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 ...


12

Yes, Hubble is actively controlled from the ground. See this NASA page on Hubble Mission Operations Examples include monitoring and adjusting the spacecraft’s subsystems (e.g., power, thermal, data management, pointing control, etc.), flight software development, sustaining engineering of the control center hardware and software, and systems ...


8

While the Mission Control Center's (MCC) Real Time Computer Complex (RTCC) was designed, as the name says, to receive and process data to the consoles in real time, it also recorded the voice and telemetry data ("logging"). "Delogging" was the the process of going back into the recorded data and extracting desired parameters for a ...


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

I asked my friend and former shuttle FDO Roger Balettie about this, he kindly gave me permission to quote him ..those are "Eidophor" displays - similar in nature to the much larger versions back in the Bat Cave behind the 10x10 and 10x20 front displays. They were used early on in the Shuttle Program for the FDOs to have clear overlays to put onto ...


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

During the launch of STS-93, which had lots of exciting onboard anomalies, one of the projectors in the Houston Mission Control Center almost caught on fire. It was just a couple of minutes later that one of the projectors hanging from the ceiling in Mission Control – the projectors that put up the displays on the front screens – overheated and ...


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 ...


1

Sources are from Ed Pavelka's oral histories in April and May 2001. The idea came up when Flight Director Gene Kranz asked Pavelka for a way to improve morale: Gene Kranz thought in the military way about the morale of his troops, so to speak, and he wanted a way that he could kind of raise the morale. So he talked to me about something that we might be ...


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