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The Necessity of Failure

22 Nov 2010, 16:18 UTC
The Necessity of Failure
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The path to discovery is paved with failure. Sir John Franklin, Robert Falcon Scott, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. These men all failed spectacularly in their efforts to explore the last untrod-upon corners of the Earth, but in their failures were laid the lessons and the inspiration by which others would succeed: Roald Amundsen in conquering the South Pole and the Northwest Passage, and Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in summiting Everest.
By its very nature, the exploration of space invites failure. Space is a harsh and unforgiving place. It is difficult to get to, and even more difficult to survive in. Missions will fail and components will malfunction.
And yes, sometimes people will die.
Because of these possibilities, some say that human exploration of space is too dangerous, too risky, the chance of catastrophic failure and disaster too great; that we should instead explore vicariously only through robots or other automated systems. But this fear of failure serves only to promote a risk-averse culture that ultimately holds us back. It leads us to always choose the ‘safe’ option, which for the last several decades has left us stuck in Low Earth Orbit.
If we are ever to truly advance ...

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