Human Spaceflight: No Single Rationale Justifies it, NRC Report

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Human Spaceflight: No Single Rationale Justifies it, NRC Report

Mars

A new report from the National Research Council cites difficulties in funding human space exploration, including the lack of a majority agreement on a single rationale for the endeavor.

The congressionally mandated report argued for a continuation to the United States' human exploration program and an increased budget to maintain it in order to pursue the long-term goal of setting foot on Mars. But hurdles to getting the funding it needs exist in a lack of awareness from the public.

While public opinion of the space program has always been mostly positive, the report finds that most of the public is apathetic toward the topic, does not feel well-informed, and does not consider investing money in the program to be a priority. Further, surveys revealed that among neither the public nor among stakeholders is there any majority consensus on a single rationale for human spaceflight.

Historical rationales used to justify a human spaceflight program have included economic benefits, national security, national stature and international relations, inspiration for science and engineering education, contributions to science and knowledge, a shared human destiny and urge to explore, and the eventual survival of the human species. The report argues that the last two rationales and associated practical benefits should justify the continuation of the program.

"Human space exploration remains vital to the national interest for inspirational and aspirational reasons that appeal to a broad range of U.S. citizens," said Purdue University president, former Governor of Indiana, and committee co-chair Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. "But given the expense of any human spaceflight program and the significant risk to the crews involved, in our view the only pathways that fit these criteria are those that ultimately place humans on other worlds."

The report states that under the current budget, a manned Mars mission will never happen. With proper funding, that goal is still decades and hundreds of billions of dollars away.

"Our committee concluded that any human exploration program will only succeed if it is appropriately funded and receives a sustained commitment on the part of those who govern our nation. That commitment cannot change direction election after election. Our elected leaders are the critical enablers of the nation's investment in human spaceflight, and only they can assure that the leadership, personnel, governance, and resources are in place in our human exploration program," Daniels said.

What do you believe is the strongest rationale for human spaceflight?

Source: Phys.Org

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Why do you climb a mountain?

I guess "because it's awesome" doesn't count. How about "overpopulation"?

I'm in the "shared human destiny and urge to explore, and the eventual survival of the human species" camp. That and, well, pushing engineering boundaries is NEVER a bad thing. Getting to Mars would certainly include some inventions along the while, and the nice thing about inventions is that you can still use them after the project.

Sadly, I think overpopulation is going to become a major issue long before we could realistically have substantial off-world colonies. As cool as it would be to have people living on Mars and the Moon, if we're to get billions of people up there, it's going to take a while. Still, I suppose that's as good a reason as any to get started...

How about "Because it's what we frickin' do as a species"? Why bother sailing across the ocean? Why bother exploring the bottom of the ocean? Why bother digging up fossils? Why bother studying ancient history? We're humans, we're explorers, it's in our very nature to see limitations and overcome them. Humanity is indeed capable of truly remarkable things when we put our minds to it, saying that there's no reason to explore space would be like telling Columbus there's no reason to sail west, or telling a caveman there's no reason to tie a sharpened rock to the end of a stick.

RJ Dalton:
I guess "because it's awesome" doesn't count. How about "overpopulation"?

And apparently from your perspective, we're at a point where shipping people into space like it was WW1 seems like such a good idea. The technology isn't even there where it wouldn't cost a substantial amount of human lives.

Wow, that was a bait-and-switch headline. "No single rationale? Really? I can think of many reasons-" *reads article* "Ohhhh, so we just don't have one reason we all can agree on."
Seriously, Escapist Magazine? Are buzzword-trap headlines really what you've descended to?

And do we really need ONE STRONG rationale for manned spaceflight for the public to associate with? Is the public truly so basic? Is it so insufferable that something has multiple strong arguments going for it?

Know what? Make it the "Shared Human Destiny" thing that includes the other rationales; 'I want to set a foundation for the pioneers of tomorrow.' Bam, exploration. 'I want to invest in a new financial paradigm.' Bam, economy. 'I want to ensure the safety of my children.' Bam, national security. 'The scientific industry- and humanity- needs me.' Bam, science/engineering. 'I want a future for everyone.' Bam, species survival. Put all those quotes on a poster, with the subtitle "Multiple pathways. One Destiny". There.

How's about "The long term survival of our entire fucking species"?

Be it war, be it enviromental catastrophe, be it asteroids, be it the sun expanding, be it the horrifying randomness of the cosmic chaos just outside our atmosphere, me it the fucking core simply stopping it's rotation as unscientific as that is, eventually, if earth is the only planet with humans on it, humans will die out. That's even forgetting the massive benefits that continuing to explore and learn could have to humanity.

Where's the option for "because Star Trek got everything else right"?

Somewhere out there is a little alien boy dreaming of meeting a friendly creature from another planet, and the only obstacle in the way is we can't agree on a budget.

Rawbeard:
Why do you climb a mountain?

Our research indicates that there's no single rationale for doing so. It places humans at great risk so we shouldn't do it. *sigh*

Remember when humans used to do incredible things just to do incredible things? There are so many potential and unknown benefits. I think the primary goal is to develop the technology to do this. Our resources aren't infinite but the universe virtually is.

i cant subscribe to the because of overpopulation argument as people in space will have babies too and then we will have two overpopulated worlds see: farmer in the sky. war is probably the most efficient population control next being abortion but those are very grizzly and touchy realities, and a one child per person polocy may become not so barbaric.

as for space it sucks that only countries that feel the need to one up another are willing to explore space a la the cold war or nations not the US flexing their scientific muscles for prestige just to claim they are better. we grew up with star trek so maybe we expect to much but the US dosent care because it does not have to care there is nothing at stake for them and the bounty of space is still much to far away. there is gold there but oceans are easier and we are getting lazy.

we dont go into space to aleviate problems on earth. and we shouldnt go for pride. unfortunatly any philisophical reasoning is not profitable and we are slaves to public opinion.

There's only one rationale for human spaceflight that actually matters: if we don't spread out into the galaxy our eventual extinction is assured to happen much sooner than is actually necessary.

"The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space--each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision." - -xkcd

That is all.

Even if you don't think humanity should colonize planets, there's still the matter of the fact that the space program has and continues to be worth its cost due to basic research necessary to keep science moving forward.

And practically, we engineer stuff based on both the necessity of space flight and as a result of the research put in.

Then there's the prospect of asteroid mining in the future.
As stated before as well, we're on a ticking clock until SOMETHING makes Earth unsuitable for humans, whether this something is natural, cosmic, or just us ****ing things up too much.

sorry i forgot the single strongest rational to go.
when enough people see something and say i must do that i must see that, I cannot die without expirianceing that, and when we realize it is within our limits man can become quite single minded. Realization of ones ephemeral nature can make people do great things.

Despite the out-of-control anthropomorphism in modern culture, nobody will ever hold a ticker-tape parade-level celebration event for a robot.

No space probe will stand on a stage, and give a life-altering moment of inspiration to do something great to a crowd of students.

Apparently now those facts aren't enough to completely destroy space exploration. Now we've upped the game by attacking that moment of inspiration itself, by sending a message that 'doing something great' isn't great at all, only pointless and expensive.

Wonderful.

Grenge Di Origin:
Wow, that was a bait-and-switch headline. "No single rationale? Really? I can think of many reasons-" *reads article* "Ohhhh, so we just don't have one reason we all can agree on."
Seriously, Escapist Magazine? Are buzzword-trap headlines really what you've descended to?

From the source article:

The committee concluded that although no single rationale, either practical or aspirational, seems to justify the value of pursuing human spaceflight, the aspirational rationales, when supplemented by practical benefits associated with the pragmatic rationales, argue for the continuation of a U.S. human spaceflight program, provided that the program adopts a stable and sustainable pathways approach.

Generally, when people say there is no "single" anything, they don't mean there is nothing at all. I'm sorry if you feel misled, but I don't believe I said anything that is incorrect or misleading. We can only fit so many words into a headline. There's a huge distinction between "There is no rationale" and "There is no single rationale."

RJ 17:
[...]saying that there's no reason to explore space would be like telling Columbus there's no reason to sail west[...]

Point of Pedantry: What sane person was going to tell Columbus not to go West? He was trying to find a shortcut to India, which would have provided an obvious and immediate advantage to whichever nation did so.

Looking at the other posts, people seem to forget all the crazy things we are researching here on Earth. We have found bacteria that eat petrol, learned to regrow human tissue from almost nothing and developed a magnetic donut twice the size of Gibraltar that hurls Hydrogen atoms around at nearly the speed of light, just to find a single particle. For goodness sake, someone just regrew Van Gogh's ear FOR ART. I know it's not as spectacular as a space launch, but come on guys, we're still doing incredible things.

OT: I'm against manned space flight because it's a great driver for robotic development. That and all the things that inspire me are here on Earth.

Is manned space travel really still a thing even though we already know our species can't survive there for more than months at a time?

Any humans who went to mars would be both blind and riddled with cancer and they know this.

Not many people care about space exploration because they care more about either throwing money at greedy Hollywood shitheads, sports teams (I'm pretty sure I saw enough Urlacher jerseys in high school alone to fully fund a college tuition), and on upper middle-class luxury cars, or they would rather watch the latest hit TV shows than read about space news. They forget or never knew how many products resulted from a space agency's experiments that solved problems for them and trickled down to civilian goods.

It also doesn't help the news stations, both left and right wing, would rather pick up sensationalist stories and fight each other while maybe giving a glimpse of a revolutionary tech advancement people should be keeping an eye on. Maybe some of the national, not NASA's, budget should got to a NASA news site/channel or require all news network to cover actually useful information at least a few hours a week. But that might not work because even if they only once made the mistake of getting too technical in their descriptions, people who hate using their brain for more than keeping track of the Kardishians will ignore it entirely.

I don't see spaceflight as being a solution to overpopulation, you have to constantly send the increase into space to keep things balanced.

OTOH..."because it's there" seems a reasonable reason.

OTOOH, unlikely for anything to happen any time soon, as even if we devoted massive portions of the world economy to it, it'd still be a longer time off than people are prepared to wait, and there are always more pressing things.

OTOOOH, we could say "hell with it", abandon space flight tomorrow, but research devoted to other things would make spaceflight easier. It might take a hundred years before people consider it worthwhile, but that's not that long, in the scheme of things.

We could do it just so we can deport the idiots. All of them.

I'd like to know how many billions or trillions is sunk into the US's military budget a year before they say there's no money to go in space.

Hey let's look at it this, when people send up rail shooting satellites into orbit that can destroy a building in a matter of seconds your gonna want a way to go up there and blow it up.

Trishbot:
Where's the option for "because Star Trek got everything else right"?

Somewhere out there is a little alien boy dreaming of meeting a friendly creature from another planet, and the only obstacle in the way is we can't agree on a budget.

Didn't Star Trek say there was going to be a war over genetic modification by now?

Eve Charm:
I'd like to know how many billions or trillions is sunk into the US's military budget a year before they say there's no money to go in space.

Hey let's look at it this, when people send up rail shooting satellites into orbit that can destroy a building in a matter of seconds your gonna want a way to go up there and blow it up.

And there's the answer right there. Every time someone has gone exploring, there was an underlying profit margiain under it. The explorers were more than happy to do it but they were financed by those who sought capital gain. Now if you could convince a few multinats to invest in space exploration to create something like...

image

Then you'd actually see money and dedication being put into space travel.

I'm no libertarian, but I feel that one solution would be greatly relaxing whatever regulation there is on space colonisation missions. My logic is that any individual that chooses to participate would already be fully aware and accepting of the mission's inherent dangers.

Realistic regulation could be re-introduced once we have discovered relatively reliable and safe methods of inter-planetary transportation.

It depends largely on the scientific view one takes. From a strict pragmatical view? No, there's no rationale. From a broad pragmatical view? Taking into account things like the natural human curiosity and our need to build a coherent worldview; plenty of rationale to be found.

As long as there is no defense against all the types of radiation out there, manned space exploration is impossible. Unless we want every colonist on Mars to die of space cancer.

And let's say we get to Mars, then what? Is it just for the sake of saying we've been there, like the Moon? Or are we actually going to establish a colony there? And in that case, does that mean some company is going to own stretches of land on Mars, or the entire planet? Are other countries going to get pissed that they don't "own" Mars, and take steps to change that, violently if need be?

Pink Apocalypse:
Apparently now those facts aren't enough to completely destroy space exploration. Now we've upped the game by attacking that moment of inspiration itself, by sending a message that 'doing something great' isn't great at all, only pointless and expensive.

Wonderful.

If it's at the expense of millions of people starving just so one man can say he was on Mars, then yes, that would be rather pointless. Unless he met an alien there that had the solution to world hunger.

MCerberus:
As stated before as well, we're on a ticking clock until SOMETHING makes Earth unsuitable for humans, whether this something is natural, cosmic, or just us ****ing things up too much.

Not to sound overly down here, but if that's the way it is then that's the way it is. It'd be a bit arrogant to think we as a species won't go extinct one day, just like every other animal on this planet. You're going to die, I'm going to die, the Earth is going to die, even the whole universe is going to stop existing one day.

And let's say we fuck up our own planet, and by some miracle find another inhabital planet that we can actually reach. Does that mean we should just pack up so we can screw up that one too?

Space exploration is important in a capitalist civilization for one reason alone: resource exploitation.

One average nickel-iron asteroid contains enough raw materials to completely change the global economy.

The first corporation that can successfully mine another celestial body will become the richest organization in history.

Casual Shinji:

And let's say we fuck up our own planet, and by some miracle find another inhabital planet that we can actually reach. Does that mean we should just pack up so we can screw up that one too?

Unless there is no value in our society, unless there is no value in continuing human life, then yes. As someone that ascribes to an ethical system that borrows key points from Kant, it isn't even a question.

Fatalism is not a viable system when it comes to making decisions because it's prone to death-by-inaction, among other things. So many other things. A freaking lot of other things.

Jodan:
i cant subscribe to the because of overpopulation argument as people in space will have babies too and then we will have two overpopulated worlds see: farmer in the sky. war is probably the most efficient population control next being abortion but those are very grizzly and touchy realities, and a one child per person polocy may become not so barbaric.

I don't follow your logic, if the people having babies in space stayed on Earth they'd just be having babies on earth instead, same number of babies but in less room. We may end up with 2 overpopulated worlds, but I'd still rather those people be spread across 2 worlds than condensed onto one.

I agree that space exploration isn't a viable solution to overpopulation, but not for this reason.

I also don't see how war is an efficient method of population control, wars are super fucking expensive, the amount of money needed to wage any sort of war would almost certainly exceed what it would take to simply house and feed all the people we would be lose.

Let's face it, the solution to overpopulation is pretty simple, wear a condom.

Here is a question. If they are worried about public apathy towards space exploration, WHY don't they try harder for Mars? Something as simple as a manned fly-by could spark A LOT of interest.

We can't just not shoot for space, we need to at least be able to colonise other bodies in our solar system - if for no other reason than to ensure that humanity sticks around. I don't really think we're about to destroy this planet, but we should absolutely spread out as far as physically possible, get some of the eggs out of this one basket.

It's not about getting to Mars TODAY!, it's about getting to Mars at all. I'm always hearing that the human race won't be around forever- well, not if we all stay in one place, we won't.

I think the best rationale for space travel can be found by asking why humans get up each morning. If we consider ourselves superior to animals, we have to prove it by desiring something other than our own sustenance. Man does not live on bread alone, they say, because man needs to leave this universe having made some sort of connection to a higher cause. That's why we have history and art and all sorts of mostly useless things; they help us to see where we've come from, where we are, and where we're going. If mankind is content to live on Earth until the sun burns us all to hell (or some other catastrophe), then I don't really want to be human any more. If, on the other hand, mankind desires to expand their horizons, travel into the unknown, and eventually transcend any limitations that could ever keep us down, then I think we're on the right track.
However, one of the many flaws we've inherited from our ancestors is short-sightedness, so I agree that the future of space travel is looking kind of bleak.

shirkbot:

RJ 17:
[...]saying that there's no reason to explore space would be like telling Columbus there's no reason to sail west[...]

Point of Pedantry: What sane person was going to tell Columbus not to go West?

All the people that still believed that the world was flat and that he'd be sailing off to his doom? Indeed he did want to find a shortcut to India, but everyone thought he was nuts.

He had to shop the plans for his voyage around to different nations just to find a backer because most monarchies thought it was a fool's errand.

Looking at the other posts, people seem to forget all the crazy things we are researching here on Earth. We have found bacteria that eat petrol, learned to regrow human tissue from almost nothing and developed a magnetic donut twice the size of Gibraltar that hurls Hydrogen atoms around at nearly the speed of light, just to find a single particle. For goodness sake, someone just regrew Van Gogh's ear FOR ART. I know it's not as spectacular as a space launch, but come on guys, we're still doing incredible things.

You mean like sailing west when everyone thought it was a death sentence? We've explored all there is to explore on this planet (generally speaking). There's a reason that space is considered "the final frontier". For all the mysteries and wonders on our own planet, there are vastly more out in the vastness of space, just waiting to be discovered.

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