The arguments against manned space travel crop up periodically,
particularly after a disaster such as Columbia or Challenger. Lots of
editorials these days are calling to stop space exploration altogether
or limit it to robots only. But isn't the whole point of space
exploration the eventual colonization of space by humans? An article on
Central Station outlines robot missions, manned missions, and other
possible choices. Human vs robot exploration is also explored in an article
from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.
I think we should place astronauts and all earth people into
indestructible suits. Then we could do away with osha and save lots of
money. For that matter, we should outlaw, football, skydiving, guns,
meat processing plants and malted milk balls.
Editorials calling for a halt to manned space flight are just a typical
knee-jerk reaction by the media, and should not be taken seriously.
The future of space exploration will probably continue in much the same
way as it has over the last 40 years, with a combination of both robots
and manned missions. As much in favour of robots as I am, human
explorers are still far better at making rational judgements and
adapting to changing contingencies than robots are and this is likely
to remain the case for the forseeable future. Nasa people still
describe humans as "the ultimate sensor platform".
With present technology robots can be designed to carry out specific
experiments under predefined conditions, but this is not always the
best (nor the most economical) way to do science. A classic example is
the Viking mars landers from the 1970s. They were equipped with a
number of experiments designed to determine whether the martian soil
contained living organisms, but the results obtained were rather
inconclusive. A human with a microscope would have resolved the issue
in a short space of time.
I'd like to see robots used to build habitable environments - such as
space stations and biospheres - ready for later occupation by human
As humanoid robots are becoming popular, i am wondering when honda
will make a telepresence suit one could wear to control the robot
I have seen some video of a nasa upper torso that was designed to
mimic a slave system on earth, with the goal of allowing somebody on
earth to work in space... the robot would stay up there launched once,
the shifts nown here could rotate, and no life support would be
needed. I think we will see this in action soon.