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Manned Space Exploration. Ancient History?
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I've been reading about the troubles with the International Space Station, on top of the Shuttle's woes.

We were supposed to be building bases on Mars by now. That's what I imagined, more than forty years ago, when I watched on TV Alan Shephard's small hop into space. Today the space program is older than TV was back then and where are we? Still floating around in earth orbit and not even doing that very well.

I used to think manned space exploration was vital but technology has changed my mind. It is grossly expensive, and still unsafe, to put people physically into the hostile environment beyond our planet, and given the advances in computers and robotics, what is the point? Man's genius isn't what he can do with his bare hands, his own meager senses, but with tools. A human being can't scoop up Martian earth in his hand anyway. What is the difference if a man wields a shovel with the stiff glove of a spacesuit or by keying commands into a distant computer? Is it less an accomplishment? Certainly no less is accomplished.

The only real limiting factor in unmanned space exploration would seem to be the time it takes for distant sensors to send their findings back to the human operator and the operator's response to creep back at lightspeed. How often would a catastrophic emergency arise that could not be coped with by computer intelligence, but would be solvable, by human intervention, within a few minutes? I would think in the hostile environment of space, where a spacefarer is utterly dependent on machinery and computers, such a situation would be unlikely to ever occur.

So I'm content for future space explorers to depend on tools. I can't say I'd achieve more if I tried to write without wearing my eyeglasses, let alone trashed my computer, and eschewed a typewriter, or a pencil, and scrapped out words in the mud with a stick. Heck even a stick is a tool. So are words.

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