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Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report
not likely to suddenly improve just from the excitement of a human space mission. He noted that the launch of the first Sputnik satellite prompted the federal government to put money not only into space programs, but also into education programs. The greatest excitement at this time is being generated by unmanned programs; examples he gave were the Mars rovers and the Hubble Space Telescope. He concluded that the ability of human spaceflight to stir up excitement is not really a valid rationale.
International security. Goldston reflected on this as a valid rationale for Project Apollo in the 1960s but not in the first decade of the new century. He suggested that some may hope that the newly inaugurated Chinese manned spaceflight capability will provide some momentum for the new space exploration vision. Goldston noted further that the administration has framed its vision in terms of international cooperation, not of security.
Commerce. He called this rationale for human exploration an intriguing one but one not well developed by the White House. It seemed to him that no actions had been proposed or taken to get the commercial sector involved.
Far reaching ideas. Goldston said that ideas such as beaming energy from the Moon to Earth were often cited in passing, but seemingly without real thought or effort behind them.
Human destiny and exploring the unknown. Goldston called this the most legitimate rationale but also a complicated one. There is a public will to explore, but expanding our understanding of the world can be done with unmanned space probes. He said that the Lewis and Clark analogy doesn't quite work, because expanded human understanding of the solar system can occur without human missions. While concluding that this rationale needs more thought, Goldston said that Congress and the public may find it difficult to prioritize a mission motivated primarily by “human destiny.”
Goldston continued by addressing the question of appropriate roles for human and robotic exploration. He supported the administration’s notion of dropping the walls between human and robotic programs, but cautioned that even if the programs are intertwined they will continue to compete for money, so it is important not to sacrifice unmanned for manned missions. Goldston said that unmanned missions must continue to be assessed as they are now, with open, competitive peer review. They also should not be slaves to manned missions. There are legitimate goals for unmanned space exploration. Manned space missions should not be justified by designing robotics that must be maintained and supported by humans; use humans only when necessary. Politics should not drive the design of space exploration.
Goldston then spoke of public support for spaceflight. It has always been iffy, he said. There needs to be open, public discussion without hype. Goldston felt that NASA should have such a dialogue, especially about cost, and that this could improve NASA's credibility. He encouraged the panel and the workshop to so inform NASA. He concluded his remarks by noting that in a recent hearing before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, NASA was unclear about how much the new space exploration vision would cost.