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NASA Can't Ethically Send Astronauts On One-Way Missions To Deep Space 402

Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "If NASA is serious about deep space missions, it's going to have to change its safety guidelines, because there's no conceivable way that, within the next few years, our engineering capabilities or understanding of things like radiation exposure in space are going to advance far enough for a mission to Mars to be acceptably "safe" for NASA. So, instead, the agency commissioned the National Academies Institute of Medicine to take a look at how it can ethically go about changing those standards. The answer? It likely can't.

In a report released today, the National Academies said that there are essentially three ways NASA can go about doing this, besides completely abandoning deep space forever: It can completely liberalize its health standards, it can establish more permissive "long duration and exploration health standards," or it can create a process by which certain missions are exempt from its safety standards. The team, led by Johns Hopkins University professor Jeffrey Kahn, concluded that only the third option is remotely acceptable."
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NASA Can't Ethically Send Astronauts On One-Way Missions To Deep Space

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  • But but but (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:56PM (#46644719)
    3D printing and computers got better? Surely every other technology got better too? We must get the species off this rock! Because those other rocks is where it's at!
  • by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:57PM (#46644733)

    Whether sending a willing astronaut, who understands and chose to do this of his own free will, on a dangerous or even one-way mission is ethical is not a question for anyone except the astronaut.

    Can the astronaut accomplish the mission all by him or herself? Or does he/she need a ground crew and a team of engineers to design and build the rocket? If so, then they would all be participants in the astronaut's death. If I decide I want to die and I hand you a gun and ask you to shoot me, is it ethical for you to do so?

    It's like trying to decide if gay marriage is "ethical". Unless you're one of the ones involved, nonya business trying to define ethics

    But therein lies the problem. There are other people involved.

  • by twistedcubic ( 577194 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:05PM (#46644793)
    ...otherwise it is guaranteed that thousands will die. I like this line of reasoning.
  • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:14PM (#46644855)

    Magellan didn't survive Magellan's expedition. Scott died trying to get to the South Pole. Mallory died climbing Mt Everest.

    How many still die climbing everest even though its been climbed thousands of times? How many people die in bat-suits?

    We are not talking about forcing people to take risks, but rather of looking for people who are willing to risk death to become immortalized in history. Have we become such collective cowards that we will not accept risks that daredevils accept daily for fun?

    Take volunteers. Make sure that they understand the risk and are not in any way coerced. Send them out. If they die, build a grand monument to their heroism, and look for more volunteers. If they succeed build grand monuments, and bury them there when they die later - as they inevitably will.

    In a hundred years everyone reading this will be dead. Give a few of them a chance to do die doing something magnificent.

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:18PM (#46644881) Homepage

    You will always find people willing to die for fame. Every high publicity serial killer generates people who what to take their place on the electric chair. That does not make it ethical to kill them, just because they want you to.

    They could replace "America's Got Talent" with, "I Want to Kill Myself on Live TV" and they would not have any problem finding contestants. Would you really consider that an ethical reality TV show?

  • by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @11:02PM (#46646009)

    what's the problem with this choice?

    Well here's the big problem: it's not worth it. Sending someone to Mars on a suicide mission wouldn't be a national accomplishment, it would be a national disgrace. We wouldn't learn anything new about Mars that we couldn't learn for fewer $ by sending many, many robotic missions. If the justification is "Gee whiz! I'm on Mars", then explain to me why it would have been worth it for the US to "win" the space race if it meant sending a capsule into space before working out the re-entry technology, so that the first man in space would have been incinerated while everyone in the US listened on radio.

    Minor problems:

    1. It would pretty much guarantee defunding of NASA. If not, then:

    2. Lawsuits filed by your daughter against any contractor that participated in the mission and probably the US govt. as well.

    3. Lawsuits filed by employees of NASA and those contractors.

  • by delt0r ( 999393 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @06:27AM (#46647357)
    A robot that costs and has the mass budget of a human mission could easily do all those things and more. Current robotic missions have mass/energy budgets that are a small fraction of anything a manned mission could be.

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