To view this page ensure that Adobe Flash Player version 11.1.0 or greater is installed.

In contrast, humans bring unique abilities, such as intuition, ingenuity, and real-time problem solving, that current robotic technology lacks. One example of the invaluable impact of human exploration was the near disaster of Apollo 13, caused when one of the primary oxygen tanks exploded while in route to the moon. Sub- sequent power failures, fire hazards, dehydration, carbon-dioxide poisoning, and electrical shorts further threat- ened the safety of the astronauts James Lovell, Fred Haise, and John Swigert (NASA). Fortunately, the astronauts were able to quickly identify and mitigate arising problems, manually pilot the spacecraft, and safely return to the Earth. Additionally, the astronauts as well as the NASA ground crews obtained crucial experience in allevi- ating potential spacecraft disasters. Humans bring a plethora of defining characteristics to a potential crisis, but the most important is the human ability to learn from our mistakes. Human and robotic exploration both have their advantages that captivate mankind’s desire to reach into space. Recently, robotic space probes and rovers are in the forefront of that exploration. Ideally, a synergis- tic utilization of both human and robotic technology would cultivate the greatest achievement with the least cost. Mr. Steven Oleson and his associates, who work for NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center, outline an out- standing proposal for just this concept. Oleson explores the possibilities of utilizing Human Exploration using Real-time Robotic Exploration, or HERRO. In this concept, Oleson eliminates the costly entry and Martian escape procedures required for a manned surface mission. Alternatively, humans would capture a recurring twelve- hour orbit around Mars and remotely operate robotic surface explorers. In their eight-hour work windows, or- biting pilots would conduct their surface missions with near real-time latency conditions (Oleson et-al. 3-4). Up- on completion of their missions and expenditure of their allotted time or resources, the astronauts would simply return to Earth. Oleson’s HERRO method keeps human ingenuity within the mission at a third of the cost of a manned surface mission to Mars. Exploring further into an aspect of the HERRO concept is Dan Lester, a research fellow in the Depart- ment of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. Lester puts current latency restrictions into perspective by outlining the real-time operating environment from Earth to the International Space Station in Low Earth Or- bit or LEO, the nearly two-and-a-half-second time delay from Earth to the moon, and the eight- to forty-minute time delay for commands being sent to the rovers on Mars (Lester 347). With these significant time delays be- tween command and execution, relaying human cognition through robotics over vast distances becomes unreal- istic. Additionally, Lester points out that human exploration is the ultimate end goal, but moving human cogni- tion is a solution that we are capable of fulfilling (Lester 349). Both Lester and Oleson are advocating solutions with existing technologies to catch human exploration up to current robotic exploration capabilities. As previously mentioned, Figure 2: Space Probes Voyager one and two's location as of 2012 (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech) human exploration has its risks. The Challenger disaster and the Antares rocket failure highlighted our inability to reliably attain orbit. Addi- tionally, Virgin Galactic’s test flight mistake and the Shuttle Columbia’s destruction spotlighted the hazards of re-entry. Moreover are the problems humans have once we reach space. David Williams, a physician scientist and astronaut who has held a director position for NASA over the Space and Life Sciences Directorate at the John- son Space Center, outlines some of these problems. 41
edit