Humans vs, Robots in space

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Tweefo (June 15, 2008, 19:40:21 PM):
[edit: split from http://forum.skeptic.za.org/off-topic/the-sky-from-above/ ]

But is this science? Can't the same be achieved with robotic spacecraft at a fraction of the cost?
mdg (June 16, 2008, 18:02:10 PM):
Absolutely Breathtaking!!! I love looking at pictures of our precious planet taken from space; it's only when people view it from that aspect that they realise just how fragile it is. Another site to see amazing photos is the NASA Astronomy picture of the day: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

In answer to Tweefo's question, yes it is science. Whether space missions are manned or not, every little bit of data collected, takes us one step closer to learning more about how our planet was formed, how life began on our planet and how the universe began. For just over a year now, I've been taking part in a project called Stardust@Home, where volunteers have been looking through hundreds of thousands of "slides" searching for stardust. You can view more info here about the projects' aims: http://stardustathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/. Another interesting project is Galaxy Zoo, where volunteers, like me, are sifting through thousands of photographs taken by different telescopes of star and galaxies. The aim is to classify the different types of galaxies, and I have seen some awesome pictures. ;D
I've learned so much about astronomy and about what goes into putting missions like Stardust together; it certainly has been informative and extremely interesting - so much so, that I've stayed up into the wee hours to watch launches of the shuttle and of the mars Phoenix mission, which landed safely on mars 3 weeks ago. It's mission is to search for water and for signs of life, the results of which should be in within the next 2 weeks.
How can we not get excited by that??!! ;D
Tweefo (June 16, 2008, 18:42:14 PM):
OK, it is science to get them up there but I still maintain that more can be done for less with robotic craft. Mdg mention the Phoenix mission to Mars. It is not the first to land on Mars while humans take pretty pictures of earth from 300 km away. We have learned far, far more from these robotic missions, without human deaths and a lot less expensive. Humans can only stay a while, have to be kept alive and they have to come back whereas robots are left up there when they stop working and they can do things that no human can do. American astronauts are send to space to show how mighty America is and that is not science.
mdg (June 17, 2008, 07:52:10 AM):
Hi Tweefo,

I disagree that Americans send astronauts to just take pictures and show how powerful the USA is; the International Space Station has been home to international scientists and astronauts since it was built – the ISS is also an international effort, most of the components of the space station has been built in various countries.
Robots are limited in what they can do; it cannot conduct experiments that may require human observation.
As case in point; when the Hubble telescope was first sent up into orbit and scientists discovered that the mirror was distorted, it required astronauts to go up and make repairs to what could have been a very expensive mistake, and something that a robot could not have done.

Phoenix isn’t the first Martian probe, nor will it be the last – all these probes are the pioneers of what will eventually become a human community on Mars. Another observation: not all of the probes have been sent by the USA, - Europe, the USSR and Japan have also sent probes to Mars. The first successful landing of a probe on Mars was made by the USSR in 1971, which sent the first photograph of the Martian surface back to Earth – unfortunately it stopped transmitting shortly after landing.

The newest probe being readied for launch is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter which will collect data about the moon for the purpose of eventually setting up a lunar base.
Each and every man and woman that trains as an astronaut knows the risks involved, they do it because they know that the exploration will benefit humanity. That’s how we learn – through exploration and the collection of data.

For those of you interested in the transpermia hypothesis, the theory that life arrived on Earth from elsewhere in the universe, you can go to www.planetary.org and read about LIFE; an experiment that will be sending a collection of living organisms on a three-year trip to the Martian moon Phobos and back to Earth.
Mefiante (June 17, 2008, 10:00:22 AM):
Hmm, it seems I’ve kicked up a bit of a hornets’ nest with an innocuous remark. My meaning wasn’t so much that the photos themselves constitute science, although some of them do have the potential to spark new ideas in the fields of climatology and meteorology, possibly in fluid dynamics too. While the latter is indeed largely a secondary consideration, my primary meaning was to draw attention to the fact that it is in the first place science that has afforded an opportunity to see and marvel at such photos: the space shuttle for accessing a suitable vantage point, the camera for taking the pictures and the Internet for making them easily available. In other words, science usually opens whole new vistas, sometimes literally as in this case.

'Luthon64

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