The value of humans in the biological exploration of space.
Earth, Moon, and Planets, 94(3-4),
Regardless of the discovery of life on Mars, or of “no apparent life” on Mars, the questions that follow will provide a rich future for biological exploration. Extraordinary pattern recognition skills, decadal assimilation of data and experience, and rapid sample acquisition are just three of the characteristics that make humans the best means we have to explore the biological potential of Mars and other planetary surfaces. I make the case that instead of seeing robots as in conflict, or even in support, of human exploration activity, from the point of view of scientific data gathering and analysis, we should view humans as the most powerful robots we have, thus removing the separation that dogs discussions on the exploration of space. The narrow environmental requirements of humans, although imposing constraints on the life support systems required, is more than compensated for by their capabilities in biological exploration. I support this view with an example of the “Christmas present effect,” a simple demonstration of human data and pattern recognition capabilities.
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