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People against robots in space: we need both

This week at Quirks & Quarks we dedicate the entire episode to the question “Should people be in space?”

This is an interesting discussion about whether robots are the best way to explore other worlds. But actually this is not the case, or / or. We need both.

Since the world is preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first people appearing on the Moon on July 20, little will be mentioned about the robots who came there first. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin could not have taken these first steps if it were not for the fleet of robotic probes that flew to the Moon in advance to inspect the piece of land and determine the best landing sites.

Robotic spaceships play a crucial role in research

Probes such as the Surveyor landed on the surface and showed that the earth was strong enough to support a spacecraft. At that time, there was one fear that after billions of years of bombardment by objects from space, the surface of the moon would turn into fine powder so deeply that it would completely absorb any ship attempting to land there. The surveyor's paws barely drowned in the surface, indicating that the dust was not as deep as the scientists feared.

The main tasks of the surveyors were to obtain close-up images of the lunar surface and to determine whether the terrain was safe for manned landings. This image shows a view of the Surveyor 5 on the Moon. (NASA)

Russian rovers Lunokhod, the size of a bath, were the first vehicles to go to the moon, a feat that the Americans reached the limit in later Apollo missions when they drove their lunar rover on the surface like buggies for dunes. ,

When it comes to space exploration, robots conduct early exploration and primary science. They first fly past the planets to see what is there. The orbiters then map the surface, followed by the landings — when possible — that actually touch it. Robots were not only on the moon, but also explored every planet in our solar system.

Soviet rovers Lunokhod had a length of about 2.3 meters and a height of 1.5 meters. (NASA)

Human missions are the ultimate human adventure.

Human missions are mainly aimed at overcoming human endurance, when well-trained, physically trained astronauts and astronauts endure stress during starting and landing, the negative effects of prolonged weightlessness and the risks inherent in extreme conditions. This is an incredible human adventure that provides a real role model for young people and requires the highest technology to ensure the safety of these people. It is also much more expensive.

Man's partnership with a robot in space is similar to hunters with dogs running forward to find prey. Robots rush forward to smell the territory, identify the most interesting places and select the soil, then people follow.

If and when we discover life in our solar system

A big quest in space exploration is a search for life. If robots find life on Mars or in the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn, this may actually prevent people from going to any father. The presence of alien life raises the huge problem of pollution between the planets. The protocols have already been created to protect the planets, where spacecraft intended for landing on Mars are sterilized to prevent the spread of terrestrial microbes to the red planet. Martian microbes may not offer any resistance to our alien invaders, so we could inadvertently cause the death of local residents, similar to European researchers who brought the disease to the indigenous people of North America.

Mars NASA research scientist Rover Spirit received this image in 2007. The mosaic shows a patch of disturbed soil formed by a stuck right front wheel of Spirit. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell)

Sending people to Mars makes this matter more serious. People are very dirty beasts. We are constantly throwing waste from our body, our breath, our food, everything we touch. It would be almost impossible to send humans to Mars without contaminating the environment with microbes.

Martian life forms can be destroyed by human sneezing, which is what happened in a fictional story, War of the WorldsWhere invincible Martians devastated the Earth, eventually became victims of a cold. The humble virus has destroyed the alien invaders. We do not want to become invasive species that destroy life on other planets, or, even worse for us, are polluted by alien organisms that we do not resist.

In this photo, taken on July 20, 1969, astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., pilot of the lunar module, was photographed walking along the lunar module during Apollo 11 extra-industrial activity. (Associated Press)

This is one of the reasons why the search for life in other worlds is so important. If this is found, perhaps these worlds will become inaccessible to humans, so research will be conducted only with the help of intelligent robots, while people are moving through virtual reality back to Earth.

In any case, our thirst for new knowledge and the natural desire for research takes us through our solar system. And when we go further to the amazing new places, accompanied by our companion robots, perhaps the biggest lesson we will learn, as we did from the missions to the moon in Apollo, this is what we see when we look back home to the little beautiful and precious blue planet, blue marble, the pearl of the solar system.

Earth Rising is a photograph of the Earth and part of the surface of the Moon, which was taken from the lunar orbit during the flight of Apollo 8. (NASA)

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