The value of humans in the biological exploration of space

CS Cockell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-243
Number of pages11
JournalEarth, Moon, and Planets
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004
EventRoyal-Astronomical-Society Specialist Discussion Meeting - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Dec 2004 → …

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • life on Mars
  • human space exploration
  • robotic space exploration
  • MARS
  • LIFE


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