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Space Games

TheSpaceGame — Design Your Route To Jupiter 76

An anonymous reader writes "The Advanced Concepts Team of the European Space Agency is celebrating World Space Week (4-10 October 2010) with the release of 'The Space Game,' an online game for interplanetary trajectory design. The Space Game is an online crowdsourcing experiment where you are given the role of a mission designer to seek the best path to travel through space. The interactive game, coded in HTML5, challenges the players to devise fuel-efficient trajectories to various bodies of the Solar System via a user-friendly interface. The aim of the experiment is get people from all ages and backgrounds to come up with better strategies that can help improve the effectiveness of the current computer algorithms. As part of the events organized worldwide for Space Week, the first problem of the game is to reach Jupiter with the lowest amount of propellant. The best scores by 10 October will be displayed on the Advanced Concepts Team website and the three best designs will also receive some ESA prizes."
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TheSpaceGame — Design Your Route To Jupiter

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  • by Laser Dan ( 707106 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @11:08PM (#33791136)

    Crowdsourcing for this may be a good bit of publicity, but is really just wasting time.
    A genetic algorithm running on their "simulation" will find the best solution within the accuracy of the parameters very quickly. Run a couple of times to make sure it is the global minimum and you're done.

    Their competition has a hard limit on mission duration and the goal is minumum delta-v, so the fitness function is very easy to define.
    If anyone wants to win the competition, figure out how to write parameters to their simulation and read the delta-v and mission duration, run a GA for a while and you automatically win.

  • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @11:19PM (#33791202) Journal
    While light speed (or any reasonable fraction thereof) is going to be unavailable due to energy issues, we should be rethinking the assumptions here. Minimizing Delta-V is great- but perhaps it would be better to think about propulsion strategies that can give us higher total delta-V rather than working out multiple gravity assist trajectories? While they work, they also tie you to very long flight times and narrow launch windows. The Grand Tour of Voyager 2 isn't possible anymore- even New Horizons needed a narrow range of dates or it would miss the Jupiter assist, adding several years to flight time.

    Chemical rockets just aren't a great option- at least let us use an ion engine, or perhaps let us see what we can do with a VASMIR?

  • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @11:26PM (#33791242)

    Not so simple. You can gain a lot by getting boosts off of other planets and moons. I suspect that minimum is just under earth escape velocity, with a boost from the moon. Then over lots of orbits you can use earth flybys to modify your orbit. Might then be a win to use either Venus or Mars. The optimal path might take a VERY long time.

    Don't forget the trick that burning your fuel deep in a gravity well is a big help - a near-solar flyby might also be an efficient route.

    Of course the "right" way to do it is just use higher ISP engines and go direct so you get there quickly and don't need to wait half a generation to get your data.

    --- Joe Frisch

  • Vernor Vinge? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pontifier ( 601767 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @12:23AM (#33791486) Homepage
    It sounds very similar to a game that was described in The Peace War by Vernor Vinge.
  • Re:Waste of time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Synon ( 847155 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @02:33AM (#33791934) Homepage

    This is exactly the kind of combinatorial optimization problem that is superbly well-suited for solution by software and quite possibly the last kind of problem you want to hand to a bunch of humans, unless those humans happen to be programmers with backgrounds in celestial mechanics, heuristics, and genetic algorithms.

    As a way of driving public interest in the ESA's space program, it's not a bad idea at all, but if any of its users manage to come up with a better solution than the ESA's software, it's not a triumph for crowdsourcing, it's a sign that the ESA needs to hire new programmers.

    Yes yes we get it already, computers will always be better suited for solving these kinds of problems. As such, I would like to point you to the front page of their website which states this-

    "The Space Game is a game and a crowdsourcing experiment run by the Advanced Concepts Team of the European Space Agency aimed to improve the methods for designing interplanetary trajectories. We do not claim that computers are not able or are particularly bad at solving such problems. Rather, we think that 'watching' humans design complex interplanetary trajectories can be of help to improve the intelligence of computer algorithms."

    I don't know why your post is marked as insightful as they clearly state that beating ESA's software was not the point of the game.

  • In no timeframe? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jlebrech ( 810586 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @06:27AM (#33792654) Homepage

    So basically just avoid the other planets along the way, and go the slowest speed imaginable?

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_