Opinion Piece #1 It is my opinion that if given a choice between a robotic and a manned space based exploration, it is better to execute a robotic mission. It is not worth the cost and risk for humans to simply explore space, except when the goal is specifically colonization. First, a manned mission would be much more technically complicated than a robotic one outweighing any incremental benefit resulting from a human presence. Second, the financial cost of manned missions to overcome the complications is not worth the projected costs. Third, funding robotic missions are indirect investments in aiding the current human condition.
That is, the cost saving from robot missions could help relieve current issues here on earth. Lastly, pushing the boundaries of the unknown will always be fascinating to humans, but we would be pushing current human boundaries to explore much further past the moon, with our current technology. Advancements in robot technology can allow us to take the next step in advanced space missions. Some would argue the opposite; some would say that manned missions are essential to quench our curiosity and thirst for uncovering the unknown, our desperate search for answers about the universe, and to find life beyond our planet.
There are specific advantages to robotic exploration over human space missions. Space is a dangerous place for humans in many ways; there are many factors working against long term human space travel. There is harsh radiation, zero gravity and the element of time to consider. Radiation, in form of cosmic rays (high energy particles) and other high-energy radiation emitted from our sun, breaks down DNA in our bodies (0), leads to major complications, and poses the largest threat to human space travel.
Extended zero gravity exposure leads to bone destiny loss and weakened organs because our physiology evolved having gravity. Time is also a factor against human space travel; we simply cannot go fast enough and live long enough to make it. If we went 123,000 mph with current plasma engines (1) to the closest star, Proxima Centauri – 4. 22 light years away (2), it would take 23 thousands years (2. 1). We can’t live that long but robots could possibly go faster and need no protection from anything except sensitive equipment.
Robots don’t need to come back, they have no families and we can build new ones. As questions are asked about the cosmos we develop new detectors, telescopes, and probes to answer those questions safely, quickly, and with accuracy. Human space missions are extremely expensive, unsafe, and inefficient(3) compared to robotic ones. A manned mission would most likely involve advanced life support systems, ample social interaction that means more people, food, oxygen, radiation protection, constant exercise, etc. with all systems being mostly self-sustaining or replenishing.
This is all equals to weight, cost, time, and research. Also, the effects of zero-gravity and cosmic radiation have not been studied in depth and the long term exposure, could be detrimental(4). Also, the effects on the mind, in the long term, we know little about. (5) Constant isolation and confinement could drive any crew mad. (5. 1) We currently don’t even have spacesuits that protect against radiation. (6) Dennis Bushnell, NASA Langley’s chief scientist said, “What’s affordable is not safe; what’s safe is not affordable. ”(7).
A robotic mission would not encounter any of these problems and risks. The space shuttle had a price tag of about $450 million per mission and today unmanned payload cost about $12,000 per pound. (8) Most of this cost is associated with the fuel it takes to escape Earth’s orbit which is burned upon take off. The less weight expended the less fuel is required for takeoff, thus saving money to make it worth these endeavors. Assuming we do not colonize the location we plan on exploring, we would want our fellow space explorers to return home to their families safely.
This would require a mission plan home, this is more than one mission, an increase in cost and preparation, making a returning virtually impossible. (8. 1) Robotic space missions could directly address and change human conditions on Earth. The possibilities of immediate results on Earth are enticing, new technologies found through the research of problems encountered could lead to advanced propulsion technologies that could give us more efficient methods of travel here on Earth and possibly end our use of fossil fuels. Reaching and exploring asteroids could lead the way to learning how to divert one here on Earth(9).
Possible colonization of new worlds can first be explored by robots, giving us an understanding of our true environment and helps us expand, as the human race; not any specific nation or country but for humankind as a whole. Finding new resources from asteroids, moons, and worlds in our solar system could give us a new era of economic stimulus, growth, and hopefully peace. By 2030 we human on Earth will be consuming the resources of two planets annually (10), this is a scary thought and we must prepare for the possibility of expanding our horizons to the new frontier, united as one people for the common good.
Some opposing cases have been argued that it is essential for manned missions to be funded. It is very possible for us to reach Mars in one month (11) with a proposed 123,000 MPH plasma engine. This makes it imperative to do so immediately. With less and less standing in our way to colonizing our solar system, we must see these new frontiers with our eyes. New technologies researched for the survival of colonies in space, could bring many positive effects on Earth, such as closed-loop sustainable habitats would give the poor around the world, enough food. 12) This would not be possible, if we sent robots, since they don’t eat. The necessity for manned missions could inadvertently allow us to discover new technologies that will, assuredly help us on Earth. There even is the possibility of a one-way journey for a single candidate to colonize Mars. (13) This would reduce risk, cost, and the lives of other potential settlers. Since, there is no longer the competition of nations to reach space, like the space-race between USA and Russia, but today we work together, “Like a club of developers. (14) In conclusion, I feel that a robotic mission is the way to explore space. The cost, risk, and benefits gained from a manned mission are just not worth it, when compared to a robotic one. Although, the possibility of many technologies arising from the research aimed toward at solving current hurdles of successful manned missions, we should not to bear the risks associated with them since, robots are extension of ourselves. Endnotes 0: http://schoolworkhelper. net/2011/02/nasa-mission-to-mars-probes-design-dangers/ 1,11,14.
The 123,000 MPH Plasma Engine That Could Finally Take Astronauts to Mars. Popular Science, November 2010, “39 Days to Mars. ” Franklin Chang Diaz 2. Top 10 Top 10 Closest Stars to Our Solar System http://space. about. com/od/stars/tp/closeststars. htm 2. 1. “4. 22 light years * 5. 88 x 1012 miles/light year = 24. 28 x 1012 miles. 24. 28 x1012 / (123,000 miles/hr * 8760 hrs/yr) = approx 23,000 yrs” 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,12. (World Wildlife Fund),13, Popular Science March 2011, “After Earth” Ben Austen pg. 46,52,102 5. 1, 8. , 13: http://www. foxnews. com/scitech/2011/01/10/space-volunteer-way-mission-mars/ General References I. No need for manned spaceflight, says astronomer royal Martin Rees, http://www. guardian. co. uk/science/2010/jul/26/martin-rees-space II. The Contemporary Warp Scale, http://www. trekmania. net/science/warp_scale. htm III Stephen Hawking: The Future of Space – Manned vs. Robotic Missions, http://www. dailygalaxy. com/my_weblog/2010/03/stephen-hawking-the-future-of-space-manned-vs-robotic-missions-a-weekend-feature. html