Sunday, July 14, 2013

Space the final frontier but perhaps with Robo-Sapien explorers?

“Space: The final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise
Its 5 year mission
To explore strange new worlds
To seek out new life and new civilizations
To boldly go where no man has gone before”

We all know these lines; Star Trek. But with all the technological advances that have mimicked Star Trek, will we really be the ones to explore these new worlds? Or will we add to this legacy a robotic species?

Food, water, sleep, entertainment and down time – plus there’s that nasty oxygen! A human can be so demanding on a long trip and then require so much. The Director of Planetary Science at NASA suggests that exploration and humans are not as compatible as one might think.

Certainly humans provide a unique perspective, but how many failed attempts might there be prior to success? Will we even keep at it when the first ship then second ship don’t make it? Traveling outside of our solar system is cruel and harsh whether we are using current propulsion methods or those we are currently working out the details for and think of the possible prpbls. Low supplies  (ie food & water, oxygen) or a human is injured and needs life-saving surgery or other medical procedures.


 But do we have any options?

Currently there are robots that exist in various stages of abilities. While I have little doubt that some have capabilities beyond what we know, let me point what we do know, a hydraulically powered Robot called Atlas is equipped with vision that is laser and stereo. Abilities? This particular robot has been created to perform life-saving rescues here on Earth in areas where sending a human might prove impossible or just plain unsafe. With self-driving cars on the horizon, self-flying planes already a reality, are robo-sapiens the next species to inhabit Earth? Can they be equipped to then inhabit space?

Astronaut Ken Bowersox believes that space is big enough for both of them – man and robot. He believes that it is not always cost effective to send humans and then mentions that there are times when the two can work together. Certainly NASA suggests the same. On the ISS right now they have Robonaut Two learning what tasks in space require and getting them done. Also there is the ongoing mission of Dextre and the rebotic refueling mission. (really more a space arm than a humanoid).

But there are some things a human can do that a robot can’t. The human mind can analyze, hit a snag in a procedure and adjust. Certainly Curiousity up on Mars and his earlier counterparts have done an excellent job but they were controlled by rooms of humans here on Earth. A human might have traveled more places on the Martian surface, or he might have only been thinking of finding water.

It seems each has their use and varying abilities. Still maybe we should change our mantra for the next generation…“To boldly go where no” (substitute here) “has gone before.” Robo-Sapiens. Can’t you just picture cool things going on in space? Asimov could!

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