# Moon, asteroids, and Mars are GO!

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by cygonaut, Jan 9, 2004.

1. ### UndecidedBannedBanned

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Last edited: Jan 10, 2004

3. ### Stokes PennwaltNuke them from orbit.Registered Senior Member

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"Being there" has more importance than the purely symbolic. As I said above, the field of robotics has simply not evolved to the point where we can reasonably expect machines to be universally adaptable in a short timeframe.

Robots can't think. They can't improvise. They can't look at a complex problem and solve it outside of simple boolean logic. Their physical properties do not lend them to be wildly adaptable, as a human is. Taking pictures and spectrum analyses of crust samples is one thing. Performing interactive scientific experiments is another.

Robotics can only take us so far. There comes a point at which we have to send people there, regardless of the risks and costs, because machinery only allows us to accomplish so much.

5. ### PersolI am the great and mighty Zo.Registered Senior Member

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"Being there" has more importance than the purely symbolic. As I said above, the field of robotics has simply not evolved to the point where we can reasonably expect machines to be universally adaptable in a short timeframe.
And we can not expect the same of humans. What exactly is it that we need to do in space that requires humans?

Robots can't think. They can't improvise. They can't look at a complex problem and solve it outside of simple boolean logic.

The beauty of 'remote control'. With even the minimal robotic intelligence a few minutes delay is not a problem.

Their physical properties do not lend them to be wildly adaptable, as a human is.

Lol. What do you mean by this? We have a VERY narrow window of survivability, while robotics will survive just about anything (with the notable exception of vibration)

Performing interactive scientific experiments is another.

Such as?

Robotics can only take us so far. There comes a point at which we have to send people there, regardless of the risks and costs, because machinery only allows us to accomplish so much.

Yup, and we are not at that point.

7. ### UndecidedBannedBanned

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EI_Sparks

I want this for Christmas 2004....

Do you think you can pull it off, a femme bot?

8. ### Carnuthi dontRegistered Senior Member

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i would say for the moon and mars, only robots. Theres no need for humans on mars except for the whole "pride thing," until its feasible to colonize the planet.

Mr Bush is saying we need a permanent presence on the Moon, while we meanwhile have zero ways to get there. If you're going to focus on outer space, you use robots, until you can fix the ISS and Space Vehicles.

9. ### EI_SparksRegistered Senior Member

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A little over a hundred years ago, the Wright brothers built a piss-poor aircraft that could barely get out of it's own way, at a time when there was no concievable use for it.
A little under fifty years ago, Bell labs went and built a ruby laser, with absolutely no commercial application whatsoever (they only thought it would work because of one theoretical paper by Einstein).
A little under twenty years ago, Kernighan and Ritchie wrote Unix, without any commercial application in mind.

What do we have today? Jet airliners, CD players and the C language and it's derivatives. Any idea of the commercial worth of these?

In other words, as chest-beatingly jingoistic as it sounds, the best motive for doing these things is to do these things. Science for science's sake. It serves as a motivation for invention and development, a target if you will. And when such a motivation or goal is in play, commercial applications tend to crop up like mushrooms in dungheaps. But without that motivation? Squat.

In robotics, there are dozens of competitions - robosoccer, trinity's firefighting competition, DARPA's race competition, the IEEE's micromouse competition, the AAAI's maze-solving competition, and so on. And also in other fields of engineering and science - the concrete canoe competition and others are all there to be googled if you're interested. Why do these competitions exist? Not to find the best robot soccer player, or to make inroads into the canoe industry with an innovative new concrete design - they're there so that we learn and develop new techniques while pursuing a goal. It's the same principle with the space program. Sending men into space is an incredible technical and engineering challange - and meeting it tends to result in a thousand off-shoot technologies and products for every one directly-related development.

So as I said earlier, it's the best program going from the point of view of value for money, for a return on investment, for developing new technology, and for improving the general quality of life for all - but the main reason for going there, is so that we go there.

10. ### UndecidedBannedBanned

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. Sending men into space is an incredible technical and engineering challange - and meeting it tends to result in a thousand off-shoot technologies and products for every one directly-related development.

But at what cost to things that really matter? Let's face a stark reality, this doesn't matter in the context of the modern world? This sounds very much like a eltist thing, where the bare minorty are masterbating for the moon, while there are real problems here. Why not study the deep oceans? That would be cheaper, and that would be a even more dangerous and exciting thing to do.

11. ### EI_SparksRegistered Senior Member

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Okay, two things.
1) Hands. We have them, NO robot yet built does. The simple human hand is a feat today unmatched in robotics. And will remain so for at least a decade - and the likelihood is that when it does get built, it'll be in Japan under an industrial R&D programme like ASIMO was and we won't learn anything from it because the research will be a trade secret - which does noone but the company any good.

2) When I started my PhD, my topic was telepresence for bomb disposal robots. The ones the British Army use in Northern Ireland, amongst other places. Turns out, you see, that there's a problem with them - drive them into a radio shadow and their default safe action is to stop and shut down. (Can't risk driving into a device with a trembler switch you see). So we were looking at ways around this - give the robot some autonomy, enough to back out of radio shadow, and deal with the variable time delays that got introduced by us trading bandwidth for power in the radio link to try to alleviate the problem. (Basicly, we were looking at ways of trading off control between robot and human according to the available bandwidth on the control link).
Trust me - after two years of looking at this and reading the literature and discussing it with other research groups - trivial it ain't. Once you get over a certain threshold value (it's around 100ms or so), humans start to find time delays very noticable, and increasingly hard to predict when controlling machinery.
We're not even sure if it's solvable, especially in the case where the time delay fluctuates. The best solution so far is to have a local arm, move that to solve the problem, then transmit the sequence of movements to the remote arm - so as you can imagine, if the remote environment is not precisely known and reproduced on the local end, it's hard to get the right sequence - and if the remote environment isn't static, forget about it.

(In the end, the specific idea I was working on was implemented and presented by the German nuclear response team first - that's what happens when you give the other lot a research team of 20 and a budget in the millions

And the BA now tend to use robots with control cables rather than radio links)

So basicly, you have a very-difficult-to-control robot whose manipulators are nowhere near as good as ours. Which is not a good recipe for a highly flexible general-purpose machine to run an experiment or do general maintainance.

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13. ### EI_SparksRegistered Senior Member

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Because the idea here is to motivate scientists and engineers. There are many interested in oceanography, and working in the field quite actively - and in fact, we've seen major advances in robotics and mathematics from some of them, like MIT's ocean research lab under John Leonard, amongst others. But the fact is, more kids dream of space than of the ocean.

Besides which, there are far more economic benefits to going to the moon than to the oceans. (Try reading your Gerard O'Neill - The High Frontier for a full workup on the economics). Want cheap solar power satellites? Best idea is to build a moonbase first - then ship construction material to geosynch orbit from the moon. It works out as something like thirty times cheaper. Want to be able to build large structures in space? Same deal. Want to go harvest a single metal asteroid (your normal NiFe asteroid has sufficent metal to supply the known world with a century's worth of most of the major metals) to stop all mining on the planet's surface? Going from the moon is cheaper.

Fact is, it's hanging there like a big obvious answer to the major questions on major economic problems for development for space projects.

(Oh, and please don't tell me that a clean source of practically inexhaustable electrical power wouldn't benefit people down here, or a pollution-free source of metals).

As to going to mars or europa, they're the best bet we have for finding non-DNA based life in our system - and find that, and you have biology's second data point. Cue major medical advances (well, given enough time to analyse the data and figure out what it means).

14. ### PersolI am the great and mighty Zo.Registered Senior Member

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A little over a hundred years ago, the Wright brothers built a piss-poor aircraft...
A little under fifty years ago, Bell labs went and built a ruby laser...
A little under twenty years ago, Kernighan and Ritchie wrote Unix...

None of which I paid for.

You want to experiment, I'm all for that. Have a ball, and good luck. You want me to pay for it, I'm going to ask what the benefit is of spending so much money just to send a person. You have yet to demonstrate the benefit of sending a person.

Hands. We have them, NO robot yet built does.

And a robot needs them right now why?

trivial it ain't. Once you get over a certain threshold value (it's around 100ms or so), humans start to find time delays very noticable, and increasingly hard to predict when controlling machinery.

Trivial it IS. We are not talking about someone sitting there with a joystick controlling a robot. We are talking about someone sending a command, going to make a sandwitch, and coming back to see if it worked. The time delay comparisons to local robots are pointless, as the scale and solutions are completely different. And obviously, this does work.. as it's currently in use.

So why exactly are we wanting to send people right now?

15. ### EI_SparksRegistered Senior Member

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And if you want to save money to pay for the programme... well.... *looks at the bill for invading other countries for nonexistant reasons*.
*ahem*

16. ### EI_SparksRegistered Senior Member

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To be able to replace a human in orbit.

Actually, while initial experiments in those three areas were privately funded, government funding covered the bulk of the research in all three areas. (In aviation, the X-series aircraft, in physics, the hundreds of DARPA grants, and also in computing).

I'm typing this on one.
Smaller computers as a development direction were not foreseen prior to Gemini. They were specifically developed to fit in the Gemini and later the Apollo spacecraft.
To that point, development was heading towards the goal of large, fast mainframes with dumb terminals to give users access to them.

And then there's the scientific reasons. Jack Schmidt, for example. Went to the moon on Apollo 17 - the only trained geologist to walk on the lunar surface. And he returned with more interesting samples than any other mission. Now granted, some of that was due to 17 being the longest-duration mission, but mostly it was due to his training as a geologist.
Fact is, the fastest way to get the most data on an area's geology is to let a guy wander round it with a little hammer.
Take the MER roves for example. MER-A (Spirit) will operate for three months and do great science - but it will cover maybe two or three square kilometres in that time because it's so hard to drive on mars through the time delay. And it will miss things. It takes too long to transfer the data at high resolution and you miss stuff at low resolution.

And that's just geology. Any branch of field science can say the same thing. For on-the-spot flexibility and speed, humans are often far, far better. That's not to say, you understand, that robots are unnecessary - just that to go with only one option or the other (human or robot) isn't the right answer.
Robots make great cheap quick first-look devices for exploration and heavy duty repetitive work - humans make great flexible general-purpose workers.

17. ### UndecidedBannedBanned

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Because the idea here is to motivate scientists and engineers.

I heard, that the deep oceans are harder then space anyway. If they want motivation, develop an economical Concorde successor; develop a new robot that is able to withstand the masses of pressures of the very ocean. Deep ocean study is significantly more important then the stupid moon. How pollution has the oceans, what is development of Earth itself, who knows maybe even creatures that have survived from the dinosaurs. Try to understand how the fragile balance that we call Earth works, and the food chains. Find creature that may have cures or the what not, for cancer, etc. The ocean is vastly more important and more relevant for study. We can look at the moon through a telescope, the oceans? Stokes was talking about knowledge, this is the knowledge we need.

But the fact is, more kids dream of space than of the ocean.

Many kids dream of a Play station 2, so because some kid thinks about the moon we should waste un-told millions, for an elitist idea, for elitists?

Besides which, there are far more economic benefits to going to the moon than to the oceans.

Are you being serious? If we can under the oceans better, we can better develop ocean based electricity. Oil, and a better understand of man.

Want cheap solar power satellites?

Cheap? I very highly doubt that they would be cheap. Not only in their sensitive manufacture (making them expensive, and not being able to go into masse production). This will not be cheap for a long to come.

Best idea is to build a moonbase first - then ship construction material to geosynch orbit from the moon.

Lalala-land.

Want to be able to build large structures in space?

Not really, and look at the disaster like the ISS. Want to cure AIDS?

Want to go harvest a single metal asteroid to stop all mining on the planet's surface? Going from the moon is cheaper.

Oh you little capitalist, you understand how incredibly expensive that would be, and the time needed to bring that back to earth. How are these space craft supposed to look like? How many people are actually wiling to do this?

Fact is, it's hanging there like a big obvious answer to the major questions on major economic problems for development for space projects.

I have yet to see fact, because it's never happened. It's mere opinion; surely it could be based on sound reasoning. But Sparks you know that it cannot be "factual".

(Oh, and please don't tell me that a clean source of practically inexhaustible electrical power wouldn't benefit people down here, or a pollution-free source of metals).

Wind Power, and Ocean current will suffice.

As to going to mars or europa, they're the best bet we have for finding non-DNA based life in our system - and find that, and you have biology's second data point. Cue major medical advances

20. ### PersolI am the great and mighty Zo.Registered Senior Member

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To be able to replace a human in orbit.
We are not talking about 'in orbit' here. Regardless, 'to replace humans' doesn't answer what humanesqe hands are needed for.

government funding covered the bulk of the research in all three areas

Only AFTER potential was seen.

Smaller computers as a development direction were not foreseen prior to Gemini. They were specifically developed to fit in the Gemini and later the Apollo spacecraft.
To that point, development was heading towards the goal of large, fast mainframes with dumb terminals to give users access to them.

I have previously provided links to computers being compacted before these programs in these exact same conversations.

Now granted, some of that was due to 17 being the longest-duration mission, but mostly it was due to his training as a geologist.

Hmm, or we could have dozens of geologists physists and whatnot looking at it remotely.

Fact is, the fastest way to get the most data on an area's geology is to let a guy wander round it with a little hammer.

Fastest, unless you consider the extra development time and preparations it takes to send a manned mission. Waiting 1/2 hour for the robot to respond is worth saving months of development, millions of dollars, and possibly lives.

Robots make great cheap quick first-look devices for exploration and heavy duty repetitive work - humans make great flexible general-purpose workers.

And we can send 100 robots for the cost of sending 8 people. Why send people until we actually have a reason to send them?

21. ### buffysRegistered LoserRegistered Senior Member

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I can't justify manned missions in a way that those who oppose them couldn't counter, I can't prove the benefits will out weigh the costs. It's like arguing there is no god to a christian (or vis versa), pointless. Most of the points against human missions posted here are good ones, in fact they are the very reasons we haven't tried to go yet. Right or wrong the bottom line is, for the most part, if science can't offer absolute proof of it's value in a certain area of study in a short time we flog the people doing it and pull their funding. Generally, we're short sighted and conservative by nature.

Fortunately pride is the great motivator, it's amazing how focused we can be when our ego is on the line. We will follow this route to manned missions and eventual colonization because if we don't initiate it someone else will (likely a country that doesn't have to listen it's people's concerns). Someone WILL do it and if we are still a power at that time we will pay any price and jump any hurdle to beat them ... thank god for pride.

China may be the catalyst, maybe india, maybe someone else but it will happen and our collective national ego will force us to follow if we don't lead.

So we can argue that robots and telescopes are safer and cheaper but it doesn't really matter. We'll go because we can, we always have.

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