According to an article
by Mark Whittington, the recent death of James Van Allen, an
opponent of humans spaceflight, has put the long-standing controversy
over whether humans should be allowed to take part in space exploration.
Opponents of allowing humans in space such as van Allen, believe the
only purpose for space exploration is to collect data which will be
returned to Earth. They believe robots are better and cheaper at it than
humans. Supporters of space travel, such as the late Carl Sagan usually
have a very different view of why we go into space; not only to collect
data but as explorers and eventually to find new places to live,
assuring the survival of the human race. Bush's recent support of space
exploration, at least in a political sense if not in reality, seems to
have spurred many anti-Bush people to join the anti-humans-in-space
camp, claiming it's a waste of money. The article notes that controversy
has always been more about politics than science. Hopefully private
efforts at getting humans into to space will render the issue mute
eventually, allowing humans and robots to explore the galaxy side-by-side.
The wording of that made me smile. Am I allowed to play in space, mom?
Except for regulatory bodies like the FAA, there's not much to stop
anyone from exploring space any way they choose, provided they have the
funding and political backing to get the job done.
A good case in point is Spaceship One, a private effort to put humans in
space. Another set of cases are the various amateur radio satellites
that have been boosted into orbit. I'm not sure this debate reared its
head in either instance.
As for where to put our funding, good question. It's easier to make a
large number of inexpensive robotic missions than it is to make a single
mission with humans. I'd be surprised if automated probes ever
disappear from the project list of any space agency. I'd be equally
surprised to see human presence in space disappear. It may not be
logical, but it does seem to be a part of our nature to flip over the
rock, find out what's there, and explore it without asking for
Humans should be allowed into space of course in private groups if they
have take money and ability but it costs nasa far more both in
supporting people up there and when disasters happen,so for real
progres let it all be robots exploring and getting information.
We have gone a bit further than the days when People had to go anywhere
in space and land on new planets and everyone here had to watch them
taking big steps on it,just send the robots with vid cams for it.
I beleive humans need to be robotically adapted in order to live in
any part of space and on other planets easily,not humans having to
find another planet through searching the universe,one that can
sustain lifeforms and human population naturally.
And yet China is now stepping up their space program with the aim of
putting a human on the moon. Past the day when someone needs to set
foot on a planet and say, "I was here"? Apparently not.
Please understand I'm playing devil's advocate here. Personally I think
the contribution of automated probes to our understanding of the
universe is stupendous. If people insisted on having a human presence
in every space endeavor we'd still be waiting to see what the shores of
Titan look like. For that matter we'd still be waiting to see what the
rings of Saturn are, what the surface of Io is like, what the nucleus of
an active comet is like, etc. Our first-hand (so to speak)
understanding of planetary astronomy would begin and end with Earth and
Besides, the design problems involved in putting an automated probe into
space are way way too cool to ignore. Want a fun Google session? Look
up the ice drill ideas that are being explored for Europa. That is some
fantastic engineering. Trade that in for the drilling scene from
Armageddon? Not on your life. (Besides, that approach would violate
the mission specs.)