ISF Logo   IS Forum
Forum Index Register Members List Events Mark Forums Read Help

Go Back   International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Science, Mathematics, Medicine, and Technology
 


Welcome to the International Skeptics Forum, where we discuss skepticism, critical thinking, the paranormal and science in a friendly but lively way. You are currently viewing the forum as a guest, which means you are missing out on discussing matters that are of interest to you. Please consider registering so you can gain full use of the forum features and interact with other Members. Registration is simple, fast and free! Click here to register today.
Reply
Old 16th May 2012, 05:15 PM   #1
mike3
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 2,466
Is there any point to manned space exploration?

Hi.

I was wondering about that. As it seems much easier to just send robots. So wouldn't it be more useful to spend the money spent on manned missions instead on developing more advanced robots and artificial intelligence?
__________________
“Ego is subversive and devolutionary, truly destructive and terrible; ego is the generator of privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Ego is the fire that burns within the pit of hell, devouring and consuming everything that enters and leaving utterly nothing behind. Ego is horrible, cruel, and restraining, the darkness of the world, and the doom and bane of man.” – my reaction to that famous Bertrand Russell quote.
mike3 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 05:26 PM   #2
Merton
Muse
 
Merton's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 576
It depends what your goal is. You're correct that manned missions are far more dangerous and expensive, and if we only wanted to get samples from an extraterrestrial object, we would be much better off only sending probes. However, the manned space program has a different mission: to colonize other parts of space (probably Mars).
Merton is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 05:31 PM   #3
theprestige
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 42,734
There's tradeoffs. Manned space exploration is going to be a lot more expensive, but well-trained, well-equipped, and well-supported humans provide a lot more adaptability and fault-recovery to a mission.

I don't think it's worth it, unless the mission is so complex that human adaptability and resourcefulness on-site is the only really good way to ensure success.

Also, the mission cost would have to be high enough that adding humans would be only a small fraction of the overall budget.

Sending a human out with with an asteroid probe or a Mars orbiter probably doesn't make a lot of sense. The mission cost would increase dramatically, and the complexity isn't really high enough to need a human with a toolbox standing ready to fix things.

Also, the mission cost is already low enough that it's acceptable to write off the mission if it were to fail because there was no human on site.

I think where humans probably make sense is for long-term, infrastructure-building missions. Say you wanted to build a launch facility on Mars, for sample return missions. Humans are probably going to be necessary to guarantee the success of that.

Or if you wanted to build a fully-featured sample analysis lab on Mars itself, to avoid the costs of sample return. Humans are probably going to be necessary for that as well.

And human adaptability, resourcefulness, and imagination are probably going to be very useful in collecting samples on Mars.

So probably manned space exploration--not so much. But manned research facilities on other planets? Definitely.

Plus, I think human physiology is pretty poorly suited to zero-g space environments, and pretty well optimized for 1G and earth atmosphere.

Maybe if humans were shaped something like squids, with an outer skin that acted as a pressure vessel, and a bunch of manipulator arms, and no legs, and such like that, they might be really great space travelers. But for humans as they are right now, you need to pay huge costs...

... you need to lift all the mass of those useless legs into space--it'd be better if astronauts were legless, or had more arms instead of legs. And you need all kinds of environmental mass, just to keep them alive. You can go to the trouble of artificial gravity, but that's more costs again. Or you can pay the cost of health impact, if you just keep them in weightlessness.

Robots for space, humans for planets (sometimes).
theprestige is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 05:44 PM   #4
Cainkane1
Philosopher
 
Cainkane1's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: The great American southeast
Posts: 8,816
Originally Posted by mike3 View Post
Hi.

I was wondering about that. As it seems much easier to just send robots. So wouldn't it be more useful to spend the money spent on manned missions instead on developing more advanced robots and artificial intelligence?
Humans on Mars for instance could perform more intricate science tests than a robot could. It would be hard for a robot to enter a deep dark cave for instance and not lose radio contact with earth. Same on the moon or wereever esle we might want to someday colonize.
__________________
If at first you don't succeed try try again. Then if you fail to succeed to Hell with that. Try something else.
Cainkane1 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 05:48 PM   #5
MikeSun5
Trigger Happy Pacifist,
 
MikeSun5's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,871
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I don't think it's worth it, unless the mission is so complex that human adaptability and resourcefulness on-site is the only really good way to ensure success.
Which happens to be what most missions require...

Off the top of my head, the Phobos-Grunt project and like half of the Mars rovers were failures. Not to mention countless satellites. The Hubble Telescope would have been a failure if it weren't for the ability of humans to constantly repair and update it. If we're going to send robots out, we're going to have to pack robots in with them that can fix the first robot if it quits working. And as a backup, we should probably have a robot to fix the second robot if it quits working, and so on and so on.

I'd imagine it's best just to have a person there who is able to improvise if needed.
__________________
I always wondered if those WWJD bracelets worked, so I bought one. Well later, I was on a plane and this little kid was kicking my seat repeatedly, while his sister sang along with her walkman and their mother just sat there. I almost turned around and went off, and then I caught sight of my bracelet. What would Jesus do? So I lit them on fire and sent them all to Hell.
--Daniel Tosh
MikeSun5 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 06:20 PM   #6
Roboramma
Penultimate Amazing
 
Roboramma's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 13,636
Originally Posted by MikeSun5 View Post
and like half of the Mars rovers were failures.
Which means that on average you get one successful mission for every two attempts. In other words, the cost of a successful mission, on average, is twice the cost of one mission.

If you put a human on-board, the cost would more than double*, but the chances of success would not. (they may go up, but there will still be some failure rate).

I don't think that's a good investment.

*my quick WAG is at least two orders of magnitude increase if we're talking about mars
__________________
"... when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
Isaac Asimov
Roboramma is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 06:23 PM   #7
theprestige
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 42,734
Originally Posted by MikeSun5 View Post
Which happens to be what most missions require...

Off the top of my head, the Phobos-Grunt project and like half of the Mars rovers were failures. Not to mention countless satellites. The Hubble Telescope would have been a failure if it weren't for the ability of humans to constantly repair and update it. If we're going to send robots out, we're going to have to pack robots in with them that can fix the first robot if it quits working. And as a backup, we should probably have a robot to fix the second robot if it quits working, and so on and so on.

I'd imagine it's best just to have a person there who is able to improvise if needed.
I'm not sure I'd agree. Is it really what most missions require? I'm thinking mainly of cost: How much more would Phobos-Grunt have cost, if it included a human? I mean, would it even be feasible to make the attempt, if we needed to send a human along (consider that we would have to bring the human back alive at some point)?

So a lot of missions suddenly become to expensive to be worth doing at all, if we decide to send a human repairman along. Instead of doing more space exploration, we'd be doing a lot less!

No mission is going to be entirely proof against catastrophic failure. But clearly many missions can be designed simply and robustly enough that they will be very likely to succeed even without a human repairman. That's what I mean about mission complexity. Phobos-Grunt had every expectation of doing well enough on its own. And if you're going to risk catastrophic failure, why risk extra money and human lives if you don't need to? Keep the mission simpler, cheaper, and safer, by keeping humans out of it.

On the other hand, building a substantial science infrastructure on Mars is bound to be too complex for robots to succeed at. And the cost of such a program would be so high that instead of increasing the cost a hundredfold by adding humans, you'd maybe only double it, or less. That's a much better proposition than sending along a human with every space probe, just in case duct tape and percussive maintenance are what's needed to keep it going.
theprestige is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 07:57 PM   #8
mike3
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 2,466
Originally Posted by Cainkane1 View Post
Humans on Mars for instance could perform more intricate science tests than a robot could. It would be hard for a robot to enter a deep dark cave for instance and not lose radio contact with earth. Same on the moon or wereever esle we might want to someday colonize.
This suggests the robot should be intelligent. So why I mentioned "artificial intelligence" in my post. Thinking of the really long term, we're going to need sophisticated AI anyways if we want to do interstellar missions -- near Alpha Centauri it'll take 8 years for a round-trip signal, so such a mission would essentially be cut off from Earth and if it's a robot (as it would need to be to survive the 100, 200, etc. year trip), it's going to need to be smart. Why not start developing that now and apply it to in-Solar System missions? An intelligent bot could find its way back out of the caves and then "radio off" back to Earth.
__________________
“Ego is subversive and devolutionary, truly destructive and terrible; ego is the generator of privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Ego is the fire that burns within the pit of hell, devouring and consuming everything that enters and leaving utterly nothing behind. Ego is horrible, cruel, and restraining, the darkness of the world, and the doom and bane of man.” – my reaction to that famous Bertrand Russell quote.

Last edited by mike3; 16th May 2012 at 09:27 PM.
mike3 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 08:13 PM   #9
quarky
Banned
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 20,121
Quadruple amputee dwarfs might make sense, assuming sophisticated technology.
If we had capable astronauts that came in under 40 pounds, and were used to immobility, and no one cared all that much if they returned, yeah. It could work.

I suspect the future of space exploration will involve prisoners on death row.
They will have incentive to succeed, yet, if they fail, who cares?

Hmmmnnn...

I wonder if there's any quadruple amputee dwarfs on death row?
That would be the tits, as they say.
quarky is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 08:21 PM   #10
NewtonTrino
Illuminator
 
NewtonTrino's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 4,390
What's the point of doing anything?
NewtonTrino is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 08:30 PM   #11
quarky
Banned
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 20,121
Avoiding doing nothing?
quarky is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 08:35 PM   #12
MG1962
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 17,252
Originally Posted by Cainkane1 View Post
Humans on Mars for instance could perform more intricate science tests than a robot could. It would be hard for a robot to enter a deep dark cave for instance and not lose radio contact with earth. Same on the moon or wereever esle we might want to someday colonize.
It would largely depend if the human survived the trip to Mars in the first place
MG1962 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 09:31 PM   #13
Mike!
Official Ponylandistanian National Treasure. Respect it!
 
Mike!'s Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Ponylandistan! Where the bacon grows on trees! Can it get any better than that? I submit it can not!
Posts: 34,147
Originally Posted by quarky View Post
I suspect the future of space exploration will involve prisoners on death row.
They will have incentive to succeed, yet, if they fail, who cares?

.
Oh right. Like sending death row inmates into space won't end badly for us. Don't you realize they'll be back in a hundred years as super advanced death row inmate descendants with bad attitudes and a serious a chip on their shoulder? Have you never seen Star Trek for crying out loud???
__________________
"Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes...
Because then it won't really matter, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes."
Mike! is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 10:18 PM   #14
Brian-M
Daydreamer
 
Brian-M's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 8,044
Quote:
Is there any point to manned space exploration?

Glory.
__________________
"That is just what you feel, that isn't reality." - hamelekim
Brian-M is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 10:35 PM   #15
Puppycow
Penultimate Amazing
 
Puppycow's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 24,844
The robots keep getting better and better every year.

People are great, but they don't make new and improved models each year. At least not yet.

Robots don't require life support and can go on one-way missions.

I personally think that robots are the way to go for the vast majority of possible purposes.
__________________
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
William Shakespeare
Puppycow is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 10:56 PM   #16
SezMe
post-pre-born
 
SezMe's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Posts: 23,786
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
....No mission is going to be entirely proof against catastrophic failure...
That's right and consider what happens when astronauts die. Programs halt. Costs balloon. Commissions are established that take a lot of time and money. It's a mess.

But when a robot fails, a few mission controllers go, "oh, ****" and the world goes on. Womanned missions are just not worth it.
SezMe is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 11:54 PM   #17
Roboramma
Penultimate Amazing
 
Roboramma's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 13,636
Originally Posted by Brian-M View Post
Glory.
Personally I think the glory is in the things that are done, not the particular method of doing them.

And whether those things are done by humans in space or by humans remotely from the ground, or by humans designing robots and letting them do the work autonomously (not yet, but I suspect soon), in my opinion the glory is the same.
__________________
"... when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
Isaac Asimov
Roboramma is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 16th May 2012, 11:55 PM   #18
Roboramma
Penultimate Amazing
 
Roboramma's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 13,636
Originally Posted by NewtonTrino View Post
What's the point of doing anything?
Getting laid.

__________________
"... when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
Isaac Asimov
Roboramma is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 12:10 AM   #19
MikeSun5
Trigger Happy Pacifist,
 
MikeSun5's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,871
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I'm thinking mainly of cost: How much more would Phobos-Grunt have cost, if it included a human? I mean, would it even be feasible to make the attempt, if we needed to send a human along (consider that we would have to bring the human back alive at some point)?
Okay, Phobos-Grunt was probably a pretty bad example. I was just reminded of an incident on one of the Apollo missions where engineers had to quickly improvise solutions to an emergency with only the materials readily available to the astronauts. Robots don't do that. At least not yet.

Sending someone up with each space probe is ridiculous, yes... But the OP asked if there was any point to sending people up at all, and I kind of figured there always will be. Obviously if we decide to colonize elsewhere, but also on exploration missions. Hell, James Cameron wants to go mine asteroids. You think he'd want a robot to steal all his GLORY??
__________________
I always wondered if those WWJD bracelets worked, so I bought one. Well later, I was on a plane and this little kid was kicking my seat repeatedly, while his sister sang along with her walkman and their mother just sat there. I almost turned around and went off, and then I caught sight of my bracelet. What would Jesus do? So I lit them on fire and sent them all to Hell.
--Daniel Tosh
MikeSun5 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 12:51 AM   #20
Andrew Wiggin
Master Poster
 
Andrew Wiggin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 2,915
I think of the difference between doing a job in my own workshop and trying to pack up a toolkit to do the job onsite. Some serious thought goes into what gets packed, because I need to make sure I have all the tools I need and yet space and weight mean I can't take everything. If the job isn't exactly what I think it will be, maybe I've got to run home and get different tools. Making a robot to do a job means deciding what tools are built into the robot. It's like a tool kit you can't change. Either you've got it right, or you can't do the job. If the job turns out to be different than expected, then you can't just run home and grab a different tool. This is where humans shine. Many times I've taken a file and made a screwdriver fit the screw, made a custom tool for a job, and gotten things done. For taking pictures and scooping samples robots are fine, but for research and colonization, I hope we send men with skills and a very complete set of tools. (there's a sort of 'critical mass' for skills and tools, where with the right skills you can make any tools you unexpectedly need from raw materials. For a manned research mission to mars or somesuch, I'd hope they'd send way more than 'critical mass'.)

TLDR: Human ingenuity and tinkering trumps robots.
__________________
"Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the
world." - Arthur Schopenhauer

"New and stirring things are belittled because if they are not belittled,
the humiliating question arises, 'Why then are you not taking part in
them?' " - H. G. Wells
Andrew Wiggin is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 03:16 AM   #21
Brian-M
Daydreamer
 
Brian-M's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 8,044
Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Personally I think the glory is in the things that are done, not the particular method of doing them.

And whether those things are done by humans in space or by humans remotely from the ground, or by humans designing robots and letting them do the work autonomously (not yet, but I suspect soon), in my opinion the glory is the same.

But do you really think that if they'd sent a robot probe to the moon in 1969 instead of people, that it would have got the same attention? Would the people controlling the robot have received the same amount of fame as Armstrong and Aldrin? Would it have had the same effect on national pride for the sake of one-upping the USSR?

Sure it's not a scientifically valid reason. But it made a point which couldn't have been made with robots alone.

Of course, there's no real reason to make that kind of point nowadays. We no longer have two superpowers in a huge pissing contest against each-other.

ETA: Wow. I'm surprised that pissing contest made it past the auto-censor.
__________________
"That is just what you feel, that isn't reality." - hamelekim
Brian-M is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 05:31 AM   #22
Garrette
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 14,770
Originally Posted by Brian-M View Post
Glory.
Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Personally I think the glory is in the things that are done, not the particular method of doing them.

And whether those things are done by humans in space or by humans remotely from the ground, or by humans designing robots and letting them do the work autonomously (not yet, but I suspect soon), in my opinion the glory is the same.
A few weeks ago I saw on television a recorded speech by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I don't know the group he was speaking to, but the subject was his new book "Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier." One of his themes was that manned exploration is necessary for inspiration, that it was the end of manned missions to the moon that resulted in a loss of national enthusiasm for space missions at all and by extension resulted in a generational loss of desire to learn science and become scientists.

Don't hold me to the specifics; I wasn't taking notes at the time, but that was the take away I got from it.
__________________
My kids still love me.
Garrette is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 06:59 AM   #23
Halfcentaur
Philosopher
 
Halfcentaur's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 6,620
As much as I love and am captivated by the notion of manned space flight, for the most part it is absolutely not worth it with what we're capable of using robotics today and in the future.

It comes down to romanticized exploration and being the first person or nation to claim stuff. Things like mining are probably going to be less expensive for a while to involve humans however for the specialized tasks we can do.

Until it comes down to needing to live on another planet in the solar system, for now it's just not worth the money and risk when we have probes.
Halfcentaur is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:03 AM   #24
Roboramma
Penultimate Amazing
 
Roboramma's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 13,636
Originally Posted by Garrette View Post
A few weeks ago I saw on television a recorded speech by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I don't know the group he was speaking to, but the subject was his new book "Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier." One of his themes was that manned exploration is necessary for inspiration, that it was the end of manned missions to the moon that resulted in a loss of national enthusiasm for space missions at all and by extension resulted in a generational loss of desire to learn science and become scientists.

Don't hold me to the specifics; I wasn't taking notes at the time, but that was the take away I got from it.
I've seen him speak on that subject before, and have read an essay of his on this issue. Emotionally, he's quite convincing, but I can't really accept his arguments.

For instance was it the end of the manned moon missions that led to a loss in national enthusiasm for space missions, or was it those moon missions themselves? Maybe after we'd been to the moon, it just stopped being exciting anymore?

To me that seems more likely, given that enthusiasm for the space program has already begun to wane before the end of Apollo.
__________________
"... when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
Isaac Asimov
Roboramma is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:08 AM   #25
Cuddles
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 18,590
Originally Posted by MikeSun5 View Post
Okay, Phobos-Grunt was probably a pretty bad example. I was just reminded of an incident on one of the Apollo missions where engineers had to quickly improvise solutions to an emergency with only the materials readily available to the astronauts. Robots don't do that. At least not yet.
But that's again not a great example. Presumably you're thinking of Apollo 13, where an explosion in the fuel system caused some slight issues and there were various clever shenanigans needed to get the crew safely back to Earth. But of course, none of that would have actually been needed if there wasn't a crew in the first place. Most likely the thing would have simply been aborted and sent off into space, getting rid of the need for anything clever at all. But even if they decided they wanted the spacecraft back, that was actually easy. The tricky part was getting the spacecraft back without suffocating and freezing the crew to death.

That's really the big problem with human spaceflight. Sure, humans are better able to improvise and deal with the unexpected. But most of that will be dealing with things that are only a problem because the humans are there in the first place. A mostly inert lump of metal can deal with a lot of what the universe can throw at it. But humans are just plain squishy. They need food, water, air, the right temperature, the right pressure, living space, not too much radiation, exercise, medical care, socialising, entertainment, and all kinds of other things. Have a problem with just one of those and the whole thing will be a bust.
Cuddles is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:09 AM   #26
Roboramma
Penultimate Amazing
 
Roboramma's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 13,636
Originally Posted by Brian-M View Post
But do you really think that if they'd sent a robot probe to the moon in 1969 instead of people, that it would have got the same attention? Would the people controlling the robot have received the same amount of fame as Armstrong and Aldrin? Would it have had the same effect on national pride for the sake of one-upping the USSR?
It's interesting that you bring that up, as I had originally said something about that in that post, before re-editing.

What I was going to say was that Apollo was "glorious" at the time because it was new. In some ways that's legitimate glory: it was a proof of concept, and before we did it, it wasn't necessarily clear that it could be done.

But, just as Hillary's Everest expedition is remembered while the dozens who climb that mountain every year are not even widely known, going back to the moon is different than going for the first time.

Hillary showed that it could be done. Apollo did as well. But beyond that, what do you do on Everest? And once others have done it, why should the world be amazed that you can too?

If we went back to the moon and did something there, that would be interesting, and (depending on what we did) perhaps glorious as well. But the glory would be in the particular achievement.

Quote:
Sure it's not a scientifically valid reason. But it made a point which couldn't have been made with robots alone.

Of course, there's no real reason to make that kind of point nowadays. We no longer have two superpowers in a huge pissing contest against each-other.
Yeah, the world has changed, and thus the dynamics of space-flight have changed as well.
__________________
"... when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
Isaac Asimov
Roboramma is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:13 AM   #27
Mark6
Philosopher
 
Mark6's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6,255
I supposed I am really cynical -- or became cynical from reading way too many threads like this over the years, -- but I am really surprised (and pleased!) that this thread is 14 hours old, yet nobody brought up "Chinese moon base/electromagnetic cannon/rocks from space/high ground/Heinlein" nonsense.

Of course now that I brought it up, remains to be seen if anyone here still buys it.
__________________
Gamemaster: "A horde of rotting zombies is shambling toward you. The sign over the door says 'Accounting'"

Last edited by Mark6; 17th May 2012 at 07:14 AM.
Mark6 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:16 AM   #28
Roboramma
Penultimate Amazing
 
Roboramma's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 13,636
Originally Posted by Mark6 View Post
but I am really surprised (and pleased!) that this thread is 14 hours old, yet nobody brought up "Chinese moon base/electromagnetic cannon/rocks from space/high ground/Heinlein" nonsense.
Is it weird that I have no idea what you're talking about?
__________________
"... when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
Isaac Asimov
Roboramma is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:23 AM   #29
Mark6
Philosopher
 
Mark6's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6,255
Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Is it weird that I have no idea what you're talking about?
Not really weird. It just means you were never exposed to a particular brand of woo. Count yourself lucky!
__________________
Gamemaster: "A horde of rotting zombies is shambling toward you. The sign over the door says 'Accounting'"

Last edited by Mark6; 17th May 2012 at 07:28 AM.
Mark6 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:30 AM   #30
MG1962
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 17,252
Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Is it weird that I have no idea what you're talking about?
Heinlein wrote a story back in the day where basically a rail gun was built on the Moon and the controlling nation threatened to pelt Earth with rocks and atomic bombs.

Through the 50's and 60's there was always concerns of weaponising space and whoever controlled Earth orbit had the high ground.
MG1962 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:38 AM   #31
GlennB
Loggerheaded, earth-vexing fustilarian
 
GlennB's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Arcadia, Greece
Posts: 25,987
Originally Posted by Cuddles View Post
Sure, humans are better able to improvise and deal with the unexpected. But most of that will be dealing with things that are only a problem because the humans are there in the first place. A mostly inert lump of metal can deal with a lot of what the universe can throw at it. But humans are just plain squishy. They need food, water, air, the right temperature, the right pressure, living space, not too much radiation, exercise, medical care, socialising, entertainment, and all kinds of other things. Have a problem with just one of those and the whole thing will be a bust.
That. And it also encapulates the issues around Moon or Mars permanent bases. The life-support has to be there in advance, presumably robotically-installed (otherwise where's the life-support for the builders of the life-support systems? )
GlennB is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:38 AM   #32
Earthborn
Terrestrial Intelligence
 
Earthborn's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Terra Firma
Posts: 6,074
Originally Posted by MikeSun5 View Post
I was just reminded of an incident on one of the Apollo missions where engineers had to quickly improvise solutions to an emergency with only the materials readily available to the astronauts. Robots don't do that. At least not yet.
I assume you are talking about the issue with the CO2 filters on Apollo 13. That of course was an emergency only because they had people on board. Solving problems caused by having people in space is not much of a justification for sending people into space. Notice that it was engineers on Earth who quickly improvised and then radioed the solution to the astronauts. If you send people into space, you'll need a huge support team on Earth because there is no way you can send all the necessary expertise and human ingenuity up into space.

Robot missions are not so different from that; the robots used are not fully autonomous but more or less radio controlled -- the people controlling them have to send commands well in advance because it may take a lot of time for the commands to arrive, so it is not direct control. On robotic Mars missions things did go wrong, and engineers had to improvise solutions, and radioed them to the robots to be carried out. It wasn't done very quickly, but it needn't be done very quickly because the rovers are pretty slow (saves a lot of energy, you wouldn't be able to have people survive on dinky little solar panels on a dusty planet twice as far from the sun as Earth). The only advantage of having humans there would be that they might respond quicker, but if you consider that the planets and moons in the Solar System went unexplored for thousands of millions of years, we can't pretend that we are in a hurry now.
__________________
Perhaps nothing is entirely true; and not even that!
Multatuli
Earthborn is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:44 AM   #33
MG1962
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 17,252
Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
That. And it also encapulates the issues around Moon or Mars permanent bases. The life-support has to be there in advance, presumably robotically-installed (otherwise where's the life-support for the builders of the life-support systems? )
You would do it the same way they built the ISS - get a small module going - prefab -use that for living in then start extending the facility
MG1962 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:48 AM   #34
Mark6
Philosopher
 
Mark6's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6,255
Originally Posted by MG1962 View Post
You would do it the same way they built the ISS - get a small module going - prefab -use that for living in then start extending the facility
Yes. Extended human habitation does not particularly suffer from "life support chicken-and-egg" problem, as long as you have a modular design. But it suffers from plenty other problems people already listed here. "What is it for?" being single biggest one.
__________________
Gamemaster: "A horde of rotting zombies is shambling toward you. The sign over the door says 'Accounting'"
Mark6 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 07:49 AM   #35
edd
Master Poster
 
edd's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 2,120
Originally Posted by MikeSun5 View Post
Which happens to be what most missions require...

Off the top of my head, the Phobos-Grunt project and like half of the Mars rovers were failures. Not to mention countless satellites. The Hubble Telescope would have been a failure if it weren't for the ability of humans to constantly repair and update it. If we're going to send robots out, we're going to have to pack robots in with them that can fix the first robot if it quits working. And as a backup, we should probably have a robot to fix the second robot if it quits working, and so on and so on.

I'd imagine it's best just to have a person there who is able to improvise if needed.
Hubble might be repairable, but other space telescopes such as Kepler, Herschel, the JWST (if and when) are in orbits out of the reach of current manned missions.

Hubble in fact is the only space observatory I can think of that has had repairs or any regular maintenance.
__________________
When I look up at the night sky and think about the billions of stars out there, I think to myself: I'm amazing. - Peter Serafinowicz
edd is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 08:10 AM   #36
Mark6
Philosopher
 
Mark6's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6,255
Couple things about Hubble:

It was designed in 1970's, when US policy was to phase out all reusable boosters and to launch everything on Shuttle. 1986 Challenger explosion changed that, but Hubble was already built by then (launch date was set for October of that year). "Man-rating" the Hubble, i.e. making sure it was safe to launch aboard Shuttle, nearly doubled the telescope's cost. The dirty secret is that it would have been cheaper to buid another (not man-rated) Hubble and launch it on a reusable rocket, than to carry out manned repair mission.
__________________
Gamemaster: "A horde of rotting zombies is shambling toward you. The sign over the door says 'Accounting'"
Mark6 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 08:22 AM   #37
MG1962
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 17,252
Originally Posted by Mark6 View Post
Yes. Extended human habitation does not particularly suffer from "life support chicken-and-egg" problem, as long as you have a modular design. But it suffers from plenty other problems people already listed here. "What is it for?" being single biggest one.
Yeah I remember back in the day a magazine discussion in a very pro space flight publication - Part of NASAs pitch to Congress for the ISS was a space based telescope. The Chairman of the committee curtly told NASA then what did we fund Hubble for.

But I think the space program is in a good place - We are seeing increased activity from the private sector for low Earth orbit development. NASA continues path finding further into the Solar System. As soon as NASA shows something more than pure science in results, we will be up there in a shot.

My tip - Titan will be the first body we go to for commercial reasons, but I think it will be at least 50 years before the need is fully recognised
MG1962 is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 08:31 AM   #38
NewtonTrino
Illuminator
 
NewtonTrino's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 4,390
This thread makes me sad but I guess I shouldn't be surprised. A bunch of skeptics that are skeptical about something? Of course.

Wherever you find a frontier you are going to find people. People that want to see what's out there, people that want to make a buck, people that want to escape their current boring life or just plain crazy people. But people will you will find... I think this curiosity and drive to explore are fundamental human traits and if we lose to the will to explore and push our boundaries we've lost something valuable.

As for dropping things from space that should be a real concern. If someone had a bunch of nuclear weapons in space it would be incredibly difficult to defend against. At least with an ICBM we can get somewhat of a launch warning... so I do think we have a national security interest in making sure space doesn't become militarized.
NewtonTrino is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 08:32 AM   #39
Beelzebuddy
Philosopher
 
Beelzebuddy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 7,250
Is there any point to manned space exploration?

Robotic missions, however successful, do not generate enough congressional funding for the next round of robotic missions.

Manned missions, however much a wasteful boondoggle, generate enough new funding to cover the next round of manned missions AND the next round of robotic missions. So long as no one dies.

That is the point of manned space exploration.
Beelzebuddy is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 17th May 2012, 08:39 AM   #40
Earthborn
Terrestrial Intelligence
 
Earthborn's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Terra Firma
Posts: 6,074
Originally Posted by Garrette View Post
A few weeks ago I saw on television a recorded speech by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I don't know the group he was speaking to, but the subject was his new book "Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier." One of his themes was that manned exploration is necessary for inspiration, that it was the end of manned missions to the moon that resulted in a loss of national enthusiasm for space missions at all and by extension resulted in a generational loss of desire to learn science and become scientists.

Don't hold me to the specifics; I wasn't taking notes at the time, but that was the take away I got from it.
It was probably this speech:
YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE


I summarise his argument like this: "Manned exploration is necessary to inspire people to become scientists and engineers, and hopefully most of them will have their dreams of contributing to space missions crushed and end up doing something useful instead."

I am enough of a authoritarian to agree with him that "inspiring the nation" is a legitimate thing for the government to do (Libertarians will doubtlessly disagree), but I see a few flaws with his argumentation. First he assumes that only space exploration can be this inspiring, but governments in societies had their own mega-prestige-projects for similar ends. The ancient Egyptians had their pyramids, Parisians their Eiffel Tower, Dubai has its Burj...

Secondly he assumes that if the government invested more into space exploration, young people today would be as inspired by it as people were in the sixties. I see no reason to assume this is true; young people today are born into a world where space flight is mostly a thing of the past. They see astronauts not as brave adventurers pushing the frontiers of what is possible, but simply as people with a somewhat dangerous job. With its romance removed, space is less an inspiring adventure, and more a career option.

To some middle aged to old people like Neil deGrasse Tyson, it still appears inspirational because they grew up having been promised a future with space planes docking with space stations, and supersonic aircraft regularly flying across the Atlantic. That's what they think the future -- and not the past -- should be like. There is no reason later generations should feel the same way.

Even the Egyptians eventually stopped building pyramids. Building them stopped being inspirational after a while. I am sure there were old people lamenting the fact that young people were no longer inspired by the things they were inspired by. Perhaps they thought that if only the government would commit itself to building new pyramids, people would once again be inspired to become scientists and engineers who can create a better tomorrow. That though is not a good argument for building new pyramids; perhaps what is needed is a different thing to inspire a nation.
__________________
Perhaps nothing is entirely true; and not even that!
Multatuli
Earthborn is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Reply

International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Science, Mathematics, Medicine, and Technology

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 08:25 AM.
Powered by vBulletin. Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

This forum began as part of the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF). However, the forum now exists as
an independent entity with no affiliation with or endorsement by the JREF, including the section in reference to "JREF" topics.

Disclaimer: Messages posted in the Forum are solely the opinion of their authors.