Scrap Manned Space Program In Favor Of Robots

Guest Columnist


Over the last couple of weeks you could not watch a news report without some reference to the fortieth anniversary of the Moon landing on July 20, 1969.
The supporters of manned space exploration were using the date to promote a 2020 manned return to the Moon and a 2045 manned landing on Mars.  They dragged out the Apollo crews for interviews for all to hear and see

What you did not hear or see much about was the projected cost$500,000,000,000.

That’s billion with a lot of zeros.
While there was a whole lot of Trekian hoopla about “boldly going where no man has gone before,  there was nothing beyond ego driving this 25 year mission.

No one was answering the simple question of “why?
Ask yourself, if manned space flight to the Moon was such a good idea why have we waited all this time to go back?
The simple truth is that the Moon landing was a Cold War political decision. Ever since the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik, we had been playing catch-up. 
The Moon landing was a rather expensive “In Yo’ Commie face. 
The irony is that “manned space exploration is the biggest drag on productive space exploration.
Ninety-eight percent of the cost of a manned round trip to Mars comes from building a craft that is safe for humans. 
To make that one trip, we give up the opportunity to make dozens of unmanned trips which cost $2-3 billion each. We can do it right now.
Failure of a manned trip to Mars would set back space exploration decades. 
It comes down to this.  Is your image of space exploration Captain Jean-Luc Picard or Data?  Is it Han Solo or 3CPO.
I’m going with the robots. 

We have the Artificial Intelligence computing power and the mechanics.  The only real drag is the battery system.  I am sure we can solve that problem for a lot less than $500 billion. 
And that one breakthrough would have an incredible impact on our economy.  It would mean electric cars with a 1000 mile range and a five-minute recharge. 
Manned space flight?  Maybe we get grape-flavored Tang.

7 Responses to “Scrap Manned Space Program In Favor Of Robots”

  1. Fields Wrong Again says:

    The manned space program employs thousands of scientists to figure out who to put and keep a man in space. There is the potential of many discoveries that could be used on earth, such as in deep sea work and new light weight materials. Fields is right that we could be sending unmanned space ships, but these wouldn’t push the envelop and help us develop new technologies, like manned vehicles would. Those long-life batteries Fields mentioned would be part of the package. We are in a technological death match with China. We had better do something to keep an edge.

  2. Sam Fields says:

    Dear Fields Wrong Again,

    You are suggesting that we put all our expensive eggs in one basket–a single flight to Mars in 2045? For what?

    There is no evidence that this program will produce more jobs of sicentific advancment than a robotic program. What is clear is that it will suck all the air–read money–out of the room.

    Also there will be less reason to develop long life batteries which are currently the Achilles heal of all technology.

    Consider this. If the batterys in laptops had improved at the same rate as speed and capacity you would only have to recharge every six months rather than every six hours.

    Humans don’t require batteries, but they do require food, water, bathrooms, oxygen,etc. all of this means wasting capacity for non-productive items.

    Think about what happens if someone has a heart attack or gets cancer.

    Most of all what happens if a technological failure detroys the mission.

    Right now we could implant space stations on the Moon and Mars and have return trips with material from the red Planet. Why wait until 2045. There is only one reason—ego.

  3. Why says:

    We shouldn’t waste money on the space program at all. Use the money to research alternative energy and new treatments for diseases. That’s much more useful.

  4. Marty Rubinstein says:

    More of the same short sighted crap we’ve heard in the 60’s and 70’s.

  5. Sam Fields says:

    Dear Marty,
    What does that mean?

  6. Sam Fields says:

    Dear Marty,
    What does that mean?

  7. Marty Rubinstein says:


    The answer is much long for this venue. So read the answer at