International Day of Human Spaceflight: Introducing the Humans vs. Robots Galactic Battleship
12th April 2012
Last year, the UN's General Assembly declared 12 April International Day of Human Spaceflight. Why this date? For those who forgot, 12 April 1961 Yuri Gagarin completed the first human flight into outer space, orbiting around the Earth. As stated by the UN, "The subsequent adventures in space brought benefits to such fields as meteorology, agriculture, telecoms, biology and physics". In its declaration, the UN continues by expressing "its deep conviction of the common interest of mankind in promoting and expanding the exploration and use of outer space, as the province of mankind, for peaceful purposes and in continuing efforts to extend all States the benefits derived therefrom.”
During the last few decades, Astronautics has had a prime position under the scientific limelight, bringing most technological and scientific achievements that - in one way or another - reflected upon society as a whole; before Gagarin's mission, events such as human space walks or the creation of orbital space stations were beyond anyone's imagination while today, there is the possibility to buy your ticket for a cosy space flight looking at planet Earth from a "universal" point of view; all for the price of about $200,000. Is it worth it?
In the meantime the space revolution hasn't stopped. What seems to be the leading trend these days, apart from booking your own ticket to space, is the development of the unmanned spaceflight industry and robotic spacecraft and missions. Space probes, robotic spacecrafts collecting scientific research measurements have been heavily used by the US, EU, Japan, China and India to explore planets and moons of the solar system as well as comets and asteroids. Apart from revolutionising scientific space research and opening up new possible scenarios when exploring our universe's mysteries, unmanned spaceflights entail less costs and risk factors, also enabling the exploration of planets too hostile for humans or too distant to reach by manned spaceflights.
However, as argued in a recent article by Wired magazine, "The most recent footprints on the moon are 40 years old, and the next artificial mark on the lunar surface will probably be made by a robot’s wheels rather than human soles." If in the past years robots have completed most missions in outer space for exploration purposes, does the robotic collection of data hold the same value of astronauts' scientific missions? The Humans vs. Robots war for space has been firing up discussions for a while now but it is yet to be determined who is going to win the battle for spaceships.
To browse further through some of IntechOpen's publications on the subject of unmanned aircrafts, please refer to the links below; all inTech's publications are free to read, share and download.
Advances in Spacecraft Systems and Orbit Determination, edited by Rushi Ghadawala, IntechOpen, Mar. 2012
Advances in Spacecraft Technologies, edited by Jason Hall, IntechOpen, Feb. 2011
Aerospace Technologies Advancements, edited by Thawar T. Arif, IntechOpen, Jan. 2010