35

Between them, Spirit and Opportunity spent the equivalent of 22 years performing geology fieldwork on Mars. In that time, they managed a scientific output comparable to what a single geology grad student could do in two weeks. Between them, Luna 16, Luna 20, Luna 24, and Chang'e 5 returned about 2.3 kg of material from four sampling sites. Neil Armstrong, ...


32

One of the most important reasons is that robots don't make great interview partners. A significant part of space missions is outreach and inspiring people. Another important part is giving people a different view of our planet. Astronauts over and over again describe the awesome feeling of being able to see how small and fragile our planet is, and the ...


23

Equirectangular. Note that in all of the images that uhoh linked (a b c), the grid squares on the map are the same size and shape at all points on the map. Here's an example from this question, apparently showing a screen from the ISS MCC: also showing how all the grid elements are the same shape in all places on the map, though they're not squares here.


7

Why is the physical presence of people in spacecraft still necessary? Because robotics and AI aren't so developed as to totally replace humans (who are very versatile). Having said that, there are lots of robotic space probes and landers, but not too many people in space.


6

Necessity Why is anything "necessary"? Who gets to define that? The biological imperative, if you will, is to survive, reproduce, and exploit every niche. Look all over the planet, and you will see that living systems have done exactly that, to a degree well beyond human engineering. If space is a new niche for humans, especially other planets, ...


5

Why is the physical presence of people in spacecraft still necessary? The physical presence of people on most spacecraft is not necessary, not even those rated to carry passengers. Having humans doing the exploring in person is mostly aspirational rather than actual; most space exploration has been done remotely, using probes of varying complexity and ...


4

Even if robots were still used for most of the fieldwork (which I think is likely even with a human presence because spacesuits, and the humans inside them, are fragile and expensive), having a human in a habitat nearby would be a great advantage for scientific research. Due to communication delays and often the lack of a stable radio connection, near real-...


3

Speed of light For Mars, at its closest point it takes 3m 22s to get a signal one way. We would need another 3m 22s to see what's happened. At its furthest we're looking at 24m each way. So good remote control is basically impossible. We don't have good AI yet, so we only have three options for craft we send out into space. They can be pretty dumb and just ...


2

There is a serious advantage to being able to make complex decisions, perhaps even moral decisions, on board the spacecraft without any lag due to the speed of light. For the sake of argument, imagine a robotic emissary encounters life on the nearby Jovian moon Europa, which immediately offers some kind of complex moral test to determine whether they will ...


1

Apart from everything else that's been mentioned: many times, one of the questions that the mission is trying to answer is "how well can humans do X in space" for some value of X. It should be reasonably obvious that you need some humans in space in order to answer such questions. NASA's website currently lists some 249 such experiments (plus 40 &...


1

While robotics has made huge strides, robots have not even approached surpassing many of the basic general-purpose abilities of humans equipped with suitable tools, and the potential for robots to actually do that does not belong to the field of mechatronic engineering or controls theory , but to the wild dreams and nightmares of "futurists". (It ...


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