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FOREIGN: Human Space Exploration

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posted on Aug, 14 2004 @ 09:40 PM
Not since the 1970s has the manned space program rivaled robotic space exploration in achievement commensurate with the cost. Since the 70s manned space flight has been bound to earth orbit with such menial tasks as deploying satellites most of which could have been accomplished for less with a simple booster. The question is whether or not manned space exploration is still needed and if so why have we, as a species, not pursued more ambitious goals.


Of all the accomplishments of NASA the most notable of all is the moon shot, yet since Gene Cernan returned to the lunar lander on December 12 1972 we have not been back. Consequently, despite all of our technological advances our greatest manned space flight achievement occurred some 32 years in our past.

Since the Apollo missions man has not been more than 500 miles from the earths surface, a one day drive for many of us. We send astronauts up now to orbit the earth and test the effects of weightlessness on earthworms and other albeit well-meaning but mostly useless experiments. Some have extended vacations on the International Space Station but what are we really accomplishing? We are simply repeating the same accomplishments over and over again. Maddeningly, within all this routine we have also lost two space shuttles and 14 astronauts.

On the other hand, the robotic missions, for the most part, have provided more scientific information and breakthroughs than their human counterparts. Robots have visited some 70 different worlds while humans have visited only one. Robots have played in the red dirt of mars, glided through the clouds of Jupiter, and grabbed the tail of a comet among others. Today it is the machines that are making the accomplishments in space not man. One may beg the question is this how the future must be or can man be the principle explorer.

Let us examine the pros and cons of manned space flight.


In the arena of cost the machines have a huge advantage over their flesh and blood counterparts. A typical shuttle flight that simply orbits the earth costs anywhere between 450 and 500 million dollars.[1] Conversely, with a price tag of approximately $15,000 per pound to lift a satellite into orbit the heaviest satellite ever launched, the Compton gamma ray observatory, weighing in at 30,000 lbs is a bargain at 45 million.[2][3] Keep in mind the longest space shuttle mission was only 17 days while the longest satellite mission was almost 19 years.[4][5] Also important we sent Spirit and Opportunity to Mars for 800 million less than the cost of two shuttle missions.[6] Simply put there is a disparaging gap between the cost effectiveness of a robot mission and a manned mission.


Quite simply issue here because as we all know space is not friendly to mankind. The cold vacuum of space is full of sudden bursts of solar radiation that can kill an unprotected astronaut, small debris that can destroy space craft, and weightlessness which over months can weaken bones, muscles, and immune systems. As Challenger and Columbia have shown even routine launches and landings can be deadly to humans. Robots do not have these limitations because they can be created specifically for space travel.


While machines can be designed for to perform precision work most of the time they are designed for one or a few specific tasks. Beyond what a machine is programmed for it is helpless. The simple truth is that the breadth and depth of ability humans bring to the table is much higher than that of a robot. NASA is currently working on a robonaut to handle some of the more tedious tasks of astronauts but the robonaut is only a supplemental tool not a replacement.[7]

With all this said the most important factor for manned space flight may lie in the need for it. While no one can say for sure to what extent humans are affecting planet Earth it is definite that we have affected it. Global Warming, Global Dimming, Dead spots in the ocean, Deforestation are just some of the very real effects of the human impact on this world. Who knows in 100 years we may need another world to live on or at the very least to colonize. Machines cannot colonize for us we would have to do it ourselves.

President Bush has outlined his plan for putting man back on the moon by 2020 and using this as a stepping stone for Mars. His plan included spending 12 Billion dollars over the next 5 years, replacing the Shuttle fleet by 2010, full commitment to the ISS by 2010, and a permanent moon base by no later than 2020.[8]

Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry stated the day after Presidents Bush Speech that Rather than sending Americans to Mars or the Moon right now, these people would be better off trying to figure out how to get Americans back from Iraq." Kerry is unmistakably opposed to expanding manned space flight because he points out Americans should not be concerned with the moon or Mars right now instead--- We need to go to the Moon right here on Earth' by creating high-paying jobs of the future and making sure that 'young Americans in uniform are never held hostage' to Middle East oil.'" [9]

The Libertarian Party is opposed to any government funded space exploration and wishes for NASA to be privatized.[10]

In the end the question is whether or not the rewards of manned space flight are worth the cost and risks. Is man content to never venture from the protected bonds of earth orbit? Or does man have a yearning for something more?


Edit: Change title format

[edit on 15-8-2004 by ZeddicusZulZorander]

posted on Aug, 15 2004 @ 09:55 AM
We have visited over 70 different worlds?

I didnt know that

Does that mean we have catogorised many different solar systems planets around us?

posted on Aug, 15 2004 @ 10:31 AM
That count includes Planets, Moons, Asteroids, and Comets.

posted on Aug, 15 2004 @ 08:56 PM
With SpaceShipOne fast on its way to claiming the X Prize I think that space travel and exploration is going to take a dramatic twist. As an added bonus, SpaceShipONe should be much safer than the shuttles we have now. Introducing private companies into the mix is important, thought I think the government can't back out, either. I would love to see private companies aiming for the stars and the governament/ NASA focused on research. Yet I can also see a lot of private compaines doing research as well.

I believe that we need to get off this planet for many reasons. For one, we are a very curious species. Exploration and adventure are a part of who humans are. Also, this planet will not be around forever. I'd like the human race to live on elsewhere (if we don't nuke ourselves into oblivion, first). Of course, this brings on a myriad of other problems which I won't go into here (environmental, governmental, communication, transportation, etc). There is so much to learn from space.

In Nasa's quest for space we have gained so much technologically and scientifically. I want this to continue, but I also see Kerry's point that we need to worry about what is happening on Terra right now. Hopefully we can strike a balance.

Why haven't we been back to the moon in so long? I think because space flights have become "normal". The whole nation - even the world - tuned in to watch Neil Armstrong on the moon, but most people hardly knew their was a mission until Columbia's disasterous reentry. We need to rekindle that wonder and amazement if we want to keep government funding.

Is it dangerous? Yes. Both the Challenger and the Columbia accidents were horrible. And they aren't all of the casualties, either. Yet I think we need to remember that these people were willing to take the risks. They knew the consequences but were willing and eagar to try their hand at space. I imagine there will always be those willing. Noit everyone wants a boring nine to five job, and while I'm not brave enough for such an adventure I'm glad that others are.

posted on Aug, 26 2004 @ 09:01 PM
Of course it's a dangerous business and costly. It's easy for Kerry to point that stuff out for political gain. Space exploration IS American and the president proposed a grand plan, very Kennedy-like. The rewards shouldn't be thought of in dollar amounts. Like military projects space exploration offers 'peace' dividends that one can't put a number on such as technology, pride, etc.

posted on Aug, 26 2004 @ 11:31 PM
I agree with Bush's plan but I am worried it will never be completed. Why? well very simply the time frame is too long and office terms too short. Even if Bush is re-elected I don't think that we will see a permanent base on the moon or landing on Mars because Bush has only 4 years left and the plan for the moon landing is still 16 years away.

Bush Sr. had a similar plan. In 1989 he proposed sending a man back to the moon by 2020. It got nowhere.

This is why I am worried that mankind will not make any bold leaps during my lifetime.

posted on Aug, 27 2004 @ 01:02 AM
I don't think NASA related ventures are the answer for space exploration. SpaceShipOne is very promising though. If it shows that space can be a commercially viable frontier in the not too distance future, I think that we'll see a new space race. Space tourism would be a very lucrative business.

Having a privatized NASA would be a great thing. Cutting all that bureaucratic red tape would give research a boost more then anything could. Joe Taxpayer wouldn't have to flip the bill for billion dollar probes that don't work either.

Check out the sign that Mike Melvill held up after he landed SpaceShipOne

posted on Aug, 28 2004 @ 12:46 AM

Originally posted by BlackJackal
I agree with Bush's plan but I am worried it will never be completed. Why? well very simply the time frame is too long and office terms too short. Even if Bush is re-elected I don't think that we will see a permanent base on the moon or landing on Mars because Bush has only 4 years left and the plan for the moon landing is still 16 years away.

I agree, what we need is more public attention and support. NASA and its bloated managment need regime change. The engineers and astronaughts should be given more say and more power. Just eliminating half of the management alone would free up tons o funds. Move all operations to Canaveral. The houston center is nothing but blatant pork.

What happended to the Glens, the Shepards, the Armstrongs? THey are not really there anymore. THe program needs some glamour and that will get the public involved again.

posted on Aug, 28 2004 @ 11:05 AM
Space Exploration is needed here is just a small list of things created in or because of space pursuits there are still things that need to be done out there. Remember folks Necessity is the mother of invention. If we are not able to leave our planet then why will ever find the need to create new and exciting inventions.

[edit on 28-8-2004 by Truth_Hunter_1976]

posted on Aug, 30 2004 @ 04:51 PM
Space exdploration is mandatory to human survival and evolution. This planet may someday not be able to carry the weight of its population. We need to find new homes. We also need to evolve to heights we have never imagined. This can only happen with manned space exploration. A machine simply cannot touch the surface of the iceberg.

The future belongs to the bold and brave. Nothing is ever gained without risk. If our ancestors were so timid as so many are today, we might still be living in caves. Space is the next logical step. The meek shall inherit nothing, but the brave and bold carve the way into immortality.

Privatization actually is not a bad idea. We learned an example from Soviet and American economics, that profit and personal achievement take people to greater heights as opposed to "for the common good" philosphies. mankind is notoriously selfish. Greed motivates us all.

So, why not turn greed into a catalyst to create the worlds biggest space race: individuals and private citizens racing for prizes and fame as opposed to govornment more worried about buerocratic nonsense? Encouraging private space flight will bring space back to the common person. Because someday, commoners will be flying and inhabiting planets.

The cold war is over. Lets bring space back home to everyone!

posted on Aug, 30 2004 @ 09:29 PM
we are not yet ready for manned space flights. when we wre doing that in the 70s we were taking extreme risks. It is much more espensive, you have to train astronauts, get them in proper shape when they return, plus manned missions are dangerous there are many crashes etc.

Until we get a good spaceplane manned missions are a thing of the past. we are now developing x planes and spaceshipone specifically for manned missions. but it wll be sometime before they become active.

Skadi is correct. Being able to properly execute manned missions is very important.

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