The Value of Humans in Robots vs. Humans’ Space Exploration

History has shown that human beings have had a great urge to transcend physical and intellectual boundaries. For instance, their endeavor to travel into space is a manifestation of human interest in knowing about other planets apart from the Earth. Research reveals that individuals from 41 countries have gone to space and many have come together to build the international space station for exploration purposes (ISS) (Avdeyev 24). Men have landed on the moon and other celestial bodies revealing the need for space exploration. Nations around the world want to know more about other planets such as Mars and determine whether humans can survive in them. Human space exploration depends on use of machines and robots to complete the heroic journeys to the space. Robots are used in the exploration although they are always under human control from the Earth. In the 1950s, the most popular themes in the science fiction concentrated on robotic technology and space, especially in the time when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. This was in 1957 a year after a company known as Unimation had produced a robot (Bogue 323). Sputnik and Unimation merged in 1970 when the Soviets sent Lunokhod 1 robot to the Moon. The event reveals the great value of robots by humans in space exploration using manned spacecraft and others such as orbital satellites. Human explorers are greatly recognized by the society since the use of robots limits the contents learned about the planets that can harbor life. In addition, robots expeditions are a one-way trip: probes go into space, land, take readings, and never come back. Although robotic technology is quite valuable for the exploration of space, human expeditions would be more appropriate since they always return to the Earth and it is possible to get samples of different phenomena.

The greatest dream of explorers is the desire of leaving the Earth and travelling into space. Many people from different countries have so far gone into space. In fact, some nations from around the world have already put great effort to build an international space station. Countries from west and east have been engaging in space exploration despite their differences in philosophical, cultural, and historical backgrounds. In this case, people have their own reasons of going to the outer space, and are interested in exploring some parts of the Universe in various ways. People came from different parts of the country to witness the first man landing on the surface of the Moon in the Apollo II (Huntress 771). Several individuals traversed the rainforest in Brazil for several miles to capture the news on the only television screen taking photos of the TV just to catch the memorable event.

Many cultures have their meaning of the word “exploration” However, in English; the word is used to mean “human space exploration.” Russians understand the term as covering distances that include fieldwork or scouting (Huntress 771). On the other hand, German suggests that it is a way of investigating in research work. In other countries like Japan, it is used to mean “discovery.” However, exploration can be described as the quest to look for unknown and things that cannot be known without the expectation that there is an answer given to a certain question. Though exploration is a realm of science, it is not wise to limit it to scientific method only as it narrows and reduces the chances to gain knowledge since it hinders the ability of human being to interact with the environment. In this case, the act of exploration involves all human senses to integrate the present experience with the previous one thus creating a unique course of action as well as behavior. Knowledge of exploration can be increased through individual education and later through the cultural development of some societies through sharing their experiences. Further development of the societies can also be because of realizing the innate desires of different people to explore. It can then be said that exploring of the space by human beings manifests the species’ urge to survive. Since all life forms are linked, the survival of human beings through space investigations is a way of controlling nature rather than living in harmony with it.

Space exploration occurs at various stages according to the level of interaction of human being with the environment. The familiar way to explore the universe so far is using the telescope. The method is very passive as it only puts an individual into an observation mode without interacting with any objects physically. Another way of investigating the universe is sending robots to the other astronomical bodies such as the Moon to investigate the existing heavenly bodies. However, it can be seen that the two types of exploration only lead to limited interaction due to inadequate technology and the disadvantages of the speed as well as the light. In this case, the emotional quality of investigation can only be achieved through the presence of human beings. Moreover, most countries are building an international space station to ease the process of exploration. The international space station allowed human beings to land on another celestial body using the Apollo (Bogue 323). However, it is clear that human exploration is not just a journey into space but also a journey to find a place which can sustain life. It is the intense desire to find out and understand the surrounding of the humankind. Human space investigations should get support from all over the world as it also facilitates the development of the technology. In addition, various cultures from the globe do share the aspiration to explore the space thus the decision makers should take this as a way of earning  global endeavor.

Since 1950, robots and space travel have been the most popular themes in the science fiction that later became a reality. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. The space exploration has been carried out with the help of orbit satellites, the spacecraft, static surface, as well as robotic devices. Deployment of robotics in space has some significant technological challenges, which include issues like power sources and their control, communication and mobility, extreme temperature as well as operating in a vacuum and dangerous environment. Moon walker is another name for Lunokhod, which is the first remote-controlled robot, that landed on the other celestial bodies (Bogue 323). The robot was launched by the Soviet Union in 1970 having been taken to the Moon surface by Luna-17. The machine was a mobile robot that weighed 756 kilograms with 2.3 meters long (Bogue 323). It had a tube-like compartment that had a large convex lid in powered wheels that were driven by electric motors. In addition, batteries that were charged during the lunar day powered the robot. A fluoride helped to lubricate mechanical part for the robot to operate in a vacuum. The electric motors were also enclosed in the pressurized container. The Lunokhod 1 had both high directional helical antenna, cone-shaped antenna, and four TV cameras with extendable devices that were used for both mechanical purposes and to examine the lunar soil density.

The second Lunokhod 2 of the Soviet landed in 1973 and had a mass of 840 kilograms and 125 centimeters high (Bogue 323). The robot was different from the first one in that it was longer and wider. It had eight wheels, electric motors alongside the brakes, and a maximum speed of two kilometers per hour. The robot also carried panoramic and television cameras, which were placed high to help in navigation and could give high-resolution pictures at varying frame rate. The controllers used the cameras on earth to transmit driving commands in real-time. Solar panels and radioisotope heater were used for the lunar nights to maintain the required temperatures. The robot operated for more than four months and covered about 37 kilometers of the terrain. It had successfully sent back approximately 86 panoramic images as well as 80,000 TV, pictures. At this point, Lunokhod 2 remained the one that had covered the greatest distance (Bogue 323). However, Lunokhod 3 was built with the view of landing on the Moon in 1977 but never flew for it had funding problems. Moreover, the USA and the Soviet Union had to set pioneering robots for missions that were more ambitious. The two came up with a lightweight solar-powered robot and had only six wheels with a mass of 10.5 kilograms (Bogue 323). The robot had a speed of 1 centimenter per second, and its chassis and suspensions used a rocket-bogie system. In addition, it had joints that rotated conforming to the ground and could allow itself to lean by for 45 degrees without tipping. Mars exploration robot was launched in 2003, and it involved two similar mobile robots that landed on 4th January and 25th 2004 respectively (Bogue 323). There were much of mechanical drive systems in these two robots as they had six wheels and each of them had its motor that was placed on a rocker-bogie suspension system. The robots could stop after every 10 seconds to observe and at the same time capture the terrain due to the hazard avoidance software that was installed in them. The power systems comprised two lithium-ion batteries that could be recharged and weighed 7.15 kilograms each (Bogue 323). The gold foil was used for insulating and radioisotope-based heaters were the main sources that maintained internal temperatures in the two robots.

Many people traveled all the way to Boston with the aim of taping a television program about the findings by the astronauts who had gone to investigate the universe. They presented a full-page photograph taken in the summer of 1997 (Launius and McCurdy 271). The photograph depicted an astronaut in space who had bent down to collect the Sojourner Rover that had been taken to Mars. The type of exploration was clearer and had emphasis as opposed to the ones made by the robot. In this case, it showed that space expedition was to be accomplished using robots as well as human beings. The robots were first used to open the way for the human to explore the space; therefore, they have to be a part of the exploration at the global level. Combining human and robotic technology will promote research on celestial bodies. However, the children of mid-twentieth century are challenging the whole process of astronauts and robots in the space carrying out the investigations. However, they know that the knowledge of a human being will be needed to control the machines sent to space. In addition, human beings will be responsible for operating the space communication satellites. Many scientists made all the work of space exploration possible. For example, Arthur C. Clarke invented the communication satellite making it easy to observe the space through guidance from the Earth (Bogue 324). Popular culture and the technology can then be mentioned as the factors that influenced the high human presence in the space at the beginning of the space age. Through the popular and the fiction science people were made believe that human being would pilot a spaceship to reach various destinations. It means that the images that were presented through visual media were able to build themes familiar to the whole public thus showing that humanity was about to conquer space.

Human beings have reached a unique evolutionary and technological influence which can promote the survival of species. For instance, Mars has been found to be the most probable planet for survival of species. Space explorers such as Schiaparelli, Boroughs, Lowell, Sagan, and Bradbury have brought hope that the Red Planet can enable permanent and sustainable human habitation. It could be a second home to many if it had sufficient water for human to thrive. However, sending manned expeditions is advantageous since there is always a planned return trip bringing several samples compared to robotic missions. However, domestic forces affect manned missions and many factors – such as concern of the explorers’ relatives – need to be considered. The expeditions are also very costly, and it is quite difficult to justify expensive manned missions which do not have immediate economic gain (Majsova 245). However, the missions are quite beneficial such as the 1987 NASA mission that generated more than $17.8 billion as well as created 209,000 jobs (Majsova 244). There is a continued arguments on robotic and human exploration of space distracting progress since the two have coexisted for a long time. Extensive robotic programs are being created by Americans and Soviets for investigating the universe. Robots are advantageous since they are expendable and can be used in cases where risk to humans is quite high (Majsova 245). An astronaut may not be able to explore the surfaces on some planets like Venus. Some of these planets are too hot or have crushing pressure. The application of robotic technology may need human-machine interaction and use of remote control.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been marketing the space shuttle and international space station. The second half of the twentieth century has seen efforts to a wide range of research, especially on issues touching on space science (Majsova 13). Despite the fact that human interest in space exploration resulted from desire for adventure, manned space flights also helped people to develop extraordinary scientific skills. For the past 50 years, human contribution to space science has shrunken, while the cost of enabling people to go into space has increased (Kennedy 589). However, robotic missions have gone up and become quite efficient which proves that advancement in modern technology has played part in ensuring missions to Mars, Mercury, Venus, and the Sun. Several space telescopes have been launched helping in understanding the Solar System and the universe. When the space age began, the popular and technological culture had a favor for human presence in space. Rocket technology was very important in facilitating the goal of exploring the space. When Appollo, NASA’s project, was sent to the moon, humans felt that advanced technology could help in doing more expeditions (Launius and McCurdy 271). Rocket technology enables humans to go to exotic destinations. The media and science fiction also facilitated efforts to explore space as they gave hope that a man could land on other planets. As people matured, space technology has been also improved and scientists could use beam images from “orbiting observatories and reconnaissance satellites”, which created a science of remote sensing (Launius and McCurdy 271). The technical expertise eliminated the need to have human beings on board, especially when engineers came up with solid-state transistors, which were kept in telecommunicating satellites. Humans remain close to the Earth while robots cross the Solar System to correct information from the planets and other terrestrial bodies. The last time humans landed on the moon was 40 years ago and the expectation is that the next landing on the lunar surface will be of a robot (Mann). This will help in understanding more about the moon’s service at a cheaper cost due to advanced technology.

The urge for human beings to find out more about the world can be associated with the desire to survive, as every life born must live harmoniously with nature. Humans are seeking to control nature through exploration, which can enable them to expand life across the universe. Initially, human beings used to investigate the skies by use of telescopes but advanced technology has facilitated people in sending robots to foreign planets to investigate the existing celestial bodies. Robotic technology limits interaction with the phenomena being investigated. Static robots are currently on Mars such as the Phoenix Lander, which was sent to the planet in 2008 (Avdeyev et al. 25). The mission was to give some hints to the geological history of water and find out the habitability of the planet. The robot was fitted with various meteorological devices and a 40DOF robotic arm to help scoop soil samples and take images. The robot was under the control of the mission scientists using the Mars Reconnaissance Obiter’s UHF radio system (Avdeyev et al. 25). Humanoid robots are made to work on the surface of celestial bodies. The bodies will facilitate more exploration as they are designed to perform human roles during space expeditions. Robots are currently being used for planetary expeditions to understand the solar system (Tyson). Through technological advancements, surfaces that could not be accessible by human beings due to undesirable atmospheric conditions will be explored more efficiently.

The exploration of space with the help of humans has a number of advantages over robots although the latter are preferred in planets that may be too hot, such as Mercury. Humans and robots are working together on earth and in space. However, robotic missions are much cheaper and likely to be employed to save on costs. In addition, they give information that is more scientific but they do not attract the imaginations of the public as humans would. Unmanned robotic missions may not detect microscopic life if they are not programmed to help in recognition of some life forms thriving below the surface of the earth. NASA’s leading scientists are always championing for human exploration as one of the most critical scientific projects in the twenty-first century. Robots can only do what they are programmed to do and may miss out very important details. The debate on human versus machine will continue for a long time. However, it should be understood that unmanned spacecraft is controlled by humans on earth communicating in real-time with the systems in the robots. Human beings and robots work together on earth and in space for better precision of the information collected. The cost incurred on manned spacecrafts is higher compared to those of robotic spacecraft. Putting robots into orbit is done at a fraction of the amount, which is required for putting humans in orbit. For instance, explosion of a human craft will have devastating effect on the emotions of the affected people as well as the families. Since robots can exist in extreme environment, they may be more preferable than humans in space exploration..

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