial intelligence could only be sketched; it would have to be capable of ‘adaptive learning and flexible goal seeking’, which would necessitate ‘heuristic qualities’ beyond the merely logical (pS131). Grant imagined the system being capable of in-flight software development – indeed, Grant speculated that pre-launch Daedalus, given a general design by a human team, would be able to write most of its own software! (pS141).

This theme of humans working in partnership with smart machines is evident elsewhere. Parkinson (pS89), describing the Jupiter atmospheric mining operation, noted that ‘The degree of autonomy demanded of unmanned components in the system is illustrated by the fact that the delay time of communications between Callisto and a station within the Jovian atmosphere will be about 12 seconds.’


Summarising the Daedalus future, Parkinson argued that ‘[An] undertaking on the scale of Daedalus fits naturally into the context of a Solar System wide society making intelligent use of its resources, rather than a heroic effort on the part of a planet-based society’ (pS89). That society would evidently be capable of massive manned operations conducted at Jupiter, but would be limited to fusion as a power source, would not yet be capable for instance of building gigantic structures to harvest He3 from the solar wind, and would be suffused with artificial intelligences working mostly in partnership with humans. The fuel required for Daedalus would represent a sizeable increase in the extraction effort already extant at Jupiter to satisfy the terrestrial energy demand, but not the establishment of an entirely new capability, and not an increase in capacity of orders of magnitude.

The Daedalus assumptions have of course been extensively revisited, in internal Icarus discussions and elsewhere. Forty years on it does seem unlikely that the Daedalus future will come to pass ‘sometime in the latter part of the 21st century’. Recently Zubrin [6] has sketched a developed solar system with fuel transportation networks on an interplanetary scale, and Hein et al [7] tested the assumptions behind the use of interplanetary sources of He3. Parkinson meanwhile [8] revisited the idea of using He3-powered pulse-fusion rockets for interplanetary transport.

These retrospective considerations are however irrelevant to the success of Project Daedalus in its time. The ‘Daedalus future’, the social and economic basis the team assumed would be in place to support their interstellar mission, was logical, reasonable as a projection from the time the report was written, internally consistent, an essential underpinning to the feasibility of the report, and a model for our work on Icarus.


[1]        A. Bond et al, Project Daedalus Final Report, British Interplanetary Society, 1978.
[2]        R.C. Parkinson, ‘The Starship as Third Generation Technology’, JBIS 27, pp295ff, 1974.
[3]        R.C. Parkinson, ‘The Starship as an Exercise in Economics’, JBIS 27, pp692ff, 1974.
[4]        R.C. Parkinson, ‘The Starship as a Philosophical Vehicle’, JBIS 28, pp745ff, 1975.
[5]        J. Billingham et al, ‘Project Cyclops: A Design Study of a System for Detecting Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life’, NASA Ames, report CR114445, 1972.
[6]        R. Zubrin, ‘On the Way to Starflight: Economics of Interstellar Breakout’, in Starship Century, eds. J. and G. Benford, Microwave Sciences, 2013.
[7]        A. Hein, A. Tziolas and A. Crowl, ‘Architecture Development for Atmospheric Helium 3 Mining of the Outer Solar System Gas Planets for Space Exploration and Power Generation,’ IAC-10-D4.2.6, 2010.
[8]        R. Parkinson, ‘Using Daedalus for Local Transport’, JBIS 62 pp422-426, 2009.

See other early Space Teleoperators here.

See other early Lunar and Space Robots here.

1962 – Table-Clearing Robot – Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

Thring TableClearing robot 1967 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

"Working model of a table-clearing robot [Mk 2] designed to test the present-day feasibility of principles required for the house-working robot and other machines. The model has one 'sight' and two 'touch' sensors which enable the mechanical arm to pick up objects and place them on the rotating, clearing tray on top of the machine."


 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

2065.27 | INVENTORS' EXHIBITION. London 13/01/1969

M/S table clearing robot. M/S as it lifts cup up from table. C/U cup being lifted from table and placed to one side. M/S as cup swings round to make room for another.

thring pathe robot table 5 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

thring pathe robot table 4 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

thring pathe robot table 3 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

thring pathe robot table 2 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

thring pathe robot table 1 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

Clearing the table after a meal is a task which can be given to a robot. This one, like many other robots, does not have a human form like its counterparts in fiction. But it does its job well.

ThringClearerPt1 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)
1. The mug is seen by a photoelectric "eye" and the "hand" is directed towards it.
2. Controlled by pressure sensors, the hand grips the mug firmly.
3. As the hand retracts, it puts the mug on a rotating turntable.

ThringClearerPt2 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)
4. By its rotation, the turntable clears the mug out of the way. Far right: a close-up of the robot housemaid in action.

Thring TableClearer2 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

This table-clearing machine has a photoelectric eye which detects objects. This directs linkage; closes on them
lifts them back to the turntable.

Thring table clearing robot col1 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

Thring table clearing robot col2 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

thring WoWe9may73 a x434 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

Earlier Mk 1 version of Table-clearing Robot

thring mk1 table clearing robot 1 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

Thring table clearing robot mk1 62 x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

Meredith Thring with his models of Domestic Robot

thring 67press1 x530 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

Thring domestic robot cartoon x531 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

Cartoon from New Scientist, March 1963.

thring domestic x640 1962   Table Clearing Robot   Meredith Thring (Australian/British)

See other early Domestic Service Robots here.

1959 – Webb Radio-controlled Electric Lawnmower – Vic Rigby (British)


 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

Selected Originals – ROYALTY SEE FLOWER SHOW

 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

1583.19 | Selected Originals – ROYALTY SEE FLOWER SHOW (1:41:04:00 – 1:45:47:00) 28/05/1959

Robot lawn mower
Selected originals (offcuts, selected scenes, out-takes, rushes) for story "Royalty See Flower Show" 59/43.

Various shots Queen Elizabeth II, Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip) and Princess Margaret. Various shots Princess Margaret looking at remote control lawn mower. Various shots Queen and Duke arriving at show, they are greeted by a couple, the Queen pecks them on the cheek as if they were old friends. Various shots Queen and Duke looking at robot lawnmower in action. Otherwise, rest of shots similar to newsreel story.

heucheraholics webb alfred elleray RHS Chelsea 1959 x640 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

Pensioner Alfred Ellery controlling the Webb Radio-Controlled Lawnmower at the 1959 Chelsea Flower Show. 

He Waited 76 Years For This: A Radio-controlled lawn mower was demonstrated at the high point show of the British gardening year, London's fashionable Chelsea Flower Show. Photo Shows 78-year-old Chelsea Pensioners Alfred Ellery, feet up, puffing a cigarette makes a gardeners dream come true. The lawn mower, speed two miles an hour, travels where he wishes at the touch of a Switch. Note: Chelsea Pensioners, a familiar London sight in their red coats, live at the Chelsea Hospital, founded in 1682 by Charles II so that old Soldiers could end their days in comfort and peace.

heucheraholics webb RHS Chelsea 1959 x640 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)


The first radio-controlled lawn mower will be shown to the public for the first time at tomorrow's opening of the Chelsea Flower Show. 
The mower travels at nearly 2 m.p.h., has a 14-inch cutting width and makes 60 clips to the yard.  It has independent "four-point" suspension to ride undulations in the lawn.   Its 1/3 h.p. 24-volt battery operated motor is remotely controlled by two switches on the user's radio transmitter, The effective range of radio control is up to a mile.

ABOVE PHOTO SHOWS:-  The Webb Radio-controlled electric lawnmower, pictured at today's private view of the Chelsea Flower Show.

pamela weller webb mower 2643955 x640 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

Pamela Webber controlling the Webb Radio-controlled electric lawnmower at the Chelsea Flower Show, 1959.

robot gardening 91 19 11 x640 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

paris 60 107411422 x640 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

Webb lawnmower [tondeuse radiocommandé] at the Miracle Garden Exhibition in Paris, 1960.

paris 60 107417475 x640 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

Webb R C lawnmower 1960 1 x640 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

H.R.H. The Duke of Windsor at the Miracle Garden Exhibition in Paris, 1960.

Webb R C lawnmower RCMEsep60 1   Copy x640 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

Vic Rigby was the electronician working for E.D. Ltd who developed the R/C and electrical equipment.

Webb R C lawnmower RCMEsep60 3   Copy x640 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

Webb R C lawnmower RCMEsep60 2   Copy x640 1959   Webb Radio controlled Electric Lawnmower   Vic Rigby (British)

See full pdf here of the Radio Control Models & Electronics, Sept 1960 article.

See other early remote-controlled and robotic lawn mowers here.


1959 – Cybernetic Mice play Hockey – Mullard (British)

hockey turtle robots La Tecnica Illustrata 1959 03 x640 1959   Cybernetic Mice play Hockey   Mullard (British)An early example of multiple robotic creatures operating together. Other than light and touch sensors, there's no other apparent interaction with them. Possibly an early but simple example of swarm robotics and collaborative robots.

English translation of article text:

To emphasize wont in machine control, a British firm [Mullard] of electronic devices has created these mechanical mice playing hockey on the ice. Each mouse is equipped with a photoelectric cell. Circuits and polarized magnetic lines of force, located under the floor, move the mice to the hatch into which they let the ball.

Source: La Tecnica Illustrata, March 1959.

Per dare risalto ai suol controlli per macchine, una ditta britannica di apparecchi elettronici ha realizzato questi topolini meccanici che giocano a hockey sul ghiaccio. Ciascun topolino e munito di una cellula fotoelettrica. Circuiti polarizzati e linee magnetiche di forza, situate sotto il piano, fanno muovere i topolini verso la porta nella quale devono far entrare la palla.

mullard logo 1959   Cybernetic Mice play Hockey   Mullard (British)

The Mullard logo.

See all the Cybernetic Animals and Creatures here.