This fascinating article in Astrobiology Magazine explains a thought experiment about future exploration of another solar system. The author, Ray Villard, imagines a super-advanced spaceship that completes its 100+ year interstellar voyage and then deploys an armada of self-replicating robotic explorers.
Using the Artificial Intelligence onboard the mother ship, the exploration of the new solar system aims to find evidence of life, much like current-day space exploration here in our solar system.
Considering the rapid and accelerating advances in technologies underway now, perhaps this science fiction concept is closer to reality than we realize. Indeed, the RepRap Project is well on its way to creating the first ever self-replicating machine.
But one things for sure, such a mission is ever created, it will sure put a lot of space agency staff and industrial contractors in the space industry out of work since it will essentially do everything they do at almost zero cost!