Space Quote: The End of Astronauts?

Credit: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press

“We should not have publicly funded programmes to send people to the moon, still less to Mars…It’s hugely risky, hugely expensive, and there’s no practical or scientific benefit to sending humans. It’s a pretty bad bargain for the taxpayer.”

-Statement by Lord Martin Rees, co-author of the book The End of Astronauts, speaking to the The Guardian. He argues that private sector humans and government robots are the future of space exploration. In other words, let billionaires die space, while the government avoids this risk. Harvard University Press states:

In The End of Astronauts, Goldsmith and Rees weigh the benefits and risks of human exploration across the solar system. In space humans require air, food, and water, along with protection from potentially deadly radiation and high-energy particles, at a cost of more than ten times that of robotic exploration. Meanwhile, automated explorers have demonstrated the ability to investigate planetary surfaces efficiently and effectively, operating autonomously or under direction from Earth. Although Goldsmith and Rees are alert to the limits of artificial intelligence, they know that our robots steadily improve, while our bodies do not. Today a robot cannot equal a geologist’s expertise, but by the time we land a geologist on Mars, this advantage will diminish significantly.

You can read an excerpt from the book at Slate.