Robots in space

… are much cheaper than people. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is projected to cost a total of $686 million over 6 years, according to this year’s NASA budget (PDF – see page 320). This is roughly half of a single launch of the space shuttle but the MRO is designed to send back a torrent of scientific data about Mars. Yet, there is still this silly obsession with putting humans on Mars.

To contribute to the four science goals, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has the following science objectives:
1. Characterize the present climate of Mars and its physical mechanisms of seasonal and interannual climate change
2. Determine the nature of complex layered terrain on Mars and identify water-related landforms
3. Search for sites showing evidence of aqueous and/or hydrothermal activity
4. Identify and characterize sites with the highest potential for landed science and sample return by future Mars missions
5. Return scientific data from Mars landed craft during a relay phase
MRO Objectives

Humans on Mars? What for? What can humans do on Mars that a well-designed robot cannot do? Seems that the challenges of putting humans into space has the potential to interfere with actual science, because it uses up so much more resources (=taxpayer dollars). Especially at times of tight budgets, manned space flight is a luxury, maybe even a vanity, we cannot afford.

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