Why don't we just send astronauts on deep space trips?
There are several reasons we do not do this:
- Mass: Astronauts and everything it takes to keep them alive in space
are very massive. For comparison, the entire solar array has less mass than
half that of a human being. Astronauts need a lot more room than computers
or other automated equipment, and bigger craft are heavier. Greater mass will
require much more fuel for take off and a much more complex design.
- Technology: As of yet, technology that could sustain astronauts
for that long hasn't been proven to be reliable. Although we have space stations
around Earth, these are provided with fresh supplies on a timely basis. DS1
will be gone for over a year.
- Safety: Deep space is a dangerous place. We don't entirely understand
what those dangers are and can't plan for them. Also, DS1's mission will take
it in harm's way, from flying close to an asteroid to orbiting Mars.
- Cost: A manned mission to Mars would be very expensive, both to get
the astronauts and their equipment off Earth and to care for them as they
travel to Mars and back. DS1 is part of the New Millennium Program that is
designed to send low-cost unmanned missions into space.
- Round Trip Tickets: We haven't yet colonized Mars, so any mission
that gets to Mars carrying human beings has to return to Earth, which would
more than double the cost in terms of fuel and supplies. Remote agents don't
need to come home---DS1 will eventually lose contact and "die" from not getting
enough sunlight. (All that said, however, NASA is planning to send astronauts
to Mars in the year 2015. DS1 will help us learn more about getting to Mars
in preparation for that mission.)
- Loneliness, isolation and cabin fever: NASA can't do long missions
quickly, nor can it support large communities in space. That means that a
very small group of astronauts would be trapped together in a small space
for many months together, with no private space or ability to get away or
communicate easily with people outside the spacecraft. This would wear on
the nerves of the most easygoing person.
was Remote Agent chosen to go on DS1?
What are the advantages of remote agents?
What happens to a ship when its remote agent dies?
How does NASA run space
is the New Millennium Program?
What will DS1 do on its mission?
Why is mass (weight)
Why do space missions take so