Not that astronauts necessarily stink. Well, actually, they probably do after a while, but I suppose one gets used to it.
Anyway, we are all faced, or at least those of us who live in countries that have rocket ships all face, the question of personed vs. un-personed space flight as a way of doing science abroad and related quests. I’m not sure myself what I think about it, but considering the huge cost and difficulty, and the physical limitations, of using humans to run instruments on other planets or in space, and the sheer impossibility of human space missions really far away, the best approach is probably to use a lot of robots. Continue reading We Don’t Need No Stinking Astronauts: The History of Unmanned Space Exploration
I’ve been enjoying Worlds Fantastic, Worlds Familiar: A Guided Tour of the Solar System by Bonnie Buratti.
Burratti is a planetary astronomer at NASA’s JPL, and is the head of the Comets, Asteroids and Satellites Group. She was a key player in the Voyager program, and in the research done with the Cassini-Huygens, and New Horizons space ships.
Worlds Fantastic, Worlds Familiar: A Guided Tour of the Solar System is a personal exploration of what it is like to personally (via robots) explore our solar system, and at the same time, a systematic accounting of the solar system. The story is told, I think, as a geologist might tell it, about land forms and surface features. In other words, it is a somewhat finer scale look at the very big scale picture of the solar system, which is something that could not possibly have been done prior to the exploration of that solar system with these various flying robots. Which, Bonnie Buratti herself flew, directed, or otherwise played around with.
It was May, 1992, and I was in a stupor of post thesis-completion cortisol letdown and alcohol-induced lethargy, and Mark Pagel was talking to me as I slouched in a large comfortable chair in the Peabody Museum’s smoking lounge.
“It’s obvious what they need to do,” he was saying, and I could tell from the look on his face, even in my foggy state of mind, that a morsel of wisdom marinated in humor was about to be served up.
Continue reading Liquid Wrench: Profanity in a Bottle