Wednesday , April 21 2021

Send robots and not people to Mars

To avoid this, mankind's space destiny might end up looking less fab-sci-fi-future and more caravan-holiday-in-the-desert-and one in which the caravan is permanently buried under meters of Martian soil (to protect against cancer -causing radiation) and you can only go out for a few days at most, because a spacesuit will not protect you from the rays.


And also, who knows what the effects of long-term living are in a low-gravity environment for these extraterrestrial expats. Even without the unknowns, the risks currently known mean that a trip to Mars would violate NASA's current security guidelines for astronauts.

Now there is a simple solution to all these problems. But how do you feel about those words: "A small step for a robot; a giant leap for humanity? "Instead of separating people to colonize the cosmos, we could send the bots. Today's generation does not come close to replacing humans, of course, but NASA does not plan to go to Mars until the middle of the decade of 2030 – and, judging from the story, that time frame is likely to change anyway. Meanwhile, robot technology is moving fast: just launch "Boston Dynamics humanoid robot" on Google and take a look. similar to humans may be capable in two to three decades.

A common rebuttal is: but sending men and women would be much more inspiring to humanity. After all, we were all transported to the Moon with Neil and Buzz, living indirectly through them. (Beyond those who simply felt transported to a fake Hollywood Hollywood studio.) But would we really relate much less to human-like robots that made those pioneering startup impressions in the Martian dust?

We're going to send a reportable robot like, for example, 3-cpo from Star Wars, to Mars.

We're going to send a reportable robot like, for example, 3-cpo from Star Wars, to Mars.Credit:Invision

Do not think of awkward wheeled machines like NASA's Curiosity, which is currently circulating on Mars; or the InSight lander who plays tomorrow and does not even move; I find more reportable robots like, say, C-3PO than Star Wars – though perhaps a 2.0 version of it with a bravery software update. Indeed, it was the television quality pictures that were sent back from the moon that made us feel like we were there. The same could be sent back from Mars.

Having mechanical pilgrims colonize the new world would not only be safer, but much, much cheaper. Each launch of these shuttle buses, for example, cost half a billion dollars. (And there were more than half a dozen releases a year, sometimes!) However, the Curiosity mission cost only 300 million a year. Robots are cheaper because they are expendable and life and safety support requirements are much lower. They will not give beeps flying over space radiation and low gravity.

NASA is currently developing humanoid robots for space exploration – officially known as its robonaut program – but the current plan is for them to be just hired help. Maybe we could all accomplish our Martian dreams sooner if we promoted the helpers to the heroes.

Graham Phillips is a PhD in astrophysics and is a science journalist.

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