Does space science or exploration require people? For any research project?

May 20, 2022
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Can someone tell me what scientific research which tells us something about space (any location), is better done with people than with robotic spacecraft?

This is a serious question. I know that if we are to colonize space, we need to send people. And if we need to learn about people in space, we need to send people to space. But if the goal is to learn about space, or to explore space, what research project is better done with people? By "better" I mean a combination of cheaper, more accurate, and safer.

If someone says "analyze moon rocks in 100 different ways", well obviously, a lunar soil return mission is vastly cheaper, better, and safer (all three) then sending people.

I've heard the argument that people are needed to repair broken equipment (like Hubble), but I've also heard that sending 5 Hubbles into orbit would have been cheaper (and obviously better, and obviously safer) than sending one Hubble and having it serviced by people five different times (which is what we did).

Any counter examples, given current technology?

Joshua
 

Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
One point is that, when great distances are concerned, a decision cannot be relied on in time from distant humans. Hence humans must be on site.
I have in mind the 2 day gap in communicating with Voyager.
This may actually just be a subsidiary factor - coming back to the question asking what space tasks require distant human participation.

I suppose one example might be qualitative assessment, such as some research involving microscopy (bugs in space?)

Cat :)
 
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May 20, 2022
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One point is that, when great distances are concerned, a decision cannot be relied on in time from distant humans. Hence humans must be on site.
I understand the theory, but I've never seen an actual example. What specific decisions would a human need to make for which specific scientific research or exploration? Mars rovers have roamed all over Mars doing experiments. Obviously, the combination of robots on site and remote humans works very well for that. In the future that is going to be more true not less true.

I suppose one example might be qualitative assessment, such as some research involving microscopy (bugs in space?)
Couldn't the robot do the qualitative assessment? What sort of qualitative assessment are you referring to? The robot could send pictures or videos home, so the only issue would be if a quick decision were needed. But even then, I would expect the robot to do the assessment.

But in any case, I'm asking for a specific, real world example. Do you have one in mind?

Joshua
 
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Jan 29, 2020
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Some health research. And anything with a WMD potential. If you can destroy one city no, but ten is maybe enough an attack. If you can blot out the sun with mylar, it can be burned through. But if you have lots of silver reflectors you might "succeed". If the goal is a colony, the research for it along the way benefits being manned.
I image hacking eventually becomes enough a risk near the end of the century it is nearly all manned. If you don't get lots of water to an asteroid outpost it may need to be unmanned is the converse. There are some things humans are smarter at. Whether to collect rock samples or frozen slush after reaching a destination and observing the geology, might use reasoning too hard for 2030 AI. If I'm preparing radar against Saturn space pirates, the AI won't be able to configure the best defenses not knowing the limits of imagination. For space diseases, I can't imagine ever using AI to even determine if we should J.Toews ourselves and distance from new Earthlings.
Addenum: if the goal is research done by a future Triton or brown dwarf ice moon colony, every colony along the way that isn't at an imminent risk of natural space death, will benefit the goal by trying manned research. The Armageddon actor who got space dementia would take over certain colonies, and not others even with lots of medical imaging. If you do your research manned along the way, you extinguish the risk. If you use algorithms instead, it takes longer to get to the goal of improving space society, as you have to learn to research as humans regardless if you do it along the way or have safe software do it. It would be like hacking your way into nuclear technology rather than learning it yourself: India didn't have medical gases for Covid.
 
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Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
An example might be microscopic examination of previously unknown microorganisms. Could a robot decide whether it was already known, or be able to say that it was previously unknown?

Cat :)
 
May 20, 2022
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An example might be microscopic examination of previously unknown microorganisms. Could a robot decide whether it was already known, or be able to say that it was previously unknown?
Yes, in three different ways:
1. By sending the images back to earth for comparison by humans or by automated image recognition.
2. By sending the whole sample back to earth for comparison.
3. By using image recognition to identify the organism on the probe.
The first two are already much cheaper, faster, and safer than sending a person. The third is a little more experimental, but I suspect it would turn out much cheaper, faster and safer as well.

It should be pretty obvious that for any question that can be answered with a sample, that sample return is cheaper, faster, and safer than a crewed mission. We already have sample return missions to more places than we have crewed missions.

Joshua
 

Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
What if an immediate answer is required? The human would have to be there.
Image recognition would not be sufficiently accurate? Shape won't work. No tiger stripes or leopard spots.
If the robot can't identify it, does that mean it is unknown. I am no biochemist (although I have a science degree) - perhaps you can suggest identifying characteristics?

So the answer is not pretty obvious if you are 10 light years away. (This is obviously a hypothetical question)

Cat :)
 
May 20, 2022
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What if an immediate answer is required? The human would have to be there.
Image recognition would not be sufficiently accurate? Shape won't work. No tiger stripes or leopard spots.
My answer 3. By using image recognition to identify the organism on the probe. Covers that situation perfectly. We already have facial recognition which can identify one face out of millions. Obviously the same technology could identify one microorganism right now. But even if not, we could spend a billions dollars to develop that technology, and it would still be much cheaper, much faster, and much safer, then sending a person.

As a secondary question, my sort of real world research or exploration requires responses that fast? Right now, it is common to drive on Mars, do some research, decide where to go (back on earth), and then drive there. What sort of real world research would require that sort of decision making?

So the answer is not pretty obvious if you are 10 light years away. (This is obviously a hypothetical question)
We can't send people 10 light years away, so this is a meaningless comment. Remember my original question: what scientific research or exploration can be done better with people. We can not send people 10 light years away, so obviously people can not be better than robots for that work. (In fact, we can't send robots, either, so for that work, they are equal.)

Joshua
 
Jul 30, 2021
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If someone says "analyze moon rocks in 100 different ways", well obviously, a lunar soil return mission is vastly cheaper, better, and safer (all three) then sending people.
Look at the troubles they had with the Preserverence rover early on just getting the sample into the tube.

With current technology a manned mission can cover more ground faster and acquire more interesting samples than any robotic mission could. You can do a lot of great science with robots, but if you want to do serious excavation you really need a person there running the machines.
 
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