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Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report
imperative, asked Trimble? David Goldston responded that NASA had set aside a share of its budget for humans and a share for robot-conducted science. This established partitioning is good for robotic science and keeps it from being devoured by the human spaceflight programs, but he said he was nervous about setting an arbitrary dollar figure. A program should prove that human spaceflight content is necessary to its good. Goldston, observing that when Congress considers the budget, NASA competes with other federal science institutions like the National Science Foundation, asked for public input on the proposition that we need human spaceflight for its own sake and on the value that should be attached to such flight. Neil Armstrong then opined that had the space station program been allowed to proceed as originally planned, without congressional delays, the station would now be complete and at a fraction of the present cost.
Dava Newman then suggested that the question, Should we separate the human and robotic efforts? is the wrong question to ask, that we're confusing the issue. Are not humans and robotics part of a whole system needing integration? she asked, suggesting that systems analysis be used to study exploration opportunities and architectures be allowed to determine what the roles are and how they are best performed. Goldston responded that he believed Congress would like to see this done. There are enormous and artificial divisions within the NASA culture inhibiting this integration, said Shirley, who has written an article on the subject.3 Huntress believed that the Apollo program—which landed the first humans on the Moon—would never have succeeded had the human and robotic elements not been totally intertwined. When that program ended, robotics found a customer in the science community and did well. Now it has two customers: the same science community and the human support function. That division of labor needs to be made clearer. Goldston responded that, although such division is a good idea, it would not decouple the “what” from the “when.” Gary Martin interjected that in the Mars exploration program the robotic missions will look for water, the source of life as we know it. The human missions that ensue will do science that follows up those robotic explorers. Humans can recognize something out of the ordinary, something interesting, which is, he said, a unique ability. Donna Shirley disagreed with that statement, saying that robots merely extend human senses in distance and wavelength. Armstrong contended that, by Capek’s definition, we really have not had robots yet. Quoting from the plant manager in Capek’s play Rossum's Universal Robots, he joked that “Robots remember everything but think of nothing new. They would make very good university professors.” Eric Rice asked the final question of the session: How can implementation of the new exploration policy better engage the public? Donna Shirley responded that NASA had looked into that and that Mark Craig, at the Johnson Space Center, should be asked. Gary Martin concluded by saying that NASA was having surveys done—listening to what the public says on the subject to better understand what that public would like to see from its space program.
D.L. Shirley, The myths of Mars: Why we’re not there yet, and how to get there, Workshop on Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, Tex., July 18-20, 2000.