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Opinion: Does space belong to the robots?

20 Apr 2017, 00:58 UTC
Opinion: Does space belong to the robots?
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Above: An astronaut floats by the window of the International Space Station, an enduring image of spaceflight with immense power to inspire.It's the space nerd argument that never dies: Should space exploration be the province of right stuff astronauts, or of humanity's tougher servants, robots?If you're going to set science and exploration as your goals and do a cold hearted benefit/risk & cost analysis.... sorry human spaceflight fans, it's the robots for almost every destination. True, humans have advantages over robots: We can work independently, think on our feet, negotiate our way through tricky terrain and unexpected situations. But space exploration costs, and all human advantages tend to fall rather flat in the face of a simple fact: Robots are much cheaper and much, much more disposable. So much so that, even taking into account human's advantages, on most worlds sending a human being, and getting the risks to them down to acceptable levels, costs so much that we'd still get more science done by spending the money on lots of robots instead.But... The risk/benefit argument's a narrow viewpoint, and misses something crucial: Space exploration is not simply about doing science and exploration as efficiently and safely as possible. Space ...

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