Copernicus Space Corp.—Exploring the Galaxy with Tiny Robotic Probes

From the mission statement of Copernicus Space Corporation:

In particular, Copernicus pursues a unique exploration strategy leveraging large swarms of thousands, and eventually millions and billions of miniature space probes, leveraging AI/ML-driven sensor nanorobots, as well as synthetic biology ‘panspermia’ information transmission.

Copernicus will explore our solar system for traces of life and astro-archeological remnants of extraterrestrial civilizations (ETCs) with thousands of nanoprobes. Copernicus also intends to explore our ‘galactic neighborhood’ within a range for 5–50 light years for conclusive evidence of exoplanet life, or remnants of ETCs, if they exist, using millions of nanoprobes with the ability to report results back to Earth after decades and centuries.

Finally, Copernicus eventually intends to seed our galaxy with billions of technological nanoprobes and synthetic biology extremophile interstellar one-way ‘messages in a bottle’ (MIAB) that carry an ultra-long-term protected record of the legacy of Earth, terrestrial life and of humankind and its civilization throughout our Milky Way over hundreds of millions of years.


I think there is a much better technology for this.

This brings us back to the hypothesis that underlay Cixin Liu’s “Three Body Problem” – especially the second volume of the trilogy “The Dark Forest”. Any sufficiently advanced technological civilization cannot afford to take the chance that another such civilization would be friendly. Logical consequences are:
(a) Do not advertise your presence in the galaxy. Hush is the word.
(b) If you learn of another technologically advanced civilization, destroy it immediately. They may not want to buy your world a Coke.

Of course, that was just one author’s speculation. Still, it is interesting that atmospheric CO2 could never end life on Planet Earth – but the Copernicus project could. Maybe people get excited about the wrong things?

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In The Dark Forest scenario (and assuming the speed of light is an absolute limit on communication and transportation), it is likely that advanced civilisations (“Grabby Aliens”) would seed star systems in their vicinity with tiny probes which monitored for the emergence of potential competitors so that they could be dealt with. The probes could be sent out and disperse more rapidly than physical expansion of the grabby civilisation, so they would be present in most star systems on the borders of its expansion.

Copernicus explicitly plans to look for the presence of such probes. Discovering their presence in our solar system would completely change our assumptions about the universe we inhabit and motivate a “stealth” strategy, although it may be too late if the probes have detected our toddler steps outward from our home planet and already raised the alarm.

Here is a short-short science fiction story set in a world in which such probes have been discovered, “Auction Prospectus”.