5.7 Conclusions and Recommendations
The Replicating Systems Concepts Team reached the following
- The theoretical concept of machine duplication is well
developed. There are several alternative strategies by which machine self-replication
can be carried out in a practical engineering setting.
- There is also available a body of theoretical automation
concepts in the realm of machine construction by machine, in machine inspection
of machines, and machine repair of machines, which can be drawn upon to
engineer practical machine systems capable of replication.
An engineering demonstration project can be initiated
immediately, to begin with simple replication of robot assembler by robot
assembler from supplied parts, and proceeding in phased steps to full reproduction
of a complete machine processing or factory system by another machine processing
system, supplied, ultimately, only with raw materials.
The raw materials of the lunar surface, and the materials
processing techniques available in a lunar environment, are probably sufficient
to support an automated lunar manufacturing facility capable of self-replication
Tentative design of a lunar manufacturing facility capable
of self-replication can begin, when current knowledge and state-of-the-art
technologies are employed, but final design awaits the initial results
of the demonstration-development program. Significant further research
in lunar materials processing and in the design and operation of automated
factories, should be conducted at once.
In addition, the team considers that the replicating systems
concept, if implemented, can have the following important consequences:
- It will accelerate the design and development of sophisticated
automated assembly techniques useful in carrying out future NASA missions.
- It will accelerate the design and development of improved
automated assembly and processing techniques applicable to the problems
of achieving increased Earth-based manufacturing productivity.
- By establishing an automated, growing, selfreplicating,
multipurpose, multiproduct lunar manufacturing facility, NASA capacity
for space exploration and research can be enormously expanded and permanently
enhanced with only modest continuing expenditures.
- The virtually cost-free expansion of mining, processing,
and manufacturing capacity, once an initial investment is made in an autonomous
SRS, makes possible the commercial utilization of the abundant energy and
mineral resources of the Moon for the benefit of all mankind.
- The establishment of a replicating lunar manufacturing
facility can be a stepping stone to the design and construction of replicating
manufacturing complexes on the surfaces of other planets. These new complexes
themselves may be products of automated, self-replicating manufacturing
facilities located elsewhere.
Finally, the team offers the following general recommendations
to NASA in furtherance of the basic objective of achieving practical self-replicating,
growing machine systems in the shortest reasonable time:
- NASA should begin immediately the development of a
simple demonstration replicating system on a laboratory scale, with teleoperated
to fully automated phased steps to higher levels of sophistication as the
technology is proven and matures.
- The space agency should support significant further
research in lunar materials processing, lunar resource exploration, and
the design and operation of automated manufacturing facilities.
- NASA should implement the design, development, and
construction of an automated, multiproduct, remotely reprogrammable lunar
factory system to begin operation on the lunar surface early in the next
- Studies should be conducted of scenarios in which
a succession of replicating, multipurpose, multiproduct, automated, remotely
reprogrammable factories could be placed in orbit or on other planets,
these systems perhaps themselves products of earlier established nonterrestrial
- NASA should initiate additional studies of the social,
political, military, and economic consequences of the proposed work, and
of various other as yet unresolved issues and concepts (see app. 5K).