In Roger Launius’s lecture entitled “Robots Vs. Humans in Spaceflight” he made some thought provoking comments on humans ability to survive in space that I never previously thought about. I found it interesting how many reasons he had to back up his thoughts that there is very little chance for a lasting human space colony on the moon or mars and that manned space exploration is a waste of resources. While discussing the feasibility of creating a space colony, he discussed many reasons why it would not be possible to have one on the moon. The first point he made was the issue of moon dust before he brought this up I never would have thought of it as a main problem and probably would never have thought of dust, sand, or some other fine substance as a major obstacle in creating a colony. However, in the presentation, he pointed out that it was fine enough to cause issues when we previously landed on the moon, such as getting making it difficult to lock helmets back on the space suit, but it could probably be solved. The second problem was the issue of radiation. In order to solve this problem, the colony would either have to be built far underground or heavy objects like lead would have to be flown up to protect from radiation, and if you were outside of the shelter when a solar flair or some other form of radiation occurred you would die. The effects of minimal gravity on the body are not yet known; however, it would definitely harm humans since we are adapted to the gravity on earth. Furthermore, the combined effect of all these are also unknown, but it can be certain that there would not be a good outcome if a colony was set up on the moon.
It was intriguing but not surprising that interstellar space travel by humans would not be successful. Of the four methods he gave, two were not really possible and the other two would not have the desired outcome of humans populating another planet. The first was to travel faster then the speed of light, so one could reach distant parts of the universe in a lifetime, but this is not possible. Another was suspended animation, which again is not possible. The first one he mentioned that may actually be feasible is a multigenerational spacecraft. However, a multigenerational spacecraft would not have the desired effect, because in order to reach their destination, wherever that may end up being, it would take thousands of years, and by that point the initial goal would be forgotten, and people would have no need to leave the spaceship. The final solution he gave was to create an extremely long lived species, which may be similar to a cyborg in that it has many artificial and mechanical parts; however, once again by the time the destination was reached there would be no need to get off the spacecraft. So, it appears that interstellar space travel will be dominated by robots for the foreseeable future.