The Daily Galaxy poses an interesting question about the future of space exploration. We have two paths before us; machine exploration and human occupation.
The article makes a point that for general exploration, machines are better suited for the task; they can survive harsher environments, need minimal operational support and don’t need special phycological considerations when traveling the vast emptiness of space. On the other hand, we have a need to put humans on other worlds to ensure our continued survival. It’s happened before and it will happen again, catastrophic (natural and human-made) disasters will happen, be it from celestial impacts or our own undoing via environmental collapse. Spreading ourselves out across the galaxy will ensure the survival of our species and descendants.
We also cover the point that, eventually, our machines and our bodies will merge as part of our continued evolution as a species. Natural selection will give way to directed evolution. In fact Paul Davies thinks that any alien presence we encounter will be the machine offspring of ancient biological aliens.“I think it very likely – in fact inevitable – that biological intelligence is only a transitory phenomenon, a fleeting phase in the evolution of the universe,” Davies writes. “If we ever encounter extraterrestrial intelligence, I believe it is overwhelmingly likely to be post-biological in nature.”
The lessons we are learning are that robotic probes and exploratory machines will be the trailblazers, the scouts, to human exploration, sending back vital information that we can use to plot destinations for further study or colonization and other endeavors.
Efforts to establish communication with the Phobos-Grunt probe, as it’s been called, are continuing even now, but don’t look promising. The ESA and NASA have offered assistance in using their satellites in order to try and communicate with the probe.Doug McCuistion, NASA’s director of Mars exploration, said, “We have offered assistance and if they need it, we will provide it to the best of our ability.”
The probe was successfully launched atop the Zenit rocket but has failed to initiate its Fregat engine burns to start its journey to Mars’ moon Phobos. The mission was to collect soil samples and return them to Earth, the first ever mission that would return samples from outside the Earth system.
If the engines cannot be started, Russian authorities predicts that Phobos-Grunt will re-enter the atmosphere on December 3.