Unmanned Robotic Spacecraft Exploration Is More Than A Financial Analysis Exercise

2032 Words Jun 23rd, 2016 9 Pages
The controversy of whether to continue sending manned missions to space as opposed to completely transitioning to unmanned robotic spacecraft exploration is more than a financial analysis exercise, but is also one which questions the priority of human life in the pursuit of exploration. Every human launch comes with the risk of losing life which must be balanced against the possible scientific knowledge gained and the prospect of eventual human settlement in this “new” frontier. Space exploration should continue with a focus on manned missions due to the positive impacts of such programs on both culture and the contribution of scientific knowledge so long as the appropriate precautions are taken. The most obvious argument against manned spaceflight comes from the risks to an astronaut’s health. Astronauts on a round trip mission to Mars (180-day flight to Mars, 600-day stay, 180-day flight back) would experience about 1.01 sieverts of radiation exposure, a level which would increase their lifetime risk of developing fatal cancer by more than 3% and would consequentially violate NASA’s existing health limits (Institute). Other health concerns include impairments to vision, loss of bone and muscle mass in microgravity, and the psychological impact of extended space travel (Putic). In addition to these hazards, there may be additional risks associated with long-term space travel which are unforeseeable before the mission begins due to a lack of experience (Kramer). These…
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