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Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel (New Series in NASA History) 1st Edition

3.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801887086
ISBN-10: 0801887089
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Entertaining reading.

(Commercial Dispatch)

Excellent, eye-opening, horizon-broadening reading! Highly recommended.

(Choice)

Noted space historians... breathe new life into the subject by examining its history as well as its possible future. They call for a new vision of human spaceflight—a 'transhuman' program that takes into account current trends in robotics, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and other fields that are rapidly changing the nature of both humans and machines.

(Air and Space Magazine)

This short volume manages to capture the history of U.S. space flight, to explain the underpinnings of U.S. space policy and to plot out the possibilities for our future in space in a style that most anyone can enjoy.

(Andrew McMichael Park City Daily News)

A timely and thought-provoking read, no matter what side of the humans vs. robots debate one is on. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in where our species is ultimately headed in space.

(Liftoff)

Should interest any intelligent reader with an interest in the history and future of space exploration, whatever technology is applied. Its mix of historical background and social context, entirely due to the authors' long experience, takes the reader well beyond the usual issues of technical challenge and budget limitations, while numerous selected quotations accentuate the human element.

(Mark Williamson Space Times)

An examination of the history of the various arguments for sending humans and machines into space, and their relative merits. It is an authoritative, detailed look at how these arguments evolved and what the future of humans and robots in space might hold.

(Jeff Foust Space Review)

A remarkably well-written and lucid book... about the ongoing debate within the American civil space agency between proponents of human spaceflight and those who advocate robotic or 'unmanned' spaceflight.

(Capt Bryce G. Poole, USAF Air and Space Power Journal)

From the Back Cover

Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine

Roger D. Launius and Howard E. McCurdy expound upon the possibilities and improbabilities involved in trekking across the Milky Way and beyond. They survey the literature, both fictional and academic studies; outline the progress of space programs in the United States and other nations; and assess the current state of affairs. Their conclusion would be startling only to those who haven’t spent time with Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke: to traverse the cosmos, humans must embrace and entwine themselves with advanced robotic technologies.

"Noted space historians... breathe new life into the subject by examining its history as well as its possible future. They call for a new vision of human spaceflight—a 'transhuman' program that takes into account current trends in robotics, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and other fields that are rapidly changing the nature of both humans and machines."— Air and Space Magazine

"A timely and thought-provoking read, no matter what side of the humans vs. robots debate one is on. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in where our species is ultimately headed in space." —Liftoff

"An examination of the history of the various arguments for sending humans and machines into space, and their relative merits. It is an authoritative, detailed look at how these arguments evolved and what the future of humans and robots in space might hold."— Space Review

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Product Details

  • Series: New Series in NASA History
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (January 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801887089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801887086
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #976,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
For as long as there have been humans, there has been a push outward to explore and inhabit new lands. It seems to be something we are programmed to do. When new worlds (or a New World) was discovered, settlers moved in to make them their own. The Earth is pretty well settled, and we have nowhere else to move, unless we start going to other planets entirely. We have just barely started exploring these distant unearthly worlds, but our ventures have already caused a big debate in the philosophy of exploration: should it be by humans or by robots? _In Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel_ (The Johns Hopkins University Press), a couple of experts on the history of space exploration and space policies, Roger D. Launius and Howard E. McCurdy, summarize the debate and give surprising answers and speculation into what the future may hold. Their predictions and their solutions require imagination to understand, at the level of science fiction, and indeed their book frequently draws upon science fiction novels and movies for depictions of imaginary answers to future problems. It makes for entertaining reading, especially for someone like me who had not previously realized how much serious thought has gone into the debate about robots, space exploration, and the future of humans in space.

At the dawn of the space age, besides working on America's rocket program, Wernher von Braun wrote popular articles that emphasized humans in space as a continuation of America's tradition of exploration and settlement. The authors point out that such utopian visions have often been part of terrestrial exploration, and that they continue to fire the imaginations of those who want to see humans in space. Von Braun's vision stalled.
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Format: Hardcover
The book's title and its jacket -- image of "Spirit" Mars Rover, -- imply that it is a history and/or forecast of robotic space exploration. Actually it is more than anything else a history of "robots vs. humans debate" -- the longstanding argument among space-related comminuty in United States over the best way to explore space.

In first two thirds of the book Launius and McCurdy trace last 50 years of spaceflight through the lens of this debate, and of cultural assumptions of both sides. They do not exactly take sides, but claim that as 21st Century rolled around both technological and social trends are favoring the "robotic exploration" camp -- even without actively advocating it. The last third is given to the notions of transhumanism -- biological and mechanical augmentation of human body and mind, and how it applies to space travel. Ultimately the authors reveal (actually, they hint on it early on) their own answer to "robots or humans?" question: and the answer is "cyborgs". Baseline humans are too fragile to function in space, and machines alone are too uninspiring. Ultimately, Launius and McCurdy believe, space belongs to merger of both.

The book is very well researched, and presentation is convincing, although repetitive in places. "Tortoise and hare" analogy (applied to robotic and manned US space programs, respectively) grew a bit annoying with repetition, and Chapter 6 which speculates on interstellar flight seemed to me shoehorned in for no good reason. Hence 4 stars.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This well researched and nicely written book proposes a useful alternative to the waning von Braun paradigm of using low earth orbit, lunar and Mars expeditions as stepping stones to the stars. Economic considerations, the frailty of human beings, and competing interests work against developing Utopian societies in space. Although the von Braum paradigm, bolstered by Krafft-Ehricke's extraterrestrial imperative and reinforced by the lure of a new frontier still appeals to many people (including this writer) as Launius and McCurdy point out the Moon landings represent the high water mark of humans in space, rather than a stepping stone to successively more adventurous missions. Can we find a more compelling paradigm for modern day audiences? The authors argue yes. Robots in Space is not a mere rehash of the strengths and weaknesses of piloted and robotic missions, rather it proposes a broad strategy combining astronomy,physical and life sciences, piloted and robot missions that will benefit space exploration,the search for extraterrestrial life, and planetary defense. They propose, in other words, a strategy that will appeal to the whole field of astrobiology. Roger Launius and Howard McCurdy are superb scholars who draw on their own expertise and the storehouse of history to develop a synergistic, interdisciplinary program for discovery and I am glad to have a copy.
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