There’s a big debate going on among people about whether humans or robots should do space exploration. Well, humans and robots need to work together.
When it comes to space exploration, robots do the primary science. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would not have been able to take those first steps had it not been for a fleet of robotic probes that flew to the moon ahead of time to demonstrate the feasibility of soft landings on the Moon and identify the best places to touch down.
Well, who should we send, humans or robots, to space? The answer is simple: humans and robots need to work together.
Robots have done all the recent planetary exploration in the solar system, visiting moons, planets, asteroids and comets.
Robots, such as the famous Mars Curiosity rover, are very beneficial for missions that require precise and repetitive measurements or maneuvres, as well as missions that last a considerable amount of time.
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Exploration and science can be accomplished more cheaply using robotic explorers. That’s because robots don’t need to eat or sleep or go to the bathroom. They can survive in space for many years and can be left out there—no need for a return trip!
Machines can also withstand harsh conditions, high levels of radiation, or melting temperatures.
But humans, on the other hand, are much better at tasks involving decision-making, or those that require constant adjustments and intervention from scientists.
They are also more mobile than current robot explorers. The Apollo 17 astronauts covered more than 22 miles in three days, a distance that has taken the Mars Opportunity rover eight years to match.
Humans can drill for samples deep underground and deploy large-scale geologic instruments. That’s something that no rover has achieved on another body.
Of course, humans and robots each have their own advantages for exploration of outer space since we can learn a great deal of information from both, which can later help us in our goal to send people beyond Earth.
Sending humans into space can help us better understand the functions of the human body, especially the parts that are masked by gravity here on Earth, something we have learned more about from astronauts living aboard the International Space Station.