Luddites and space exploration

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Philip
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Luddites and space exploration

Post by Philip » Wed Jun 09, 2004 12:20 am

On the JREF forum, when posters have pointed out the inefficiency of manned space exploration, others have compared them to Luddites.

Bob Park has made the point several times in his weekly commentaries that the ones who are really following in the path of Ned Ludd are those who insist on manned space exploration to the detriment of real science.

The Luddites were opposed to mechanization of the weaving process. They insisted everything should be done by the human hand.

Today, those obsessed with manned space exploration refuse to accept that it's better to send hundreds of robotic explorers for less than the cost of one manned mission.

The usual justifications for manned missions are pretty lame.

The interest in the robotic Mars missions shows that the public will support space science even without manned missions.

The claim that space colonization can solve the problem of Earth's overpopulation is especially inane. Does anybody think we can put 150 people per minute into space and build self-sustaining habitats for them?

The remaining reason is basically that we should do it just because it makes some people feel good - the same justification some people give for tolerating John Edward and Sylvia Browne.

Right now, all the real scientific benefits of space exploration can be gained by use of our remotely controlled hands, eyes, and scientific intruments on robotic explorers like Spirit and Opportunity.

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Luke T.
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Post by Luke T. » Wed Jun 09, 2004 12:29 am

Were you alive and of age to remember when Armstrong set foot on the moon?

Profound.
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Luke T.
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Post by Luke T. » Wed Jun 09, 2004 12:33 am

I think the analogy to Luddites is wrong because people who want manned space flight are not actually opposed to automated spaceflight in addition to manned space flight.
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Geni
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Post by Geni » Wed Jun 09, 2004 12:36 am

You want mankind to have a long term future? Manned space flight is a must.

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Post by Hexxenhammer » Wed Jun 09, 2004 2:27 am

Several things I've read recently will hopefully make this argument moot. Discover magazine did a great story on the Space Elevator. Very exciting I think, and potentially freaking amazing. The second is Burt Ruttan and his reusable manned spacecraft. Stay tuned, the launch is at the end of the month. One thing in common here. Private industry will get this done WAY before the government does.
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Abdul Alhazred
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Re: Luddites and space exploration

Post by Abdul Alhazred » Wed Jun 09, 2004 1:13 pm

I wish people would stop referring to anti-technology woo-woos
as "Luddites". This includes the "Luddites" themselves.

The original Luddites were a guild of skilled weavers who were
put out of work by the introduction of machines that let unskilled
workers do their job.

The unskilled workers in question were their own children who
were literally being worked to death.

So their battle cry was "smash the machines!"

Their approach may have been wrong, and the industrial
revolution turned out for the best in the long run, but I rather
like the original Luddites.

Not so the modern "Luddites".

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Post by Evolver » Wed Jun 09, 2004 8:53 pm

Yeah, you can get loads of information from unmanned probes, but sending people to other planets would just be too cool.
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Post by Nigel » Thu Jun 10, 2004 2:05 pm

As recently as 2 years ago, I would have (and did) argue vehemently for manned space missions. I still think they're important, but less so than robotic missions. I agree, the arguments are usually not justifiable (sending humans is just too cool; it's the way we've always done it - Magellan didn't send a robot around the world). Emotionally, I say it's the only way to explore. Economically, it's probably best for the robots to go.

Tough decision, and one I'm glad I don't really have to make.

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Mark
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Post by Mark » Thu Jun 10, 2004 2:49 pm

Limit our birth rate, or move into space. There is no 3rd option (unless you count mass human extinction as an option). Personally, I'd rather see us move into space.
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Post by Sundog » Thu Jun 10, 2004 2:55 pm

Mark wrote:Limit our birth rate, or move into space. There is no 3rd option (unless you count mass human extinction as an option). Personally, I'd rather see us move into space.
Even if we move into space we'll still have to limit our birth rate. It simply isn't possible to move enough people off the planet to make a dent in the population.

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Mark
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Post by Mark » Thu Jun 10, 2004 2:57 pm

Sundog wrote:
Mark wrote:Limit our birth rate, or move into space. There is no 3rd option (unless you count mass human extinction as an option). Personally, I'd rather see us move into space.
Even if we move into space we'll still have to limit our birth rate. It simply isn't possible to move enough people off the planet to make a dent in the population.
True...although if they actually build the space elevator, that may change very quickly, I think.

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Re: Luddites and space exploration

Post by xouper » Sat Jun 12, 2004 8:08 am

Philip wrote:Today, those obsessed with manned space exploration refuse to accept that it's better to send hundreds of robotic explorers for less than the cost of one manned mission.
Nice straw man. And it also depends on how you define "better".
The usual justifications for manned missions are pretty lame.
OK, so you don't agree with those justifications. Reaonable people can disagree on this issue. Doesn't make them lame.

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Cecil
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Post by Cecil » Sat Jun 12, 2004 11:23 pm

Sundog wrote:
Mark wrote:Limit our birth rate, or move into space. There is no 3rd option (unless you count mass human extinction as an option). Personally, I'd rather see us move into space.
Even if we move into space we'll still have to limit our birth rate. It simply isn't possible to move enough people off the planet to make a dent in the population.
I think the birth rate is falling off quite nicely regardless. Most developed countries have growth rates less than 2%, some have negative growth rates (China, West Germany), and last time I checked Japan was worried about its falling birth rate and providing incentives to spur people to have more children.

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Post by Mr.Weasel » Mon Jun 14, 2004 4:33 am

it's the way we've always done it - Magellan didn't send a robot around the world
1519 - Magellan begins his journey to circumnavigate the world with five ships and 270 men.

1521 - April 27, Magellan killed by natives in the Philippines.

1522 - September 6, eighteen of Magellan's crew and one ship return.

If robotic exploration were available in Magellan's time, I would have advocated using it before sending people off in the types of ships that were used then.

--------------------------------------
Were you alive and of age to remember when Armstrong set foot on the moon?

Profound.
Yes, I was and, yes, it was. I believe Kennedy made the right call (despite the risks and loss of life). In 2004, I believe it is more appropriate to cut back on manned missions and increase unmanned missions.

I was also alive for the Challenger diaster and the Columbia disaster. Those, too, were profound.

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exarch
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Post by exarch » Wed Jun 16, 2004 2:13 pm

I think the Mars probes, although sending back tons of interesting information, end up breaking down or otherwise not being useful any more after a while (stuck on a rock?). Unlike unmanned probes, humans can fix things, or physically upgrade sensors/tools to perform new functions they weren't designed for to begin with. How much would we know about America if Columbus had only sent unmanned probes that performed as well as the Mars probes have so far? And at similar time intervals?

I'm sure unmanned missions to Mars will continue to provide us with all the data needed for years to come, but there will come a point in time where it's just easier (not cheaper, easier) to send a bunch of humans to have the necessary level of intelligence present to adapt to unforeseen situations that might arise.

But it's a gradual process. Right now, we already have an orbital space station. At some point, there will be lunar bases as well, where low gravity experiments can be performed, as well as being a jumping board to the rest of the solar system. Mars is next, and so on.

Whether planets will ever be colonized like America was (centuries) after its discovery is another thing, but a permanent human presence is almost certainly going to be a fact.
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