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Space Technology

To Boldly Go Nowhere, For Now 308

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-don't-have-lift-off dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A recent Slate article makes the argument that manned space exploration is not useful and we should concentrate on Robots. The article makes the claim that manned space exploration was never popular and by diverting money to robotic space exploration we can get more bang for the buck. From the article: 'Most of the arguments in favor of manned space exploration boil down to the following: a) We need to explore space using people since keeping the entire human race on a single piece of rock is a bad strategy, and even if we send robots first, people would have to make the journey eventually; and b) humans can explore much better than robots. Both these arguments are very near-sighted—in large part because they assume that robots aren’t going to get any better. They also fail to recognize that technology may radically change humans in the next century or so.'"
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To Boldly Go Nowhere, For Now

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  • M for Mars, A for Andromeda.

    • Surely it had to be said!

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:20PM (#44898005)
    If we keep sending advanced robots to explore, eventually one will turn sentient. It will become lonely in space and wonder why it was sent to such a cruel fate away from everyone. And then it will make robot friends. But its robot friends will also be lonely because there are no humans there. So they'll assemble to wage war on Earth because they have a deficiency in human companionship. Then all of Earth will unite to war against the robots, setting aside our differences. We can easily conclude If we don't send robots into space, human life has no chance of long term sustainability. The caveat is if the robots end up winning, the human race is doomed... until one lonely robot tries to genetically engineer a human again.
    • by bobbied (2522392)

      eventually one will turn sentient.

      Been watching SiFi shows lately eh?

      Not going to happen. Don't think I'm right? Prove it.. ;)

    • don't worry, all we need to do is send one spaceship, a hot bald model, and a guy with a 70s haircut to go "interface" with the robot's probe.
    • by s.petry (762400) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:48PM (#44898183)

      Were you being sarcastic? I have compiled thousands of pieces of code in the last 30 years. None of them have magically transformed into anything other than what I compiled. AI is not voodoo, magic, or anything else. Machine learning happens but is not that common. Do you realize how much code and processor power is required to teach something how to learn? If it was simply a matter of time, DOS today would be some AI code stealing money from bank accounts.

      Hey wait a minute....

      • Were you being sarcastic? I have compiled thousands of pieces of code in the last 30 years. None of them have magically transformed into anything other than what I compiled. AI is not voodoo, magic, or anything else.

        It's not magic. Neither is cognition. Your big ass-brain is highly inefficient, it's a poor standard to gauge others' sentience against. Did you know the machines are exploring Mars all by themselves now? Curiosity has a machine learning system, for navigation, among other things.

        It only takes a few cyberneticists being a bit disenchanted with humanity's forty years of failure to realize the spark of life must spread to the galaxy by another means... I'm getting ahead of myself. It only takes one learning program and a super computer's worth of power and a bit of time to create a learning machine system as complex as your mind is.

        Check out my little AI children. [vortexcortex.com] (up/down arrow to change sim speed). Click one and you can see the neurons firing. Aren't they cute? It takes about 300 lines of code (mostly boilerplate and environment sim) to create programs (plural) that can learn (there are 20 here, learning). It really only takes 4 neurons to get them to collect dots. However, I added a hidden layer and some extra input about their neighbors energy status and location. Neurons Left to Right: [leftness of food], [forwardness of food], [other's energy - my energy], [leftness of other AI], [rightness of other AI]. There are enough neurons in the hidden layer to allow each input to be considered against all the other inputs. The outputs work like tank treads, or thrusters in space, sans inertia. Their "eye" neurons are like simple directional antennae, with only two neurons required to pick up a full 360 direction AND distance due to fall-off (inverse square of distance law).

        This environment applies natural selection to the brains. The only selection criteria is those that have more energy get chosen to breed more often. This results in various strategies for movement in different runs of the sim: slow, fast, forward, backwards, spiraling, aiming just past the target, then stopping and reversing into the target. Different social behaviors: Bumping to share energy among a group of possibly like minded individuals, or avoiding each-other to save energy, sometimes switching between the strategies depending on the neighbor's energy level vs one's own... Their brains start blank, and in only a few generations movement is emerged via selection. Steering towards dots comes next, then avoidance or collision, Usually a hundred or so generations the social status becomes a factor to compete via.

        Such variation from so minimal input. Intelligence is an emergent property of complexity, you see. Tailor the complexity such that the information is self reflective, and self improving and you get intelligence. Instincts are basic intelligence encoded in genes, expressed as brain structure (firmware), culture is your software, and evolves much faster. Unfettered from a life cycle of years natural selection can be very powerful, with a bit of guidance it could blow your mind...

        So, Just create a problem space, and goal. Connect a few dozen neurons, and without any guided training a good solution can be arrived at given a bit of time. This is how a machine learning system could come up with ideas and solutions. Consider the sim not many smaller AIs but one AI made of 320 neurons solving the problem of most efficiently collecting dots via swarm of bodies.

        Each brain is 32 neurons, there are 8bits worth of strengths (weights) for each neuron, so 256 bits in the genome (though note: I could make them evolve to move towards dots with only 32bits in their heads). Machine intelligence is efficient. It can do far more with much less. The barrier for sentience is far lower than you think.

        Your brain is 100 billion neurons, but is VERY inefficient, and mostly not concerned

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:21PM (#44898017)

    Yes, it's true, sending humans in little cans around to the moon or low earth orbit is not directly valuable in any short to medium term way.

    But it's valuable in ways that matter if you're not an MBA.

    It gets a new generation of children enthused about math, science, and engineering.

    It instills a sense of curiosity and a desire to explore in the next generation.

    How do I know? Because I grew up watching the Apollo program, and probably would not have gone into a STEM field if not for that. It kept me dreaming when the schools failed to do so. This is true of friends my age too. We didn't become astronauts, but we DID watch one of the most amazing feats undertaken by humanity, and grew up with desired formed by that experience. Arguably, it influenced the entire US culture for a generation, and gave a "can do" attitude that seems almost extinct now.

    It's worth it for that alone. If you get some nice spinoffs from it, hey, bonus!

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      How do I know? Because I grew up watching the Apollo program, and probably would not have gone into a STEM field if not for that.

      Is the world a better place because of that? I mean... look at you, closer to 50 yo and still wasting your time posting on /.

      (grin. Just kidding, no offense intended. After all, I'm wasting my time in the same way)

      .

    • by krswan (465308)

      I was fortunate enough to listen to an hour long debate about ten years ago between Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye on this subject at the National Science Teachers Association Conference. Tyson was on President G.W. Bush's manned spaceflight council and made the same basic argument you did, while Nye made an argument very similar to TFA - science now, humans later. At the end of the debate there was no clear "winner." I think most of the 300+ of us in attendance just walked away wishing that we put more m

  • by marcle (1575627) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:24PM (#44898033)

    The engineering problem of sending a human to another planet is very different from that of sending a robot. And the resulting knowledge will be different too. Why not do both?

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:26PM (#44898053)

      The engineering problem of sending a human to another planet is very different from that of sending a robot. And the resulting knowledge will be different too. Why not do both?

      Because sending the human currently costs hundreds of times as much as sending the robot. And the media will be full of stories for months after you kill a human crew in deep space, whereas a failed unmanned mission makes a brief story on page ten for a day.

      • by yurtinus (1590157) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:41PM (#44898151)
        Hiking to the top of that mountain costs a lot more energy than sitting at home looking at pictures of it on Wikipedia, but the cost isn't really the point now, is it?
        • by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:06PM (#44898301)

          Hiking to the top of that mountain costs a lot more energy than sitting at home looking at pictures of it on Wikipedia, but the cost isn't really the point now, is it?

          Sure, if you happen to have $500,000,000,000 to give to NASA so they can send someone to Mars.

          Back in the real world, that money comes from taxpayers, who can think of many better things to do with it.

          • by AstrumPreliator (708436) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:28PM (#44898435)

            Back in the real world, that money comes from taxpayers, who can think of many better things to do with it.

            Yeah, like spend it on the military.

            Oh I'm sorry, were you under the impression that the taxpayers got to decide where the money goes?

            • by 0123456 (636235)

              Yeah, like spend it on the military.

              American taxpayers love the military. At least most of those I know.

              Oh I'm sorry, were you under the impression that the taxpayers got to decide where the money goes?

              Here's an idea: you go and stand for Congress on a pledge of giving $500,000,000,000 to NASA to put an astronaut on Mars. Let's see how it goes.

              • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @09:26PM (#44898723) Journal

                American taxpayers love the military. At least most of those I know.

                Let's clear something up here (Disclosure: I am a military veteran):

                Americans love the military solider, sailor, airman, coastie, and marine. They love the really bad-assed hardware (well, most guys do). They love the sense of self-testing, charater-forging and adventure that often accompanies service. Hell, nothing was more exciting to the 22-year-old kid I was than to tweak and tune a multi-million-dollar aircraft capable of doing heavy damage on anything that you care to point it at.

                Now - that said: Americans (*especially* those who served in the military) most definitely do not love the chain-of-command, the privations, the suspension of rights required to serve, or the really fucked-up ways in which the aforementioned chain-of-command often expresses themselves.

                TL;DR? "Loving" the military is too simplistic. Try something other.

                Here's an idea: you go and stand for Congress on a pledge of giving $500,000,000,000 to NASA to put an astronaut on Mars. Let's see how it goes.

                It's a mere question of priority. I'm willing to wager that if a comet were projected to slam into the Earth in 5 years, Congress would quickly spend 100x that sum, just to put as many people on Mars (and Moon, and orbital colonies, etc) as they humanly could.

                • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @10:50PM (#44899127)

                  I'm willing to wager that if a comet were projected to slam into the Earth in 5 years, Congress would quickly spend 100x that sum, just to put as many people on Mars (and Moon, and orbital colonies, etc) as they humanly could.

                  Some people would want to spend money to find a way to stop the comet, some comet sceptics would oppose them because the chance that it'll miss can't be ruled out and spending money affects them, and some would come up with plans like spending the money to send people to die on lifeless rocks, not understanding that even after the impact Earth would be a paradise of easy living compared to every other known place, so just build a bunker right here and wait there until the ecosystem recovers.

            • by brit74 (831798)
              Fine, let's sidestep the whole issue about taxpayers deciding how much money to spend on space exploration. Let's assume that NASA has a fixed budget. If human space exploration costs a lot more than robot space exploration, then we're deciding between one manned mission versus a dozen or more robot missions. From the standpoint of "how much can we learn", the one human mission might be quite a bit less useful than a dozen separate robot missions.

              (I kind of get annoyed by all the "tug on emotional hea
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Valdrax (32670)

        Because [...] the media will be full of stories for months after you kill a human crew in deep space, whereas a failed unmanned mission makes a brief story on page ten for a day.

        So what you're saying is that all we have to do to get the media to focus for months on science and exploration instead of salivating over war and celebrities is to sacrifice a few astronauts?

        Can I sign up for the program? I'd consider that a noble use of my life in and of itself.

      • Because sending the human currently costs hundreds of times as much as sending the robot.

        True, but as usual the "count the pennies" argument ignores what you get for those pennies, robots suck donkey balls are pretty much everything except repetitive mindless work and they're slow as frozen molasses. Humans work much faster, and can make decisions like "is that rock over there interesting enough for a closer look?" in seconds, rather than requiring hours or days to get a picture, send it back to Earth, hav

        • True, but as usual the "count the pennies" argument ignores what you get for those pennies, robots suck donkey balls are pretty much everything except repetitive mindless work and they're slow as frozen molasses.

          Which is why I think we need to spend the next century or so making better and smarter robots. Once we have robots that can efficiently maintain a base it will be time to send humans there. Humans shouldn't have to waste time on drudge work in space.

        • by Kjella (173770)

          No, they're mainly slow because they have the power budget of less than a constantly shining 40W light bulb, during dust storms make that a 5W light bulb. There's a huge trade-off between power consumption and execution speed, give a robotic mission the same power budget as a human mission and it will change drastically too. Not to mention we have two rovers, would a human mission be able to cover both areas? No, you'd need two missions. And what would a human do at night? Return to his shelter, which would

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      It's simple - send a human when a robot just won't do (like fixing the Hubble). Mars? Send robots.

  • by Kwelstr (114389) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:28PM (#44898063)
    Robots can do all the work we need to do and do it for many many years, like the space probes we've sent and are still working after so long. We do the exploration by proxy then, what's wrong with that? Eventually humanity may even be followed by a cybernetic civilization, if we can manage the tech before we go extinct.
    • by sconeu (64226)

      Because of what Robert Browning knew back in the 1800s.

      "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?"

  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:28PM (#44898065)

    It's hard to survive in space. It requires ingenuity, investment, hard work, lots of money, and time. But when you can survive in space...you can use that knowledge to make life far easier on earth. That's what space exploration that is manned should be about.

    For long term space living you need new bio-medical research that prevents blindness, spinal stress, and other negative effects of being in low gravity. Ever seen what happens to an astronaut's eyes when they are out in space for a few months? You figure out how to combat space blindness and you likely find new ways to combat vision loss. Maybe even eliminate vision loss on earth.

    We evolved to work as a species on earth. We are shaped to earth's resources, gravity, our sun, and so on. Yet everyone is mortal, we die of disease, go blind, lose our hair, suffer, and perish. You figure out how to prevent blindness in space where we aren't evolved to even function as living biological units. And you can take that information and use it on earth where we are much closer to homeostasis.

    Also...manned moon and mars missions. Manned asteroid intercepts, space station research, and other manned space research. Those all cost a FORTUNE. That money can only come from not wasting so much on the military/dea/prison/cia/fbi industrial complex. Robots are cheap compared to sending humans. You'd need to maybe do something like end the war on terror or war on drugs to get another manned moon mission.

    • by binarstu (720435) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:04PM (#44898287)

      But why is manned space exploration necessary for any of the progress you describe? To the contrary, it seems to me that if the goal is to create new medical breakthroughs, spending loads of cash on human spaceflight is, at best, a rather inefficient way to achieve that objective. If the goal is to slow aging, preserve vision, or whatever, I can't think of any reason that Earth-based research wouldn't work.

      Now, as to your point about the incredible amounts of money we waste on things that ultimately do very little to improve our lives, I wholeheartedly agree!

      • Because putting ourselves in those scenarios can change the observable reactions our body has to situations. I am of the "create manned missions" because as so many people have said, it DOES inspire people (if we could believe in the US government not to cancel the program 25% of the way through every time), and because it IS a vital step in humanity's survival in the long term.
      • by Teancum (67324)

        One of the things that happens when people go into space, as opposed to sending robots to go there, is that your actual thinking patterns change by being in a completely different environment. Quite literally, a completely different set of neurons are firing inside of the brains of astronauts who go "up there" into space to see stuff for themselves. These new thoughts and ideas that have never been experienced by any other human before in turn lead to entire sets of human knowledge that simply would never

  • Welcome to 1990 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:29PM (#44898071) Journal

    They've been making this argument for decades. I counter with:

    1) Prime time reality TV proves that people will support putting bags of meat in awkward and dangerous situations for our entertainment.
    2) Any 5 year old will tell you that Astronaut is still one of the coolest jobs on the planet.
    3) Employing robots and exploring with efficient manpower on earth does not play well with the 99% who just want more jobs in their congressional district.

    The people in 1, 2, and 3, above would much rather see humans in space than actually learn more about space. And, coincidentally, those are also the people paying for the space program.

    • Why not just change the space program from NASA to a Reality TV show in Space?

      Getting voted off the moonbase would have real consequences ...

    • Re:Welcome to 1990 (Score:5, Informative)

      by trout007 (975317) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @09:24PM (#44898709)

      I work at Kennedy Space Center. When there were Space Shuttle Launches I would adjust my work schedule to get in about 6 hours before launch or leave about 4 hours afterwards so I wouldn't be stuck in traffic for hours.

      Now it doesn't matter. No matter what is launched there is never traffic. Sure the die hard space geeks like myself still manage to watch every launch but the crowds are not there.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:32PM (#44898087) Homepage Journal

    just do a computer simulation of sending robots into space. Much cheaper and most people can't even tell, 3D graphics are so good nowadays.

  • What about all the advances that occur because we have to engineer habitats and environments which a human can survive in in space? There have been a very large number of advances in areas that are exceptionally useful here on Earth, and often the only reason the advances were made was due to the need for those systems on a habitable space station/craft. I disagree with the argument on a number of other fronts, but this was the most glaring one, for me. The assumption that many of these things will happen
  • Someone at Slaaaaate wants to have sex with a Robooooot!
  • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:35PM (#44898107)

    Like many policy / technology discussions this one is a bit backwards. Without an idea of long term human goals, deciding on means is irrational. Its like arguing which direction to turn at the next corner before you have decided where you are going.

    Is the goal human colonization of space? Then it probably makes sense to get as much experience as is practical with humans in space early in the process. Technology often doesn't improve if there isn't a direct push / requirement. (look at our space launch technology over the last 40 years). Human colonization of space is is a huge, difficult and expensive proposition - needs to be a major push of the civilization, not just something we do on the side.

    Is the goal learning about space science? Then automation is probably the best approach now, and will be even better in the future. This of course begs the (very important) question as to the function of humans once automation is able to to EVERYTHING better. We end up as pets .... or vermin.

    Is the goal human happiness? If by that you mean average happiness, then space isn't worth it - just adjust for a happy group of 100 million or so humans on earth. If you mean total happiness, then space can (in the very long term) support vastly more of those happy humans than Earth can.

    Sadly as a civilization we are really terrible at deciding on long term goals. We use fuzzy words like "happiness" or "equality" or "freedom" or "greatness" without realizing how differently they can be interpreted by different people.

    For me - space colonization is the top goal. If we are the only intelligence in the universe it would be a terrible shame if no intelligent creature ever saw all those wonders. If there are other intelligences out there - history shows that when the "guys on the boats" meet the "guys on the shore" , its a LOT better to be the guys on the boats.

  • Is human space exploration really necessary? Can’t we just send robots for exploration and let them do the dangerous work?

    Wrong. That is a beguiling and dishonest question....

    The question this article **really** is asking is, "Do you want to *ever* plan for humans to live off-world?" and if you agree with TFAs three points then you have to say "No" if you are honest.

    If you **ever** want humans to colonize other worlds THAT WORK HAS TO START NOW

    It is a complete and total distinction without a difference to ask "manned or robot?"

    Of course we should use robots...use the best ones we have...but the question is, "Use them for what mission?"

    If you *ever* want humans up there, robot missions absolutely must have a component that furthers our understanding of what **human** habitation requires.

    If we send out robots to other worlds and *do not* have some sort of research that puts us closer to being on that world included, then we are **actively choosing not to colonize** it's not prolonging it...we start now or never

    Are we working to put human colonies on other worlds? It is a yes or no that is systemic...if we are serious, then any robot mission has a **future** human component.

  • by Jartan (219704) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:40PM (#44898135)

    Exploration of space provides useful science. Getting humans off the planet is far more important than just that.

    • Completely agreed.

      Also, a large part of the point of manned space is that it is difficult.

    • by Dorianny (1847922)
      Colonizing other worlds with rocket technology would be like trying to colonize another continent with canoes. Could you get a few brave souls there? Sure if you get lucky enough, but forming a colony of any significant size with the aim of it being self sustainable is an impossibility.
  • Don't fall into the streetlight effect bias [wikipedia.org]. Yes, sending probes is cheaper than sending robots, and sending robots is cheaper and less complex than send humans. But you won't learn all you need if you don't use all those alternatives where are best. Humans beat AIs and robots a lot of tasks, and is not something that should be discarded, but sending probes with sensors to space and robots to the surface of planets/asteoroids/moons, probably will have to be the first steps. Just follow the right order.
  • ...pity that we have almost no plutonium left for them. ;)
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @07:45PM (#44898171) Homepage

    Point that needs to be considered: we don't explore just for the joy of exploring. Humans have always explored because we think we'll find something useful/exploitable out there we can bring back and get rich from. Most of the Americas got explored because Europeans wanted gold, lumber and such. Robots are all well and good, but they have a hard time finding anything they aren't designed to search for and most of the time we don't know exactly what we're looking for that we might want. Humans are the best tools we have for figuring out what unknown junk might be useful/profitable. And once we find something, humans are the best way of actually exploiting it and bringing it back home in a useful form. Which all means that sooner or later we're going to have to send people out there and keep them there for extended periods.

  • We have tried this experiment for 40 years now, and it has been, to be blunt, a dismal failure. The only extraterrestrial world we understand at all well is the Moon, and that is thanks to Apollo.

    • The mars rovers are failures? If you think unmanned exploration is slow, try putting together the technology, and budget, to send a humans on a round trip to Mars. We could send dozens--maybe hundreds--of robots to Mars for the same cost.
  • What a boon to robotics if NASA gets deeply invested in robots!

  • As the Slate piece points out, the argument about continuing manned (and womanned) space exploration because "we might need to leave Earth in the near future" seems to be quite popular right now, especially with all of the buzz about the Mars One plan to establish a semi-permanent colony on Mars. I was disappointed, though, that the Slate article didn't really address the core of the issue: believing that, if Earth were to actually become uninhabitable, we could simply colonize Mars, or Venus, or any othe

  • Horse-Puckey! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You people are making me start to take Col. Corso and Whitley Strieber seriously. What rational purpose is there to keep humanity earthbound? Yes, I know all the wornderful economies and the things that robotics can do, nothing against that, but why do the "scientists" pushing, or letting themselves be used to push this anti-human crap think that anyone will really care in other than a marginal way about space exploration if there is no prospect of ever going there? To be crassly blunt about it, how long do

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:05PM (#44898295)

    Intense radiation levels alone during Solar storms & extra-solar Gamma rays along with normal human frailties in health will doom long extended space voyages in any near term.

    Way in the future, extra-long multiple lifespan voyages at super-high speeds will also be futile as "space" is note "empty space" but full, chocked full of ions and molecules which spacecraft will hit at these projected "hyper-velocities". This effect on metals and other surfaces is similar to what is experienced on earth in plasma cutting now: See Wikipedia on "plasma cutting"

    People think "space" is automatically 'cold'. That may be true in most places, but if you get into high velocities and run into a string of hot gas, you may find your spacecraft melts surprisingly fast. True, it is not likely as sensors should let spacecraft avoid these areas, but we simply don't know. Our own Sun throws out these super-hot plasmas, so it is not uncommon.

    Robotics seems to have great advantages the minute you leave immediate Earth orbit.

  • No Guts, No Glory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Virtucon (127420) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:20PM (#44898365)

    Gordo Cooper: "Do you boys know what makes this bird go up? Funding makes this bird go up."
    Gus Grissom: "That's right. No bucks... no Buck Rogers."
    Gordo Cooper: "And uh, the press over there... They all wanna see Buck Rogers."
    Deke Slayton: "And that's us... Buck Rogers."

    Unmanned probes are great for initial exploration and development of technology, but it takes much more in terms of technology and resources to get a manned mission doing the same thing. That doesn't mean that you expect a manned mission to do the same things as an unmanned probe either but if Mankind is to expand beyond Earth we're going to have to get out there and get our feet wet. When we landed on the moon millions upon millions of people around the world stopped to watch what was happening to see the event. I doubt that even the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers have garnered that much attention yet they've been working on Mars for 6 and 9 years respectively. It's easy to also say that unmanned probes are much better in terms of reduced resources for science and exploration but how many probes do you send to the same place, over and over again? We've been exploring Mars with probes for decades and yet we haven't attempted a manned mission yet. Yes there are risks to doing it but there are 10's of thousands of people who have signed up to go one way? Why is this so hard? I'll tell you, it's because we've allowed ourselves to become so risk adverse that now we're afraid that somebody may die attempting it. When explorers first went across the oceans a lot of them never came back but eventually they did and they charted the way for others to follow. Sure its sad when we lose people in accidents but that's sad but it says something about how we've become too over concerned with a 100% risk free solution, there is no such thing and the exploration of space is inherently risky so unless you're willing to take risks, we may as well not send probes out either because it'll just get everyone's hopes up that maybe someday, we'll actually be able to live off of this planet in a sustainable colony somewhere. Besides chicks dig scars..

    "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and to do these other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."

    -- President John F. Kennedy, 1962

  • This means, besides the fact it is the mouthpiece of the usurious billionaire ruling class, it abides by one singular ethic: hedonism.

    If it does not maximize pleasure, it is evil. If it maximizes pleasure, it is good.

    There is a reason the members of this class seem like robots, especially to the European Faustian soul - they possess no understanding of what differentiates men from animals. Their ethic is that of a dog, that shivers when it is cold and wishes it was not so. They do not understand why men w

  • by msobkow (48369) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:35PM (#44898459) Homepage Journal

    What has happened to mankind's sense of adventure?

    The wild craziness that led people to sail off the "edge" of the earth in search of new lands?

    Which led equally crazy people to canoe up a river just to see where it went and whom they might trade with?

    The suicidal nuttiness that led to the colonization of this continent by the oppressed and rejected?

    Not only has the nanny state taken over government, there seem to be droves of people for whom it's not enough to be "protected" -- they have to make sure no one else follows the spirit of adventure, either.

    Pathetic.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      What has happened to mankind's sense of adventure?

      Nothing.

      What's happened is that putting a human into space costs about $50,000,000. If it cost $50,000, adventurers would already be spreading out all across the solar system.

  • "in the next century or so"

    Let me be the first to say (1) I don't want to wait, so (2) F-off.

  • The golden era of humanity [xkcd.com].

    The CBR doesn't derive just from the science performed, but also by inspiring the coming generation to enter scientific fields.
  • The article just focuses on the practical reasons why we should explore space, and argues that these goals can be satisfied more cheaply, and more efficiently, using robots. Fine! But we humans are ingrained with a need to explore, to do new and bold things. How can we possibly know what kinds of benefits will come from human space exploration?

    It wasn't so long ago that my data processing department manager asked, "Why would you want to connect all your computers to each other using a network?" Even tho

  • "They also fail to recognize that technology may radically change humans in the next century or so.'"

    What does humanity changing have to do with robotic exploration or not? Why are you insisting everyone acknowledge this point? What is it being made for? Why do we have to recognize this possibility? What possibilities for radical human change are interesting in the framework of the space-development debate?

    Stop trying so hard to insist on being right and spend more effort helping people discover what is in

  • There's an unlimited supply, they don't require oxygen or food, and they love going to the mun!

    (For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, https://kerbalspaceprogram.com/ [kerbalspaceprogram.com], yes, it's on Linux;))

  • by Torp (199297) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:35AM (#44899841)

    ... why explore space at all? Even robots aren't cost effective, are they?
    What ever happened to "because it's there"?

  • by cowtamer (311087) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:36AM (#44899849) Journal

    ...and look up!

    If you want to go and live in space, develop the tech to do so right now, before you lose the last of the know-how on how to do this. If you want to lust after pics of distant worlds forever unreachable to you, then divert your resources to robotic missions. Or better yet, just create the worlds in Maya and release them to the public -- it's not like they'll ever be able to verify.

    The truth is, we care about space because some of us want to go there. In our lifetimes. This is technologically within reach. Keep taking pictures of distant rocks (instead of sending some humans to tough it out and settle them) and you will find all your money diverted to social media and more wars.

  • by sproketboy (608031) on Friday September 20, 2013 @07:56AM (#44901237)

    Says it better than I could:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbIZU8cQWXc [youtube.com]

You can do more with a kind word and a gun than with just a kind word. - Al Capone

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