• Question: Why are people sending robots out into space?

    Asked by 484spah24 to Lucy on 9 Mar 2017.
    • Photo: Lucy Kissick

      Lucy Kissick answered on 9 Mar 2017:

      Mostly because it’s so expensive and difficult keeping humans alive in space and on other planets. Consider sending a human to Mars: you’d need great tanks of air, a way to recycle water and grow food, a shelter operating at Earth pressure (Mars has very little air and not breathable), and lots of awkward bitty bits like medical kits, waste disposal systems, ways to combat boredom, and machines to keep them fit. Also, humans like company: you’d need a team of at least three to go, which seriously ups your weight (hence rocket fuel when sending them there).

      Contrast with sending a robot to Mars: it doesn’t need to breathe, be entertained, or be fed, and it certainly won’t get lonely. However, humans can do a lot more complex work a lot faster than a robot, so as soon as it gets cheap to send a human to Mars (watch SpaceX, the private company trying to do it by 2022) they’ll start replacing the bots.