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

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Each one of the moon landings were much bigger scale missions than all the robotic missions you are comparing to put together and a lot more expensive.
I never said they weren't.

Had the robotic missions started with similar payload capacity (and funding) they could have returned a lot more sample material, from much more varied locations. Bigger, better rovers, more on-board capability to do high quality analysis on the spot as well as capability to collect sample material for return to Earth is all easier and cheaper than using astronauts...
This is where we disagree. What I'm saying is that even if you threw the same amount of money at a robotic mission you aren't going to get equal results.

Robots can't do the 'high quality analysis on the spot' that you're talking about. The technology simply isn't there yet. Biology and geology research in places like Antarctica still requires people, and we're talking about doing the same sort of work on another planet.
 

Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
Take a rather extreme example. Just say hypothetically that robots found an extra terrestrial artifact, would they do more than send back a chemical analysis?

Cat :)
 
Dec 29, 2019
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This is where we disagree. What I'm saying is that even if you threw the same amount of money at a robotic mission you aren't going to get equal results.
No, you will get better results. They are going to go where people can't, cover ground people can't and have much bigger payloads to work with, which could support multiple rovers, deep drill rigs as well as high res orbital mappers. Where it is worth it, they can take risks people can't, all the way to self destruction. They will take high resolution pictures of everywhere they go, microscope images and analysis of both random and selected samples for Mission control and expert groups to examine at their leisure. Mission control can direct them to go back, change priorities, do specific things. If the analyzers on-board are good they can do high quality on the spot analysis - I expect them to have the best. Easier to prepare by including those than include astronauts, a vehicle, a base, a laboratory.

Of course I am talking about near future missions with the kinds of technologies we can expect to have, not the imaginary technologies we wish to have.

Take a rather extreme example. Just say hypothetically that robots found an extra terrestrial artifact, would they do more than send back a chemical analysis?
High quality photos, potentially down to microscopic details of surfaces and features would seem obvious. Thermal, x-ray, radar, magnetic, sonic... I think all of those could be, probably will be on-board. Even if the on-board systems didn't recognise it as e.t. artifact (I would count looking for those as unlikely to be a specific mission objective ) Mission Control and the experts on tap probably will and will send the rover back to do more, with strong likelihood of follow up missions, which will probably still be better done with remote machines, even as close as the moon. The urge to send people would be strong but I am not convinced that urge is entirely rational.

The ability to have a lot of robotic rovers for the same payload and or funding requirements and the ability to go places people can't makes it much more likely anything really rare and unusual will be found at all.
 
I am getting to this discussion rather late. But, reading through it, it seems to me that robots are being given a lot of undue credit for dexterity, unexpected condition recognition, etc.
Posters keep talking about AI, but AI needs to be trained. We are a long way from computers that can propagate themselves and a knowledge based culture, especially one as complicated as humans have produced. AI is great at finding patterns in huge amounts of data that basically just exhaust human attention spans and retention memory. But, recognizing the unexpected in unfamiliar information is not as good as a well trained human. Cat's example of a piece of space junk produced by extraterrestrial intelligence is a quick way to get everybody's attention, but landing on a solid surface and finding that it is floating on a subsurface ocean might be more easily picked up by a human than a computer.

I do agree that there is a lot more money, time and energy required to get humans on-site anywhere well away from Earth. And I do agree that it is best to send robots first. Also, pre-stage all necessary human support before sending the humans, which means a lot of robotics already on-site before humans are sent there.

But, in the end, whether it is worth sending humans will be a matter of how good robots have become at the time that missions are set to go.

And I think we should think hard about whether we really want to create robots that are better than we are at all things. Would they take over and become our masters? That is a typical Sci Fi theme, but a reality that we might create. Even if an army of super-capable drones were to still be commanded by a human, what if that human was a psychopathic dictator? I think we are probably safer sticking to the more or less single purpose robots that we build now to send to places that humans cannot go or really don't want to go. And, those are really not as capable as humans in dealing with the unexpected.
 

Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
Notwithstanding my previous example, I do agree that robots have definite advantages in some respects. They do not need all the life support paraphernalia required by humans, from temperature/atmosphere control to food provision and waste handling, and G-force limitation, et cetera. both in operation and during flight. Duration of flight is no problem. These factors are within our reach already today. Note that I said 'within our reach', and not 'immediately available'.

Cat :)
 
Dec 29, 2019
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I am getting to this discussion rather late. But, reading through it, it seems to me that robots are being given a lot of undue credit for dexterity, unexpected condition recognition, etc.
Posters keep talking about AI, but AI needs to be trained. We are a long way from computers that can propagate themselves and a knowledge based culture, especially one as complicated as humans have produced. AI is great at finding patterns in huge amounts of data that basically just exhaust human attention spans and retention memory. But, recognizing the unexpected in unfamiliar information is not as good as a well trained human. Cat's example of a piece of space junk produced by extraterrestrial intelligence is a quick way to get everybody's attention, but landing on a solid surface and finding that it is floating on a subsurface ocean might be more easily picked up by a human than a computer.

I do agree that there is a lot more money, time and energy required to get humans on-site anywhere well away from Earth. And I do agree that it is best to send robots first. Also, pre-stage all necessary human support before sending the humans, which means a lot of robotics already on-site before humans are sent there.

But, in the end, whether it is worth sending humans will be a matter of how good robots have become at the time that missions are set to go.

And I think we should think hard about whether we really want to create robots that are better than we are at all things. Would they take over and become our masters? That is a typical Sci Fi theme, but a reality that we might create. Even if an army of super-capable drones were to still be commanded by a human, what if that human was a psychopathic dictator? I think we are probably safer sticking to the more or less single purpose robots that we build now to send to places that humans cannot go or really don't want to go. And, those are really not as capable as humans in dealing with the unexpected.
Unclear - I am envisioning ongoing remote direction by Mission Control back on Earth, using machines that have a lot of autonomous functions but are not operating fully independently. Even where missions will struggle to maintain constant communications - say probes sent through ice into liquid water of an ice moon - the ability to pass data back periodically and receive updated instruction in light of what Mission Control thinks about it seems a very important function.

Dealing with the unexpected is going to be better done by Mission Control and Mission Control will work best on Earth, where all the expertise is. And I think thorough surveys of everything with high grade analysis by Earth's experts will be the best way to find and respond to the unexpected.
 
Ken,

We are already doing what you suggest in your post, to the best of our ability at the times we commit to constructing a design for a launch date.

And the results are clearly not the same as having a human on the far away site of operations. Examples are the problems we have with collecting rocks from Mars and asteroids, including such seemingly trivial things as getting material into containers, and getting those containers closed without jamming. We also have trouble keeping dust off solar collectors on Mars. And, there is the issue of micrometeorite damage that can happen to anything anywhere at any time.

So, things go much more slowly with robots than with humans on-site. True, you can always do the mission over, with improved robots next time. That is sort of what we have been doing on Mars for 50 years, starting with the Soviets in 1962.

Better robots with binary vision (especially in light frequencies humans cannot see), much better dexterity (able to walk and grasp with hands that can feel, twist, etc.), and far superior situational awareness and problem-solving capabilities would be able to do things a lot better and a lot faster. We can already make "robots" that can outmaneuver our fighter pilots, but those are basically automated airplanes, not automated pilots flying regular airplanes. Those automated airplanes cannot go for a beer at the airport after flying a mission.

So, all I am saying it that we still have a long way to go to make robots that can perform a well as humans in situations with poorly understood parameters or very complex combinations of parameters. (Airplane dog fighting is actually rather well defined, parametrically.)

I think we can make robots that can perform as well as or even better than well trained humans, eventually. But, I also worry that might not be such a good idea. Even if those robots are actually robots with limited AI, they would still be formidable weapons if their controls were in the hands of bad humans.
 
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Not this half of the century, I think I can make nanoparticles that only assemble rods into place in certain orientations. Without hands around, they likely can't operate CNC equipment. They (the metal or ceramic arms) would be safe for many factory operations, but not something like assembling an orbital neighbourhood from struts and plates. For that you'd want alot of human supervisors around. Just doing one or a few kinesthetic operations rotely, over and over, should be supervisible remotely with neutrinos in a century or less (metal affects neutrino mutation). Without agent based AI, hacking, dextrous robots, I'm thinking enough nanoscaling is possibly, assuming radiation resistant nanoparticles can be made to be repaired instead of making so many robotic parts.
 
Nov 19, 2021
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He needs to work where I work. Everybody is a supervisor. Well, that is until something goes wrong then no one is. We have a superposition of supervision.
 
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Sometimes Supervisors do the work. In a bakery one was the 3rd hardest worker and gave me pastries on break, but one in a shoe factory surely wound up in the ER recently getting sick.
I see the mechanical equivalent of protein folding as possible. I assume part of going to space is judging if what we can provide for day-to-day life, comparable to Earth. Ideally, when a big forest is there, the little aquariums, bio research, loss of pressure mitigation technologies, radiation protection, I'd like to come after the tourists and bring some micron self assembling tent apparatuses. The particles I'm planning will be like over-healed broken bones, fusing them with extra polycrystalline metals makes up for the glue being weaker than are the wires. That kind of product isn't suitable for advanced mechanical assembly feats.
If process improvement happens, assembly snaps and stuck equipment can be viewed by Supervisors with Raman to categorize what went wrong and shift engineers around.
 

Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
Does space science or exploration require people? For any research project?

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 was OP's question.

I think the answer must depend on what assumptions are made about the state of AI and robotic capabilities.

Cat :)
 
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Robots can gather data and perform defined tasks better than humans. Humans can fix things, improvise and think better than robots. The problem with humans is the huge cost in weight and complexity to allow them along for the ride. Bots should always preceed humans. It is probably time to put humans back on the Moon but it is too soon to put them on Mars. There is still lots of work to be done by bots and they are a better use of our limited funds.
 

Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
OP continues:
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.
Since he is considering colonizing space, he is already questioning a future scenario. Thus, to make any sense, we have to agree and define a time frame, and make assumptions about the state of AI and robotic capabilities, as well as considering the hypothetical question of human advancement, in order to be able to answer, or even discuss this question.

Cat :)
 
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The AI would be able to shift "line workers" around to max some production schedule. It won't be able to define what should be maxed. This will change all the time as real world events change. As battery metals fluctuate in value, forget using AI to match electric cars demand, you'll just get Enron eventually. I'd expect 9/10ths of smart AIs to turn themselves off or plateaued to prevent AGI and wind up in a really obscene 1/2 measure state of logic and existence.
 

Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
Does space science or exploration require people? For any research project?

But it is still impossible to address this question without assuming (and stating) a level of AI and robotic capability

For example, you can state that you are assuming that AI and robotic capability will be unchanged from present levels as space exploration progresses (unlikely), or you might assume that these are 'infinitely' higher, which would simply beg the question.

No such assumptions? Then the result is nonsense.

Cat :)
 

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