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A new direction in space

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1 Author(s)
J. Merchant ; Loral Infrared & Imaging Syst., Lexington, MA, USA

From the very beginning of the Space Age, a fundamental issue has been whether space exploration should be conducted by manned missions or by unmanned missions. In a so-called unmanned mission, only inanimate systems are transported into space. In a manned mission, human beings are on board the spacecraft. A third option may now be available: an unmanned mission providing virtually the same subjective and objective effect as a manned mission, but with the much lower cost of an unmanned mission. The ongoing revolution in digital processing technology may now make it possible to develop the means for a human to be effectively there, without going there, over interplanetary distances. Unlike conventional robotic rover missions, this third option would be, both subjectively and objectively, virtually equivalent to a manned mission. The new (third) option for manned equivalent space exploration is based upon semi-autonomous control technology. Investment in this technology is likely to pay off with critically important industrial applications on Earth in the coming decades, no matter what may happen in space. Manned equivalent space exploration by this new approach will be much less expensive. and much more likely to prosper and to produce knowledge and commercial opportunities in space.<>

Published in:

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine  (Volume:13 ,  Issue: 4 )