Astronauts: April 2010 Archives

Humans on Mars? Forget it, opinion, Simon Ramo, LA Times

"But is this a worthy goal? It appears increasingly doubtful that an astronaut could accomplish something useful on Mars not already being done by robots at far less cost and with little danger to humans."

Proceedings from the NASA Administrator's Symposium: "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and the Stars", NASA Administrator's Symposium, September 26-29, 2004
Session Three: The Stars (PDF)

Pages 178-179 [Mars Exploration Rover PI Steve Squyres] "I'd like to finish this on a slightly lighter note by telling you a story. We had a lot of discussion yesterday about humans versus robots. And as the robot guy here, I want to tell a story about the experience that I had that really taught me a lot about that particular topic. We were at first trying to figure out how to use a set of rovers on Mars to really do scientific exploration. The technology folks at JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] built a wonderful little vehicle called FIDO. And FIDO was a great test rover - you could take it out in the field and you didn't worry about getting a few scratches in the paint.

We took it out to a place called Silver Lake in the Mojave Desert about 1997. And we went out there and it was the first time I had ever been out in the field. So I went out there with my team - a bunch of really high-priced geologic talent - some serious field geologists. And we got the rover out there and, of course, the rover breaks down. First time I've ever been out in the field, it's dusty, it's dirty, you know, the rover's not working. So okay, what am I going to do with all these bored geologists I've got on my hands? So I said, "Look, let's go on a geology walk. Let's go on a little field trip." So everybody got their boots and their rock hammers and their hand lenses and everything. And I picked up a notebook and a stopwatch. And we walked out to a nearby ridge where I knew there was some interesting geology exposed and we sat down - or rather I sat down - and they went off and they started geologizing.

And I started timing them. You know, how long does it take for Andy Knoll to walk over to that rock? How long does it take Ray Arvidson to pick that thing up and break it open with his rock hammer and look at it with a hand lens? And they were doing a lot of things that our rovers couldn't do, but I focused on the things they were doing that our rovers could do. And, you know, I did it as quantitatively as I could - this was hardly a controlled experiment. And when I looked at the numbers afterwards, what I found was that what our magnifi cent robotic vehicles can do in an entire day on Mars, these guys could do in about 30 - 45 seconds.

We are very far away from being able to build robots - I'm not going to see it in my lifetime - that have anything like the capabilities that humans will have to explore, let alone to inspire. And when I hear people point to Spirit and Opportunity and say that these are examples of why we don't need to send humans to Mars, I get very upset. Because that's not even the right discussion to be having. We must send humans to Mars. We can't do it soon enough for me. You know, I'm a robot guy. I mean, I love Spirit and Opportunity - and I use a word like "love" very advisedly when talking about a hunk of metal.

But I love those machines. I miss them. I do. But they will never, ever have the capabilities that humans will have and I sure hope you send people soon."

Human spaceflight: diversify the portfolio, Alan Stern, Space Review

"The American people expect big things from our nation's human space flight enterprise. Tragically, however, for the past 20+ years, our country's civil human spaceflight effort hasn't been able to deliver big things, such as historic exploration milestones at far away destinations, or advancing the cause of easy human access to near-space locales. What we need now is more than just a flexible path. We need parallel paths. Instead, human spaceflight in the United States has struggled just to keep its sole domestic transportation system, the Space Shuttle, flying a few times per year, and to complete the assembly of its sole destination--the International Space Station."

Colbert coming to Houston for astronaut training (with video), Houston Chronicle

"Stephen Colbert's mission to save the space program has earned him an invitation from NASA to undergo astronaut training. And he has accepted. Colbert told his audience: "I never in a million years thought I would see the day when I would want to go to Houston. NASA, I accept!" Colbert says he will be in Houston in May. Get ready to blast off, NASA."

Without Shuttles, Astronauts' Careers May Stall, NPR

"NASA administrator and former astronaut Charlie Bolden talked about that prospect when he visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida earlier this year, saying it would be a different approach for NASA to rent not just the space vehicle, but also a private crew of astronauts to go with it. "We need to have the discussion of how important is it to have a career astronaut contingent, as opposed to none," Bolden said. He said that NASA's international partners like the idea of an elite corps, and that he doubted some random person could quickly be trained to perform at the same level as NASA astronauts, who have devoted their lives to preparing for work in space. "We need to have the discussion of what the future -- the next generation of astronauts -- will be like," Bolden said."

History for Sale

The Manual Pages That Saved Apollo 13, Gizmodo

"On April 13, 1970--321,860 kilometers into its Moon trip--an oxygen tank exploded in the Odyssey's Service Module. James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise had a really big problem. These pages saved their lives. The pages--with notes from Lovell--will be up for auction April 13 at Bonhams in New York."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Astronauts category from April 2010.

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