Com­bin­ing man and ma­chine in space travel

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By LI XUEQING in Shang­hai

lixueqing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Cy­borgs may well be the fu­ture of space ex­plo­ration, said Roger Lau­nius, a space his­to­rian and as­so­ciate di­rec­tor at the Smith­so­nian Institution’s Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum.

Dur­ing his guest lec­ture on ro­bots and space ex­plo­ration at New York Univer­sity’s Shang­hai cam­pus on Oct 29, Lau­nius spoke about how tech­nol­ogy and ma­chines are needed to help mankind progress deeper into the uni­verse, given the hu­man body’s lim­i­ta­tions in outer space. He cited how nu­mer­ous con­di­tions in space can be detri­men­tal to health, such as invisible “lu­nar dust” and the high lev­els of ra­di­a­tion on the moon.

The con­cept of a cy­borg was first pro­posed in 1960 when Man­fred Clynes and Nathan Kline aimed to reengi­neer the hu­man body for space­flight. Their idea was adopted by the Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NASA) in 1963.

The lec­ture also touched on the ar­gu­ment of whether ro­bots or hu­mans should be the ones used to ex­plore space. The ma­jor­ity of space ex­plo­ration mis­sions to date have been car­ried out by ro­bots and Lau­nius said that the fa­mous Voy­ager pro­gram, which com­prises two un­manned probes used to ex­plore the outer So­lar Sys­tem, and the un­manned ex­pe­di­tions to Mars have proved that ro­bots can per­form be­yond our expectations. The use of ro­bots also re­moves the risk that hu­mans have to take when trav­el­ing into space.

How­ever, hu­mans are thought to be able to re­act bet­ter to un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances, and there are also those who view putting boots on an­other planet to be more sig­nif­i­cant than hav­ing an un­manned

Roger Lau­nius, rover send data back to Earth. Cy­borgs, Lau­nius con­tends, com­bine the best of th­ese two camps of thought.

On the topic of in­ter­stel­lar travel, Lau­nius con­tends that there is still lit­tle pos­si­bil­ity of hu­mans achiev­ing that, say­ing that he does not be­lieve the com­monly seen method in sci-fi movies — us­ing a warp drive to travel faster than light — will ever be pos­si­ble. An­other the­ory in­volves the use of in­ter­gen­er­a­tional space ships as in­ter­stel­lar travel would re­quire hun­dreds of years. Again, Lau­nius can­not see that be­com­ing a re­al­ity.

Lau­nius, who is the co-au­thor of the book Ro­bots in Space: Tech­nol­ogy, Evo­lu­tion, and In­ter­plan­e­tary Travel, added that while the idea of merg­ing man and robot may seem “crazy”, he be­lieves that many peo­ple to­day are al­ready akin to cy­borgs, re­fer­ring to how de­vices such as pace­mak­ers and in­sulin pumps have helped hu­mans rec­tify their med­i­cal con­di­tions and live longer.

“Let me sug­gest to you that the pri­mary chal­lenge in hu­man space flight is not so much tech­no­log­i­cal but bi­o­log­i­cal,” said Lau­nius. “Fu­ture space ac­tiv­i­ties will be based on bio-engi­neer­ing, nano-tech­nol­ogy and cy­borg con­cepts.”

Lau­nius ad­mit­ted that cre­at­ing cy­borgs will likely be a highly con­tro­ver­sial topic that raises ques­tions about the na­ture of life and what should be con­sid­ered hu­man, though th­ese are ques­tions that could prove ben­e­fi­cial for the pro­gres­sion of hu­man­ity.

Fu­ture space ac­tiv­i­ties will be based on bio-engi­neer­ing, nano-tech­nol­ogy and cy­borg con­cepts.”

a space his­to­rian and as­so­ciate di­rec­tor at the Smith­so­nian Institution’s Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.