How a von Neumann probe might work

Having dispatched copies of itself, a probe would begin to explore the star system in which it found itself. It would conduct scientific research and transmit the results back to the point of origin. It could also be used as a means of interstellar colonization by constructing an artificial life-sustaining environment and then implanting this with synthesized fertile egg-cells bearing genomes transcribed from the probe’s computer memory. Eiseley has suggested that the embryonic individuals of such a colony could be tended by robots, also built by the probe, until they were old enough to function independently. They would then be free to develop their own civilization around the host star. 1

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