Chris's Rants

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ground This Mission

From the WaPo editorial staff - Ground This Mission:
More fundamentally, we believe that the needs of NASA -- and the country -- can, at this point, be better served by continuing and expanding robotic exploration. In a visit to The Post the other day, Mr. Griffin emphasized the inherent limits of robots; NASA, he said, had concluded that a human could achieve in a single day what it would take a robot 90 days to do.

But sending a human into space costs far more than dispatching a robot. The inherent risks of human spaceflight can be minimized but not eliminated. And humans, at least in the near future, will not be able to remain on the moon, Mars or elsewhere nearly as long as robots; the rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still cruising the Martian surface after landing in January 2004. All in all, 90 days to one seems like a pretty good trade-off.
I have to say that, although I am highly supportive of scientific exploration of our solar system and the cosmos, I couldn't agree more. Manned space filght to the moon and beyond (to infinity and beyond!) saps from NASA's budget to fund some real science, exploring our solar neighborhood with robotic technology. That isn't to say that we shouldn't pursue manned space flight. I think we should; eventually. However, I don't think that we're ready now, nor will we be in the next 10 years. What we should be doing now is exploring/researching safer options for achieving escape velocity than strapping a few brave men and women onto enormous quantities of high explosives.

In the meantime, NASA should be sponsoring more robotic exploration like the wildly successful Mars Explorer missions of Spirit and Opportunity. After all, I think that when we do reach the point where we can safely (well, more so than what we can do now) put men and women into space and bring them safely home, that they will need plenty of robotic assistance.

1 Comments:

  • Manned exploration is a given for all who are involved intimately and working with space programs. As are robotics.

    What worries me is the new NASA administrator is coming across as being the antagonizer Bolton (UN) of space. Based on one press release where he basically claimed his predecessors were wrong and foolish for doing the space shuttle and ISS space station projects.

    That coupled with the less than impressive (although safe & proven antique) version of basic rockets with capsules on top being his selection for the next major missions. That would truly demonstrate excessive costs for something so basic.

    By Anonymous M. Allen Schultz, at October 03, 2005 2:18 PM  

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