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Science Fiction vs Science Fact – Replicating Machines

by

Mark Sackler

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Self-replicating machines have been a staple in science fiction since the 1940’s. A. E. Van Vogt, Philip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke, along with many others, have used self-building robots as plot devices. .But just how realistic an idea are they?

As far back as 1980 NASA conducted an engineering study of concepts for a self-replicating lunar factory. For decades, the study sat and collected dust. But the concept of robotic explorers, builders, and miners that can land and copy themselves, has come back to the fore. Just how viable is this technology? How far away is it? Are there dangers? Two men who have thought long and hard about this are science fiction author Will Mitchell and space roboticist Dr. Alex Ellery.

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