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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Saturday, July 30, 2005
We'd Rather Have Disposable Vehicles and Reusable Astronauts
I've written before about my fondness of John Derbyshire. Two weeks ago he wrote for NRO a scathing assessment of our manned space program: The Folly of Our Age. It was profoundly sad to read, since I love our space program, and since he's completely right.

A few days ago, after analyzing the launch photos, NASA grounded future shuttle missions.
Since nobody has responded to this article, thought I would. I am soooo old I remember the manned space questions surrounding the moon. Even then, it was obvious that manned travel was "sexier" than probes and more likely to get peoples' attention and their money. Manned travel was also unnecessary to do the tasks that were done on the moon trips. Lots of good science has come out of our efforts to get men into space, but have we really learned anything of practical application once we were there? (things that we could not have learned with just machines in space) On the other side of the arguement, I just read an article about the simulation of a Mars trip. People are currently doing this on an island way up north. The author said that any of the people doing this simulation would jump at a chance to do a manned flight to Mars - even if the risk was enormous. He also pointed out, that the death rate for space exploration is lower than that for any other area of exploration throughout history-ie: northwest passage, Africa, etc. Man seems to always want to go "were no man has gone before" Svenmom
Svenmom: You're right. It's easier to get funding for manned travel because it's more newsworthy, but that's not a good argument for spending the money. Space travel in general may be safer than the other explorations you've mentioned, but I'm not sure that this applies to the space shuttle specifically, which as Derbyshire reminds us has killed 14 people in 113 flights.
I don't know if the statistics exist, but stories about the early exploration of the western hemisphere surely show a much higher than 10% death rate. I am sure that more than that died just from the rigors of travel and disease. The even earlier traveler hardly ever survived. We know that before 1492 Europeans did travel the Atlantic, almost none ever returned to Europe.I have always thought that unmanned travel was more practical. Practical does not often win the day. Svenmom
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