Can I ask someone to rebuttal my argument against human space flight?

Sep 7, 2022
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Hello, would someone be interested in providing arguments defending human spaceflight vs unmanned spaceflight? I'm on team unmanned. I'm leaving out difficult questions like cost and danger since these are hard to base arguments around. These are just some arguments I hear companies like NASA and SPACEX use over and over that I really want to pick into.

Argument 1: It provides the necessary PR and funding for more critical scientific mission like cassini and new horizon.
Counter 1: Lower launch cost in the future will negate high funding cost, thus negating the need for PR stunts involving humans.

Argument 2: Lot of spin-off technologies are developed in R&D like velcro
Counter 2: These technologies weren't developed by NASA, and even where they were, they do not outway the cost, and might have developed on their own. (This is a weak defense on my part since it relies on speculation)

Argument 3: Human are required for time critical task that require improvisation.
Counter 3: What time sensitive task? (This one I hear a lot, I'm not sure as to what they're getting at. If you know, could you explain it to me?)

Argument 4: Humans can improvise in the moment where machine can only use the tools it's equipped with.
Counter 4: Humans are also limited to the tools they have at hand. It also much easier just to send a second probe.

If you have more arguments for or against human spaceflight, please let me know. You can provide your own counters and counter my counters.
 
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Jan 29, 2020
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Do you have a span of decades or centuries for the assertion? New horizon was from the 90's. It could've been studied earlier, the electric rocket was from the 1970's, but to have make it manned would've required Stars Wars funding in the 1980's. I'll be looking at Sol Gel to connect nanoparticles for chain mail product parts. Unmanned radar observatories but also manned serviced on the Lunar Surface maybe 2030's. The product might be easier to make manned in space, can take radiation damage for 25 years. Oxygen affects surfaces enough eventually you need a manned lab, just to operate SPM knobs with a disc-jockey level of dexterity.
 
Sep 7, 2022
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This is why I asked on a forum, so go nuts. Like to counter, so playing devil's advocate here. Why exactly do we need disc-jockey level of dexterity for? We use probes on the bottom of the ocean, and they seem to get fine with just amateur disc-jockey levels of dexterity.
 
Jan 29, 2020
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Manufacturing to tolerances of nanoparticles stamping and assembly requires fine grained motion. IBM loses maybe still if there is a Jeopardy button stick for it to push rather than an electronic machine learning buzzer to electrically time. Look how big the Canada Arm is. It dampens vibrations being that big.
 
Sep 7, 2022
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Oh wait, I misread your post, sorry, I'm mostly asking about manned exploration, not manufacturing. Like is their a good reason to establish any human presence beyond low earth orbit. Lunar observatories are debatable. We've gotten a lot better at smoothing out noise from data in the last couple of years, hence why most ground based telescope fair better than Hubble nowadays.
 
Dec 29, 2019
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Hello, would someone be interested in providing arguments defending human spaceflight vs unmanned spaceflight? I'm on team unmanned. I'm leaving out difficult questions like cost and danger since these are hard to base arguments around. These are just some arguments I hear companies like NASA and SPACEX use over and over that I really want to pick into.

Argument 1: It provides the necessary PR and funding for more critical scientific mission like cassini and new horizon.
Counter 1: Lower launch cost in the future will negate high funding cost, thus negating the need for PR stunts involving humans.

Argument 2: Lot of spin-off technologies are developed in R&D like velcro
Counter 2: These technologies weren't developed by NASA, and even where they were, they do not outway the cost, and might have developed on their own. (This is a weak defense on my part since it relies on speculation)

Argument 3: Human are required for time critical task that require improvisation.
Counter 3: What time sensitive task? (This one I hear a lot, I'm not sure as to what they're getting at. If you know, could you explain it to me?)

Argument 4: Humans can improvise in the moment where machine can only use the tools it's equipped with.
Counter 4: Humans are also limited to the tools they have at hand. It also much easier just to send a second probe.

If you have more arguments for or against human spaceflight, please let me know. You can provide your own counters and counter my counters.
I mostly agree with you. I think there is nothing we do in space that is done better using astronauts... other than those with the specific objective of promoting and advancing human presence in space, which is circular. As soon as humans are included the life support and safety of the astronauts becomes the overriding mission priority. Missions require much greater payloads to support the astronauts - payload that could have been devoted to mission relevant equipment. They cannot be treated as disposable; return capability - at cost to mission objectives - is essential. They can't go into sleep mode and cannot reach more distant and difficult targets at all.

I do think the PR around space programs has worked well at attracting clever innovators and problem solvers and, importantly, funding. Less funding I expect had they been crewless all along but probably quicker turnaround on results, ie more successful missions. PR is a peculiar and not entirely certain thing; well promoted crewless programs might still attract popular support, ie funding. I note the popularity of the various probes, rovers, space telescopes.

Support for R&D delivers spin off results. I have strongly suspected it is not so much the R&D hothouses with specific focuses as the totality of support for R&D within advanced economies that delivers the significant results. Space R&D is a spin-off - and the peaceful, friendly face - of military R&D, which may not have had as great a talent attraction effect without it. It may well be that military technology advanced quicker by having civilian space programs than through secretive military programs, although I don't think military R&D has difficulties getting funding. Not sure, but I am not convinced that we would have missed much technological advancement by going crewless.

Improvising - is what missions that are not well planned and prepared for have to do. Space missions don't tolerate unreliability very well.

And if reliability is beneficial to un-crewed missions how much more essential for crewed ones? It is easy to suggest having an astronaut on hand could fix problems but having astronauts on hand is a much bigger challenge - and will face much greater, as in life and death important, challenges as well as just more of them, because there will be more equipment needed, with more that can go wrong. They could only fix relatively minor problems; any kind of serious repairs require well equipped workshops, parts, materials to make parts, payload sacrifices to provide those - when making things that work reliably in the first place is a much better approach.

Apart from the near Earth possibilities where commercial viability is not about space resources but about Earth resources there are no commercial opportunities. Currently the biggest commercial opportunities for space launch companies is bidding for taxpayer funded contracts. Even ones like asteroid mining are - in my view - more likely to be attempted without astronauts. For the sake of reducing costs and enhancing the potential for profitability I expect any company attempting it will go to great lengths to avoid any requirement for astronauts to be on hand.

Space is - for the foreseeable future - better explored without astronauts.
 
Aug 14, 2020
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The way I see your argument, life sparked in a mudhole of early Earth and should never have developed, grown and expanded beyond that mudhole. A child sparks to life in the womb and should never develop and grow and expand beyond the womb (should never birth). Life on Earth should never develop, grow, and expand beyond the Earth (life should never birth from the Earth into the outside Frontier universe).

What is the future of energetic life that can never, does never, leave the nest in a due time of birthing or hatching as it, and its needs and wants, will not keep growing in every dimensionality and the nest, correspondingly, keeps shrinking in its dimensions, its ability, to supply those growing needs and wants. We've reached the point of war. War to breakout into a then opening frontier system, or wars of a very different kind inside a closing system.
 
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I mentioned timeline as synthetic biology will be a risk around 2090. It is similar to epidemic risks often measured against space progress and space society visions. By then a couple of colonies are needed.
Micron scale machines can be made to perform a single task. The parts, 200x smaller than fine hair, can be made to move in configurations like the hovering battleship in Terminator 4. Communications and sensors of different wavelengths can be made with the same parts assembled differently. Walls can be re-arranged. Armour can be customized to angle of meteorites or radiation. If someone were to attempt to remove a part or reverse engineer it, a broken machine is all that may be left over. This manufacturing enables the life support, and Q-of-L in space. I agree, too much is spent now up there on repair and maintenance and understand the argument for robotics.
Alumina oxides have stronger bonds than do metals, atom to atom. Metals are tougher, meteorite impact especially is a ripping motion stopped by hardness. This (alpha) oxide is harder. It is more resistant to wear than are metals, which go brittle and adsorb hydrogen...Even for hair sized objects, surface forces keep defects to the core. Building metals out of nanoparticle chain-mail has strength benefits. The factory is alumina mostly. Robots now are mostly metal motors. The factory uses magnets (made by conventional industry) that assemble lock in key. Robots are mostly too heavy to use these magnets and their servos shake enough to ruin a clean room nano environment. I'm guessing UHV nanoparticle making becomes easier in space than on Earth in the 2040's, I'm planning an UHV shed around then in Edm to test ice fracture. The metal robots get hacked and repurposed whereas if you hack mature nanotech you are left with shards of crystal. For that reason, a college student on Triton orbit station in 2060 can bunk beside a nano service shed whereas a robot shed might trigger a Tet offensive locally, if he were a hacker. Things like whether you want an ecosystem to be coral or kelp, and if fishing crustacaens is fun for tourists obviously need manned feedback.
 
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The way I see your argument, life sparked in a mudhole of early Earth and should never have developed, grown and expanded beyond that mudhole. A child sparks to life in the womb and should never develop and grow and expand beyond the womb (should never birth). Life on Earth should never develop, grow, and expand beyond the Earth (life should never birth from the Earth into the outside Frontier universe).

What is the future of energetic life that can never, does never, leave the nest in a due time of birthing or hatching as it, and its needs and wants, will not keep growing in every dimensionality and the nest, correspondingly, keeps shrinking in its dimensions, its ability, to supply those growing needs and wants. We've reached the point of war. War to breakout into a then opening frontier system, or wars of a very different kind inside a closing system.
Nonsense. When the machines find real, achievable opportunities for people out there people will go out there and the selfless sacrifices of those machines will be honored. As long as there aren't opportunities for people out there no amount of putting people in space first will create them.

It is like urging people making dugout canoes with stone tools to make ships that can cross oceans. Except there really were new lands with vast opportunities just waiting to be found. In space there is not - we've sent machines to look. What they find is inhospitable and the abundance of resources, though real, are uneconomic - seriously badly uneconomic - to make use of.

Until those real opportunities can be found a quasi-religious faith in eternal expansion and growth as human destiny will have to suffice.
 
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Last decade USA was 1st in robotics, nanotech should afford a similar tech level. The Wild Wild West sugar cube machinery for communications can be a NY State hub. A smaller Canada Arm was rejected on Orion. The payload savings might be enough to garner moveable waveguides on a future spacecraft. Space genetic food is a good hub for Washington, it compliments BC's exobiology; I expect different health hubs to compete for very advanced biology R+D latter 21st century. A university drawing from NY maybe Cornell is too risky for cdns. Students near Saturn could analyze samples, control a simple version of the sugar cube machine, and explain why a sample has space mutations. Without manufacturing in space, 2 students. With mines making space parts, 100 students in Enceladus ice, enough for my fav newsletter as well as maybe better coffee than in the U of T. I don't mean to besmirch robotic programming. Without in situ manufacturing, only two future Musks, Yaegers, Reagans, might not be worth the effort.
 

Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
Of course, there are arguments on both sides, but I think return per dollar spent must come down on the side of unmanned.

Perhaps, it might be argued, that unmanned is the essential precursor to manned. The reverse is definitely not to be recommended.

Cat :)
 
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With the folding nano-racking other applications are: modulating air pressure in a pipe, water pressure, and rocket exhaust. Things like huts for China or the Inuit, pedestrian walkways, can be publicly funded where aluminum mines are near. With the bomb came alot of electron modelling, Feymann fields. Market forces aren't too efficient but it seems better to have nanotech where the Manhattan project got good with electrons, and not across a mishmash of countries. Made on Earth for Earth and in space for space looks good return. Flip-flopping is hard to gauge as Earth has oxidation, gravity and space has radiation and micro-meteorites.
 
Nov 26, 2022
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In broad terms, I've been interested in space since the 3rd grade and specifically interested in space colonization since I was in the 6th grade. Throughout high school, my interest in space spurred an interest in STEM in general and a desire to become an aerospace engineer in particular. When I entered college, I studied engineering but quickly realized just how far away the dream is from reality. Instead of giving up, I doubled down and innovated new paths to help us reach space colonization -- with the Moon being a central feature. I've since then given talks at multiple space conferences and joined the Moon Society.

What I've come to realize is that science fiction primes the pump of our imagination while space technology gives us an arena within which we can incrementally work towards bigger goals inspired from sci-fi. The desire for human exploration and later permanent settlement has existed at least since Apollo if not earlier. The problem has always been economic. Can someone build an economically self-sufficient program that can build on itself to achieve exponential growth, lower the overall cost of operating in space, and send humans to places where they can add economic value?

Given that we have not moved forward on space colonization since Apollo, we're probably not going to go forward with a human spaceflight-driven path at first. The upfront cost is high enough that it could affect national security. It will probably be robotic at first and then humans will be added only after logistic economic growth reaches a plateau, and only when the value-add is greater than the cost of sending humans. Once humans start having children in space, the value-add becomes exponential. At a certain point, they would no longer be feeding the initial investors but themselves, and become a community in their own right. At that point, we'll start having interplanetary trade.

Argument 1: It provides the necessary PR and funding for more critical scientific mission like cassini and new horizon.
Counter 1: Lower launch cost in the future will negate high funding cost, thus negating the need for PR stunts involving humans.
Sci-fi was originally an anti-colonial form of literature in the 1800s. It was designed to generate empathy within western cultures for foreign nations to help imagine what it would feel like if an even more advanced civilization treated us as we had been treating others. It later evolved into one of the primary conduits for thinking about the future, which spawns STEM innovation. Space technology has a HUGE disconnect between the present-day reality and the technological ideal it aspires to. As a result, it has the potential to drive innovation until that reality is achieved.

Argument 2: Lot of spin-off technologies are developed in R&D like velcro
Counter 2: These technologies weren't developed by NASA, and even where they were, they do not outway the cost, and might have developed on their own. (This is a weak defense on my part since it relies on speculation)
And the integrated circuit... which is the foundation of the modern world economy. Of course, Fairchild Semiconductor developed the IC, which later became Intel. However, Fairchild's first-run products were too costly for the commercial market. NASA's mission requirement for lighter-weight computers (not the vacuum tubes that filled an entire floor of a university) created the incentives to develop ICs.

At the Moon Society, we're actively thinking about how to economically develop the Moon using robots and later humans. This means putting industry on the Moon. When you consider that lunar regolith is abrasive and lightly magnetic and that it creates challenges with rotary motion (most motors), we're going to have to overcome those challenges to build industry. We also won't have access to oil because 1) it won't be readily available and 2) it outgasses in a vacuum. We're also going to have problems with radiation affecting electronics. Overcoming these critical problems means going back to the drawing board with ALL industrial technology ever developed since the start of the Industrial Revolution. A lazy person might stop when faced with these problems. But for people who are motivated to overcome them, doing so will spur further innovation.

Argument 3: Human are required for time critical task that require improvisation.
Counter 3: What time sensitive task? (This one I hear a lot, I'm not sure as to what they're getting at. If you know, could you explain it to me?)
The most recent ANA Avatar XPrize will demonstrate what teleoperated robots are capable of. Right now, there aren't universal robots that can use a shovel in one moment and work in a lab in another. Even if such a technology matures and becomes viable, and is put on the Moon, we will be limited by the speed of light. The Moon is 1.282 light secs away or 2.564 round trip (no processing). This is with teleoperations on the Moon. A 3-second delay between issuing a command and seeing a response is probably at the upper limit of what most humans would accept. Anything beyond this, we're going to want humans onsite. Especially if we're talking about asteroids or other planets.

So to answer your question, we need to send humans into deeper space because of the limits of light and because humans can prioritize information more quickly than computers can. AI/ML works best for routine problems, not drawing inferences for new ones.

Argument 4: Humans can improvise at the moment where machine can only use the tools it's equipped with.
Counter 4: Humans are also limited to the tools they have at hand. It also much easier just to send a second probe.
Say there is a business operation on Mars that must deliver a payload to Earth in the next planetary transfer window -- say to make a critical bond payment (or risk default). Now imagine there was a mission failure on a scale like in the movie The Martian (ignoring the dust storm and supposing it was something else) -- and suppose it also affected communications. Would a robot be able to develop a workaround?
 
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TMS - On the one hand you say we have to start robotically until it makes economic sense (value-adds) to include humans - I agree - but you seem to also be saying a human presence is essential - and there I don't agree. If we get successful asteroid mining (which looks to me like the best commercial opportunity based on space resources there is) it will be without any human presence, with ruthless elimination of any requirement for human presence - because nothing will blow the budget out faster than adding astronauts.

When it comes to fixing problems the communications lag times are not that big a deal and having astronauts on hand, with all the workshop facilities and parts to do repairs is much more difficult and expensive (many time more) than foresight, planning and preparation. We can't afford to rely on improvisation; the environment out there is too unforgiving for that.

Where is the commercial opportunity that can be the edge of the wedge for self sustaining human exploitation of space going to come from? I don't see any.

I keep coming back to the economics of moon, Mars and asteroids and I keep finding them intractable. Asteroid mining does stand out in my thinking for being about actual, tangible space based commodities of significant commercial value for Earth markets and I don't see that the moon has any resources that are better or easier to access than near Earth asteroids. Mars' moons actually look easier than Earth's moon - similar delta-vee without high thrust rocketry needed to land and re-launch. Mars looks much harder. But asteroid mining isn't looking like it can achieve income-positive either. (I am interested in how it might be made so - for another discussion maybe.).

There is no separate space economy, just Earth's, so whatever we do has to return something of value - very high value - back to Earth. In situ and in space resource use can reduce costs of projects in space but the overall project still has to deliver something of economic value back to Earth to achieve profitability. I think the intangibles just aren't going to be sufficient; it needs trade in tangible, physical commodities - bulk commodities. Near Earth space has commercial opportunities that are income positive but they all service Earth customers and are built and maintained entirely with Earth based resources; they demonstrate how rich in resources Earth is, not how useful space resources are.
 
Nov 26, 2022
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TMS - On the one hand you say we have to start robotically until it makes economic sense (value-adds) to include humans - I agree - but you seem to also be saying a human presence is essential - and there I don't agree. If we get successful asteroid mining (which looks to me like the best commercial opportunity based on space resources there is) it will be without any human presence, with ruthless elimination of any requirement for human presence - because nothing will blow the budget out faster than adding astronauts.
Commercial operations that involve mining and the delivery of material to Earth orbit will alter the economics of what happens after. It has long been a prediction within the space community that the cost of sending people will become equivalent to that of sending machinery. To where it was basically a matter of the cost of fuel.

If one considers what robots are capable of, what humans are capable of, weigh their advantages, and factor in the limits of the speed of light, one can find economic space where humans would have utility. But getting there will likely require laying an economic foundation built on robotic operations first.

Where is the commercial opportunity that can be the edge of the wedge for self sustaining human exploitation of space going to come from? I don't see any.

I keep coming back to the economics of moon, Mars and asteroids and I keep finding them intractable. Asteroid mining does stand out in my thinking for being about actual, tangible space based commodities of significant commercial value for Earth markets and I don't see that the moon has any resources that are better or easier to access than near Earth asteroids. Mars' moons actually look easier than Earth's moon - similar delta-vee without high thrust rocketry needed to land and re-launch. Mars looks much harder. But asteroid mining isn't looking like it can achieve income-positive either. (I am interested in how it might be made so - for another discussion maybe.).

There is no separate space economy, just Earth's, so whatever we do has to return something of value - very high value - back to Earth. In situ and in space resource use can reduce costs of projects in space but the overall project still has to deliver something of economic value back to Earth to achieve profitability. I think the intangibles just aren't going to be sufficient; it needs trade in tangible, physical commodities - bulk commodities. Near Earth space has commercial opportunities that are income positive but they all service Earth customers and are built and maintained entirely with Earth based resources; they demonstrate how rich in resources Earth is, not how useful space resources are.
A former board member of the Moon Society advocated for ice mining at the lunar south pole. Now NASA's Artemis Program has a mission objective to put a space station in lunar orbit, incorporate reusable landers, and send astronauts to the Lunar south pole for sustained operations that surpasses Apollo. NASA may sponsor robots that mine lunar ice, convert it to fuel, set in place fuel tanker-landers, and send the fuel to all key points between LEO and lunar orbit. Fuel caching would lower the total cost of operating in space. After that point, the majority of the cost for any space launch will be simply reaching LEO.

There is a thriving space entrepreneurial industry. Search your favorite podcast source for: "space business", "space angels", "space investment", "space entrepreneur", and other similar terms. There's a lively conversation about what's possible going on right now.

One of the best ways to enter into the commercial space field is through dual-use businesses, where a traditional market-oriented commercial operation generates enough profit for you to self-invest in space. If you think about it, this is exactly what all of the current billionaires are doing. Elon didn't convince a hedgefund to help him start SpaceX, he paid for it out of the proceeds from Paypal. He then sustained SpaceX by developing Tesla and by pursuing external funding support from NASA and commercial satellite launches.

The Moon's surface is cratered and pockmarked from asteroids. It represents a cross-section of 5 billion years of bombardment by asteroids. Every resource found in any asteroid throughout the Solar System can be found on the Moon.

Of course its easy to get ahead of ourselves. At the Moon Society, we sometimes do and have discussions about what could be possible within our lifetimes. But we need to get to the first step of achieving economic sustainability in space. There needs to be a business that pays for itself and creates opportunities for a whole new business ecosystem to develop.
 
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TMS - The essential problem of achieving commercial viability from space based resources remains unsolved - primarily but not only a matter of astronomical transport costs, which I think go far beyond what chemical rockets are capable of, ie the rockets SpaceX is making and developing are not going to come close.

Where is the moon's resource based opportunity? I don't see it. Something existing there isn't the same as being cost effective to mine and ship.

I think asteroid mining - nickel-iron - is as good as it gets and it is still way out of reach. I don't see how mining minerals on the moon offers better opportunities than near Earth asteroids that are easier to reach with low impulse rockets and do have better resources.

A metallic asteroid might seem like the best but I'd look first at carbonaceous bodies that have nickel-iron as nodules and chips within a softer matrix, the metal as the primary target for shipping to Earth (nickel is worth above US$ 26,000 per ton even without the Platinum Group Metals mixed in and can be up to 65%) and carbonaceous materials, for the water that can be reaction mass/fuel for shipping. I'm inclined to aim at raw nickel-iron - not even attempt refining it on site or even at all; aim to deliver it to Earth as it is and ruthlessly reduce in-space processing to barest minimum.

We would need to be able to ship and drop as solid ingots to Earth for under $10,000 per ton, ie at mere hundreds of times the costs of shipping them around on Earth instead of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of times more.

This kind of material looks much better than chasing the same materials after they have smashed into the moon -

 
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Ok, I don't think that asteroid or any other mining will be economical anytime soon, nor colonization to expand our population for the same reason, it just takes too much to get stuff up there and back. But, ever since our ancestors left Africa, it's always been we just gotta see what's over there. The grass is greener syndrome.

Sure, eventually we could have sent some kind of remote devices from Europe or Africa to Asia, Australia, or the Americas, but, for the cost of wind, some food and water, and a ship, we just had to go there and see for ourselves. We've gotten some great stuff with robotics at the bottom of the sea, inside volcanoes, at Antarctica, and so forth, but, there is still nothing like seeing for ourselves. Scientific outposts in Antarctica and manned vessels to the Mariana Trench come to mind.

On a personal level, we wouldn't have to go on vacation and travel to see things we could in magazines, books, and on TV and the internet, but, those with a few bucks go there to see it anyway. Cool, thing: A few years ago, I walked on the rim of Mauna Loa which is now full of lava, couldn't go there now.

Robotics in space and on other bodies are great, but, I think we got almost as much in those three years and six Apollo flights for the technology we had at the time, than we did for many years afterward with robotics. There is just nothing like sticking our collective noses in new places, it's in our DNA. Others may disagree, but, having grown up with Sputnik, Mercury, Gemini, and all the others, I still got the 'Let's go there' bug.
 
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I wish NASA had a few extra bucks to send probes to Uranus and Neptune to arrive within my lifetime, we've been to all the other planets. And maybe probes to each of the satellites of the big planets. :sigh
 

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