Time Machines: Scientific Explorations in Deep Time

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Upcoming SlideShare. Like this document? Why not share! Time scales of biological responses Embed Size px. Start on. Show related SlideShares at end. WordPress Shortcode. ChayaBacon Follow. Published in: Science. In that light, CHEX recognizes that at any given time opportunity plays a significant role in prioritizing scientific projects and selecting means of implementation. It cannot be demanded that these tasks be best and most cost-effectively performed by humans.

However, an orderly series of future robotic missions will be required for collection of data relevant to human safety, for site selection, and for the effective identification and development of enabled scientific opportunities.

Peter Ward (paleontologist)

Such a series of robotic missions would include many that would be a normal complement of an ongoing robotic planetary science program. For the Moon, several robotic missions are desirable, especially for site selection. A high-resolution global chemical and mineralogical survey of the Moon will allow a much more complete understanding of the variety of lunar geologic features, their origin, and their evolution. Such a survey will also allow for extrapolation of Apollo and Luna data and is needed for targeting more detailed local investigation.

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  7. Robotic sample returns will greatly aid in further refining site selection and planning scientific investigations. Moreover, a global geophysical network, deployed by landers, will. The pioneering observations performed by the Mariner and Viking missions to Mars were to have been extended by Mars Observer.

    This remote sensing orbiter mission was designed to characterize martian global geochemistry and the general circulation of the atmosphere. Its high-resolution imaging capabilities, important for geological studies, would also have been useful for selecting future landing sites and planning surface operations. The failure of Mars Observer in August is therefore a major setback to the scientific exploration of Mars, and the accomplishment of its objectives remains a high scientific priority.

    Assuming that a recovery program leads to the accomplishment of some or all of the Mars Observer objectives, a next step in the robotic exploration of Mars should be in situ robotic investigations of its geophysical and meteorological properties. Seismic activity should be explored for its intrinsic scientific value and to define more refined experiments that humans would emplace.

    Meteorological measurements are required to characterize the atmospheric boundary layer through which the key exchanges of energy, volatiles, and dust occur. The Viking landers made measurements at only two sites and had no capability to measure such important properties as water vapor concentration or to follow up on the discovery of chemical reactivity of the surface material.

    Seeing the Beginning of Time 4k

    To take best advantage of human capabilities in scientific exploration, it will be desirable, some argue essential, to return reconnaissance samples from Mars prior to human exploration. Such sample return missions must deal with the obvious issues associated with planetary quarantine both forward- and back-contamination. This problem may also be tackled by in situ chemical analysis on robotic missions. Possibly more important, precursor sample returns will lead to a major increase in our knowledge of martian processes and history.

    This will permit a more informed choice of the landing sites for human missions and the types of investigations to be conducted during surface exploration. CHEX recognizes that a program of human exploration would present an opportunity for major advances in our understanding of the Moon and Mars. To realize that potential, high-quality science must be an integral part of the exploration. The optimal strategy for accomplishing the associated science over the next several decades cannot be developed yet because of the uncertain prospects for advances in robotic systems and artificial intelligence.

    Major improvements in the human-machine interface of the type needed for the scientific activities discussed below require a focused program dedicated to the challenge of extending human capabilities in hostile environments by developing remote control techniques.

    Execution vs. exploration and what it means for you

    Robotic systems developed, for example, to replace a human welder on an assembly line will not be adequate to function as an extension of humans engaged in field work or maintaining complex instruments on the Moon or Mars. Special features not currently found in industrial robots, such as high-resolution stereoscopic vision and multispectral imaging, would most likely be required to conduct robotically assisted geological field work.

    For example, what and how much information should be transmitted to the human operator, and how large a time delay in the human-machine control loop can be tolerated? The extent to which a human exploration program is able to drive the development of more capable robotic systems over the next several decades, coupled with improved spacesuits and development of mobile pressurized environments with teleoperations capability enabling humans to perform field work without the encumbrances of a spacesuit , will contribute to determining the optimal mix of humans and machines.

    The biomedical research enabled by human exploration will also demand certain technological developments. Prime among these is the need to develop sophisticated, compact diagnostic equipment some with telemetering capability to perform essential studies on the responses of the crew and other living organisms to prolonged exposure to the environment of the spacecraft. Such equipment might also serve an important health and safety role in the event of accident or illness in the crew. The call for technology development could appear obvious and gratuitous; it might be expected that such would occur as a normal consequence of a well-structured plan for both scientific and human exploration.

    That has not, generally, happened. Study after study, several specifically dealing with the issue, 13 , 14 has urged greatly increased by a factor of three funding and more focused technology development by NASA and a more effective methodology for using existing and future funding. That not much progress has been made can be attributed to a combination of many factors, not all of which are under NASA's control: bureaucratic inertia, organizational conflicts, persistence of irrelevant technologies, low priority relative to near-term flight programs, inadequate justification of the need, lack of an appropriate requirement for an approved program, and political fear of enabling future programs.

    This combination of somewhat disconnected reasons begs for top-level, determined attention inside and outside of NASA. Without such attention, the committee is pessimistic that the United States will enjoy in the future the leadership in human and robotic space exploration that it has demonstrated in the past.

    See, for example, Paul J. Fox and Craig E. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. Jeffrey Taylor and Paul D. Paul D. Spudis and G. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website. Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.


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