View Full Version : Human vs. Robot exploration of Mars - a hybrid compromise

2008-Jul-05, 10:24 PM
This is kind of an obvious point when you think about it, but one I rarely hear when people debate human vs. robotic extraterrestrial exploration.

The advances in robotics are as breathtaking as those in astronomy itself. Check out the superb Robots podcast (http://www.robotspodcast.com/) for great up-to-the-minute coverage:


And its equally superb predecessor, the Talking Robots (http://lis.epfl.ch/podcast) podcast, especially the later episodes, which just seemed to get better & better with each one:


Once you're up to speed with what's happening in robotics, it's a small step to see that a highly useful transitional step between Earth-controlled robots on Mars (i.e. the Martian rovers up there now), and landing fragile fleshly humans on that inhospitable globe to wander around wearing awkward suits, would be to have highly advanced robots, humanoid and otherwise, exploring the Martian surface while controlled not from Earth, with all the problems of constrained bandwidth & massive time delay, but from humans ensconced in the relative comfort (relative to being on the Martian surface) of a radiation-shielded Mars-orbiting craft.

I think with the highly functional humanoid & non-humanoid robots rapidly being developed, there is little that space-suited humans could do on Mars that such robots could not, except for the lack of the uniquely powerful, creative, and spontaneous human brain.

Having those human brains controlling the robots with near instantaneity from Mars-orbit would provide pretty much all the advantages of human explorers without the massive difficulties of safely landing humans on the Martian surface, keeping them alive & healthy there, and bringing them back up off the surface again.