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It can be said that sending people into space is a victory for the human imagination, a scientific achievement and an engineering marvel in every sense of the word, but to what extent do we really have the presence of people in space? necessary? While the astronauts’ efforts promote our understanding of the universe, and their journeys inspire young people in their disciplines, when it comes to exploration, robots surpass them and do so at a much lower cost and without risk to life.
Martin Rees, the British astronomer, and Donald Goldsmith, the American astrophysicist, who published a book called The Astronauts’ End: Why Robots Shape the Future of Space Exploration, argue that the cost of human space travel far outweighs the benefits. that Robots are becoming more capable in space, while human bodies would not.
At this point, if we send a probe to Mars, it will not be able to detect the craters, but in 10 to 20 years, artificial intelligence that allows machines to look at about 100,000 x-rays will determine it better than humans. . And with that kind of technology, there would be no need for people. Then there is the very high cost, except to remember that the launch of the shuttle failed twice out of 135. And while a robot can spend six months en route to Mars using almost nothing, for that trip one needs regular air and protection from solar storms and other things. From the health effects, such as the effect of zero gravity on humans for a long time.
On the other hand, with some people showing willingness to go at their own expense, there may be collisions if not with human vehicles, then with satellites we continue to sit there, and space will only be for adventurers, though the possibility of a limited human colony by the end of the century.
By quoting their book, the British magazine Wired reported that humans have managed to place a semi-autonomous rover on the surface of Mars, one of a continuous series of orbits and landings, which include cameras and tools around Mars investigate and find clues around obstacles. , and it was unable to conduct an earlier investigation than to do so.
She noted that since the Apollo 17 spacecraft left the moon in 1972, astronauts have not traveled beyond a low-Earth orbit. In this area, their greatest achievement was with the Hubble Telescope’s five repair missions, which extended its life by decades by providing improved cameras and other systems. All of these missions cost about a billion dollars, while the cost of the Hubble Telescope was another billion dollars, and one estimate estimated the cost of the five recovery missions at the cost of building seven replacement telescopes.
Astrophysicists have also succeeded in sending all their space-bearing observatories four times farther from the moon, while the James Webb Telescope prepares to study a series of cosmic objects; In return, the robots visited all the planets of the sun (including Pluto), in addition to comets and an asteroid, where they provided large amounts of data about them and their moons, such as “Europe” for Jupiter and “Enceladus” for Saturn. .
With the increase in the capabilities of robots and the scientific importance of their discoveries, the cost will be much less than a single human journey, the latter of which will remain impossible in the next few decades, except perhaps the moon and Mars.
In 2020, NASA unveiled “20 achievements of 20 years of science aboard the International Space Station”, 17 of which can be performed by robots, such as the launch of small satellites, the discovery of cosmic particles, the use of micro-gravity states to develop drugs , the study of flames and 3D printing in space. This is while the remaining three missions dealt with muscle atrophy and osteoporosis, growing food or identifying microbes in space, things that are important to people in that area but hardly make a rationale for him entering space send.
As for why many people think that space exploration is the domain of human explorers and not robots? The book firstly refers to tradition: from Marco Polo to Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong was the perception that discovery requires the direct participation of people, and then there is, secondly, a factor in that the possibilities and possibilities of communication with people are more stable than that of machines. And third, love of adventure. The exploration of human-led space is a source of inspiration, as children imagine themselves entering space and increasing their interest in science, and they also receive constant stimulation from space movies.
Property rights provide a great impetus, as modern nations seem ready to assert their claims on parts of the moon, especially above the “peak of eternal light” near the south pole of the moon, where the sun’s rays always shine. The competition includes the establishment of lunar colonies or the exploitation of the moon.
With ownership comes the desire for revolution, as entrepreneurs dream of obtaining rare and useful materials from the rare isotope helium to rare earth elements that are only available from a few places, mainly in China, that have become essential for products such as cell phones, electric cars and fighter jets. It is noteworthy that, with the exception of helium-3 buried in the ground of the Moon, some asteroids offer more promising opportunities for such mining.
Regardless of the standpoint on issues of property and revolution, it can be successfully carried out using machines, and this also applies to scientific activities such as building a telescope much more efficiently and cheaply than people on the other side of the Moon.
But in the foreseeable future, between 10 years or more, human adventures in space will not be a routine tourism, the space shuttle has crashed twice from 135 launches, and the risk of death is about 2%, but private adventurers would love to accept this adventure There will even be volunteers for one-way trips to Mars, realizing that scientific discoveries and the construction of large structures and technologies in space can be made more cost-effective and efficient by robots without any danger to human lives.