Mechanized Astronauts

Why do we send up 7 astronauts in the space shuttle? Why not send up 5 robots controlled by radio from the ground and 2 astronaut/robot-technicians? But of course I don’t know what the heck those 7 astronauts do right now.

This reminds me of an important interview about remotely operated vehicles that I saw on Scientific American (Beneath the Sea: Into the Deep, Part I, May 14, 2002) with Bob Ballard:

ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) In spite of the spectacular scientific advances that have been made with the use of small manned submersibles like Alvin, Ballard says we don’t need subs like this any more. He came to that conclusion right here on the Galapagos Rift.

BOB BALLARD The turning moment for me was in a submarine just like this one, when we found these unique life forms. And we were down on the bottom of the Galapagos Rift, it was 1979, OK. And biologists had never seen these life forms ever before, and we got them in the submarine and, a scientist by the name of Holger Jannish, who just couldn’t wait to see these creatures. He knew he was going to be famous, just to be the first to see them biologically. And so we got down there and they were right outside the window. And I was sitting over here and I had brought down a new prototype camera system — a digital camera system. And I was looking at the animals and I looked up from my porthole and I looked at Holger, and he had his back to the window. I said, “Holger, what are you doing?” And he said, “I’m looking at the monitor.”

ALAN ALDA That’s amazing.

BOB BALLARD And I said, ” Wait a minute, let me see if I got this right�

ALAN ALDA We came all the way down here�

BOB BALLARD We came all the way down here, and you turn your back to the window — and I went (snap)

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