8.08.2005

 

Robots have all the fun

This article makes a great point:

Idle Words

From the article:In other words, robots are doing all the exploration -- all the cool stuff. The era of manned space flight may already be over. Humans have been replaced by robots because robots are cheaper, more reliable, and don't mind waiting a few years to get to their destinations. And the robots will only get better and better, making humans more and more superfluous in space. Welcome to the Robotic Nation. We will soon see replacement process occurring in every part of the economy.

Comments:
In space this makes sense. Sending people to the moon is very expensive. Robots will always be cheaper, and often better. Robots do not care about cosmic rays or lack of oxygen.

As robots get less expensive, it makes sense for more and more occupations. Pilots, as you say. Doctors.
 
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is doing interesting project.
http://www.jaxa.jp/index_e.html

The NASA robotic spacecraft called MESSENGER is going where no man can go – the planet Mercury!
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/index.html

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will launch this week. It is a robot weather station and geology station. At a vastly cheaper price than manned version!
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/future/2005.html
 
Our fearless leader still thinks
people are smarter than machines.
 
Until the robot take over. Then humans will be valued less than machines and it will be the humans being sent on one way trips to Mars.
 
It will always be more expensive to take humans, rather than machines, to space. The system complexity and size is inherently higher.

That said, currently robots are relatively brain-dead. There is very little local autonomy. The systems have such disasterous failure cases when doing anything complex, like trying to avoid a rock.

Also, humans explore space not just for utilitarians purposes. Yes, orbital PV arrays will be contructed autonomously. Yes, mining asteroids will be autonomous.

Discovery, reaching beyond this world symbolically, will always mean more with humans. That is, until the robots get _really_ smart, but that isn't really the topic of this blog.
 
Teleoperation gives us the flexibility and cost-savings of robots with the creativity and intelligence of humans. When we talk about "robots" in space, we are referring to their human handlers as well.
 
Tele-operation is very over-rated for deep space. Maybe underwhelming is the word I'm looking for.

20 minute lags each way are ridiculous.

This project from CMU is trying to automate scientific discover for a planetary rover.
 
I always find it funny when pro-manned spaceflight advocates say that manned flight is essential for the survival of the human race. Sure, eventually the Sun will burn out and we will have to move to survive, but that is billions of years in the future. What does it matter if we don't develop good, reliable human-carrying spacecraft for the next few decades or centuries?

I remember someone once telling me we should all go to Mars because we keep polluting the Earth. I couldn't do anything but laugh. It's like saying "let's buy a new house because we don't want to clean our windows".
 
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