Manned Space Exploration is The Most Important Long-term Human Endeavor

In the immediate wake of the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia, I’ve seen comments calling for the abandonment of manned space exploration. In my view, this is foolish, shortsighted thinking, because manned space exploration is the most important long-term human endeavor.

Space truly is “the final frontier.” We have largely explored and exploited all human habitable area on Earth. Though there will be some incremental increase in the area and resources we can use, what we know we have available on earth right now is just about it.

In the relatively short term – perhaps the next hundred years – this probably won’t be a problem. However, well beyond that, we will reach the limits of the Earth’s resources. Though resource limits are a problem, the real issue is social and psychological.

Space is the one truly new area that man is exploring. If we abandon that, what does humanity have to look forward to. We will be leftwith only the petty terrestrial concerns of our tiny little marble floating in the universe.

I think the absence of horizons has already started to affect American culture. Because we are making minimal progress in bringing out the truly novel, people are turning inward and giving credence to non-scientific quackery. If science and technology isn’t perceived as marching steadily on, bringing new things to the average person, the charlatans and flim-flam artists will sell their false version of progress.

In space exploration, like in all exploration ventures beforehand, there will be death and equipment loss. To go beyond what we have alreay encountered is by definition dangerous. I think that we’ve has a remarkably good saftey record in space exploration, considering the unique characteristics of the environments that space explorers must go through. Consider the early sea voyagers or air innovators, who died at a much greater rate than those in the space programs.

Without space exploration, the innovative and adventurous will not have external goals to seek. Instead, they will focus on expanding their realms on earth, at the expense of other occupants.

We should learn what we can from this loss, and act to prevent its repetition, but we cannot abandon our efforts to sail beyond the skies.

Totally agree. Another factor is that over periods of geological time the habitable parts of the earth get, well, sort of destroyed every so often. You’ve got supervolcanoes, you’ve got ice ages, you’ve got asteroids. The last 5000 years of civilization have been pretty free of these things so we think they can’t happen. If we want humanity to be around long term we need an insurance policy in space.

Normally I shun “Me, too,” posts.

But I register my complete agreement with the OP.

The most efficient form of exploration is unmanned probes.

There’s no rational purpose in sending humans into space for photo ops. and propaganda, and no other reasons to speak of.

Humans have no place in space.

We will eventually die out on earth. If we haven’t gone into space by then, then everything we’ve done so far–all of our culture, our art, our religions, and our science–will be gone. And you think we shouldn’t go into space?

I agree entirely with the OP.

And it would be a terrible injustice to these lost astronauts if we let their tragic end deter us from pursuing that frontier, one that they dedicated a good chunk of their lives to. I’m sure they would not have wanted us to turn away. President Bush agrees, per his address on TV a few minutes ago.

And I think it cheapens the memory of the lost astronauts to call what they did “photo ops and propaganda.” Shame on you Vorlon Ambassador’s Aide. I guess any side of the argument is valid here in GD and deserves it’s day, but try to be a little more polite about it, phrase it a little better next time.

Me too. I agree with the OP.

I completely agree with the OP.
We need to pick up where we have left off, and push harder for more exploration. That’s part of the reason this happened, we have become complacent about it.

I was watching the TV, and this one guy said it best. “We should use this tragedy as a springboard, and make some good out of it.”

The space shuttle is sadly out of date, but we still use it. It’s time for a new vehicle…

Remind me again what we accomplished with the Apollo program…?

I also agree with the OP, I’m afraid I am not in the mood to hack it out with Vorlon.

—If we want humanity to be around long term we need an insurance policy in space.—

Of course, this doesn’t mean what many people think it means. It COULD mean that we send a couple of people off somewhere, and they can found another colony, keeping the human race alive even if Earth dies off. It probably DOESN’T mean that we’ll ever be able to move the entire concurrently existing human population off the surface of the planet to live somewhere else, because such a feat would require almost unbelievable amounts of energy and coordination: things not even remotely convievable at the moment.

—Remind me again what we accomplished with the Apollo program…?—

We learned how to send people into space. Which is of course very very useful for having people do experiments in space that we don’t currently have robots capable of performing. Cancer research is not a photo op. Even discounting those experiments which are to study the effect of space on human beings, having humans to perform experiments in space is way cheaper and more effective than any probe, at least at present.

Yes. You get a colony going on the Moon, or Mars Emphasis is on self-reliance. Population growth augmented by small numbers of immigrants will grow the colony. Moon-Mars colonies are useful as well since these worlds have much lower gravity than earth. They become stepping stones to further reaches of the solar system and even the stars eventually.

I used to work in cancer research, and still do work in medical research. I can’t imagine any truly useful experiment that could ONLY be done in space. Sure, you can play games up there, and get data, and it might even someday be useful data, but the money spent in such a way could probably be put to far more effective use in much more routine, mundane experiments here on Earth.

Put another way, in my 15+ years as a medical researcher, I have never said to myself “That would be a really useful experiment, if only we had access to zero G”. I have never heard another scientist say it, and I have never heard OF any scientist who has said it. NASA does these experiments up there to try to prove to people that this is a practical application of space travel. They haven’t convinced me yet.

Media in ~1400’s CE: Another tragedy has struck Europe today when a Exploratory ship was lost at sea. The 18 crew members thought to be aboard are assumed dead. Wreckage has been found and rumors of teeth and organs being found circulate. More at 10pm.

General Population: How horrible!! We need to stop with sending people into the sea. We have no place there and no benifits can be thought of by us. Let us stop funding these pointless things and end the plague and homelessness here at home.

Studying the effects of microgravity and radiation on the human body is important if we want to send people into space, so we should send people into space to study the effects of microgravity and radiation.


What experiments do you think will be performed on the ISS? It vibrates so much that it’s worthless as a microgravity environment, and it’s so noisy that the astronauts have to wear earplugs to prevent hearing damage.

—Studying the effects of microgravity and radiation on the human body is important if we want to send people into space, so we should send people into space to study the effects of microgravity and radiation.—

Funny how you quoted the very section of my post that included the idea that we can, for this purpose, discount those experiments that would have, from your perspective, circular justification. No wait, that’s not funny: it makes your reply meanspirited and pointless.

Good analogy.
Vorlon you may be content sticking around on Earth till Hell freezes over but thats just you. Personally I’d like to get off this rock eventually. I can’t believe that you think there is no advantage to humans going out into space. Sure unmanned probes are more efficient but then whats the point? All we’d get is some readings and some pretty pictures. Would you rather have a picture of a Moon rock with a list of size, weight, density and color or would you rather hold it in your hand? Getting out into space is nessisary for the survival of humanity.

The data, of course. There’s no a lot of science I can do by looking at a rock.

Of course, I can always send an automated probe to collect rocks and bring them back… so I can hold them in my hand on Earth. :slight_smile:

Then there is the far harder to quantify quality of just having a dream. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to go into space, float around, watch the earth rise. A lot of people do. Take away that, and what…off to Wyoming. Let’s explore the unknown frontiers of New Jersey.

Doesn’t quite sound right. Hmmm

Another “me too”. At the rate we are using up the resources of our own planet, we’re going to need to explore others before very long.

The analogy with sailing is a good one; I had this argument with a friend not an hour ago. He stated that we had been exploring space for 40 years and seen not much return. I suggested that it had been a lot longer than that between the invention of the first sailing ship and Columbus sailing to America.