It is not unusual in Science Fiction for a disembodied human to be on spaceship.

Either the brain is removed from the body; kept alive artificially and often connected to the ship directly. Alternately the humans brain is transferred into computer, there is no organic component.

The first, a disembodied brain is at least theoretically possible with today's science. Ethical consideration make implementing/testing unlikely currently.

Sending one or a couple disembodied astronauts on a space mission would drastically lower the resource requirements. Less nutrition, less supporting infrastructure, etc.

Ethical considerations aside, from an physical, physics and organic perspective, what would/could the the mission parameters of a mission to an outer planet?

Or less broadly, considered a manned mission to the our Moon, as compared to a disembodied mission to Saturn's moon Titan. Given the decrease in required resources, could the same monetary budget ($), complete both missions?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is still too broad @JamesJenkins. Many things are technologically possible, but we have no idea how to keep a human brain alive in a jar and have it interface with the outside world for some sort of purpose. The mechanisms to do that are unknown, so how could impact on a mission be assessed? $\endgroup$ – GdD Jul 26 '18 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ See also the Larry Niven stories "Becalmed In Hell" and "The Coldest Place", featuring an interplanetary spaceship controlled by a brain-in-a-jar but including a human crew member as well. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Jul 26 '18 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ This is not too broad, but primarily opinion based. You should fix more variables, i.e. how much energy is needed to sustain the brains, and what's the weight of the machines needed to do this and all the other tasks humans would usually do. $\endgroup$ – Everyday Astronaut Jul 26 '18 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ Voting to close as too far out. No one has demonstrated keeping a brain alive and interfaced on Earth, much less in a spacecraft. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jul 26 '18 at 15:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh if you can edit the question to make it fit better, Please do. $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Jul 27 '18 at 10:10

To answer the last part of your question: Yes, a disembodied crew visiting a place like Titan would reduce costs, mostly for life support. It would also allow better decision-making, since AI isn't quite as good as humans are... yet.

But there are a couple limits: 1) When you factor in development costs of the brain-machine interface, it could get really expensive. 2) You would likely have a large, nuclear-powered ship for such a journey. If you do, life support only takes a fraction of your energy budget in the first place, so any improvement to energy efficiency would be small. (Most power would be used to accelerate the ship's mass.)

Source: I watch a lot of Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Development costs of the brain-machine interface would be used very broadly and should not be considered dedicated to this mission. You wouldn't say that some 70 years of automotive development costs have to be assigned to the lunar rover. $\endgroup$ – Everyday Astronaut Jul 26 '18 at 15:20

It all boils down to weight ratio:

  1. How many kg of payload are currently needed to get an average human to the moon and back? Here, payload means the payload of the return capsule plus all mass that was left behind during the mission, except for propellant.
  2. By what factor could this number be reduced with the assumed "disembodiement" (is that a word?) technology?
  3. How much would a crewed mission cost? Assume any number, say, 3 people.
  4. Reduce these costs by the factor that's the answer to point 2. Alternatively, you could get factor as many brains to the moon for the same costs.
  5. Generalization to Titan is straight-forward but cost estimates are probably less reliable.

Point 2 is key, since the answer heavily relies on imagination as of today.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.