The Scientific Case for Human Spaceflight


DR KEVIN FONG: Life Sciences Research on the International Space Station ------------------------------------------------------------------------
The impact of the space environment upon living organisms is profound. Its effects range from alterations in sub-cellular processes to changes in the structure and function of whole organ systems. As the number of astronaut and cosmonaut crews flown in space has grown, so to has our understanding of the effects of the space environment upon biological systems. There are many parallels between the physiology of space flight and terrestrial disease processes, and the response of astronaut crews themselves to long-duration space deployment is therefore of central interest. In the next 15 years the International Space Station (ISS) will serve as a permanently manned dedicated life and physical sciences platform for the further investigation of these phenomena. The European Space Agency's Columbus module will hold the bulk of the ISS life science capability and, in combination with NASA's Human Research Facility (HRF) will accommodate the rack mounted experimental apparatus. The programme of experimentation will include efforts in fundamental biology, human physiology, behavioural science and space biomedical research. In the four decades since Yuri Gagarin first orbitted the Earth, space life science has emerged as afield of study in its own right. The ISS takes us into the next era of human space exploration, and it is hoped that its programme of research will yield new insights, novel therapeutic interventions, and improved biotechnology for terrestrial application.

DR OLIVIER MINSTER: Basic and Applied Research in Physical Sciences in Space ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Through the support of Topical Teams of European scientists for the preparation of research programme proposals to be submitted in response to Announcements of Research Opportunities, and the selection of the best proposals by panels of independent external peers, ESA has set-up a research plan and a strategy for future activities inh the field of Life and Physical Sciences Research in the space environment. These activities encompass both basic and applied research. Significant support of non-space industry to the research contemplated on the International Space Station has been acquired. A report on the present situation of the programme will be presented, particularly for what concerns research in Physical Sciences, as well as an outline of the development envisaged for the near and medium term future.

DR ARVIND PARMAR: High-Energy Astronomy from the International Space Station ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
ESA is currently studying 3 high-energy astronomy missions that use the International Space Station (ISS). These are Lobster-ISS, an all-sky imaging X-ray monitor, the Extreme Universe Space Observatory (EUSO) which will study the highest energy cosmic rays by using the Earth's atmosphere as a giant detector and XEUS - the X-ray Evolving Universe Spectroscopy Mission, a potential successor to ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory. These first 2 missions will be attached to the external platforms on the Columbus module, while XEUS will visit the ISS to attach additional X-ray mirrors to enlarge the original 4.5 m diameter mirrors to the 10 m diameter required to observed redshifted iron lines from massive black holes in the early Universe.

DR PAUL SPUDIS: The Case for Renewed Human Exploration of the Moon ------------------------------------------------------------------
A human return to the Moon will be a boon to science. On the Moon, we can learn about the geological processes that have shaped all of the terrestrial planets by studying the well-preserved record of the Moon. The Moon is a superb platform for the observation of the universe and sensitive instruments designed to take advantage of its unique environment will allow us to see more of the universe more clearly. Both of these objectives require the guiding presence of human intelligence, flexibility, decision-making, and adaptation. Human field work is required to solve many scientific problems. Experience has shown that human installation and maintenance of complex equipment in space is often required. No one has yet built a robot that duplicates or comes close to human judgement and flexibility. Beyond the sheer adventure of human spaceflight, people are needed to carry out the complex, second-generation scientific exploration of the planets.

DR ALEX ELLERY: A Robotics Perspective on Human Spaceflight -----------------------------------------------------------
The debate over whether human or robotic space exploration is often seen as a mutually exclusive one, particularly from the perspective that funds allocated for manned space missions starve funds for robotic missions. I shall argue that they are not mutually exclusive - rather, they afford an efficient division of labour between man and the machine. This division of labour is driven by limitations on autonomous robotics technology, and wholesale replacement of men by machines for space exploration will not be possible for the forseeable future if scientific returns are to be optimised.

DR JULIAN HISCOX: The Human Exploration of Mars: An Exobiological Perspective -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Early last century, Lowell painted a picture of Mars where an advanced dying civilisation transported water from the polar caps to cities at the equator. This view of Mars was shattered in the Sixties when the early Mariner probes returned images of Mars that resembled the Moon. Mariner 9, the two Viking orbiters and most recently Mars Global Surveyor overturned this view by returning images of dried up riverbeds and the remnants of oceans from an ancient time, which suggested that the climate of ancient Mars and ancient Earth were very similar. If an origin of life event occured on the Earth then there is no reason to assume that an event did not occur on Mars. Traces of an ancient Martian life might still be present today. However, so far we have only scrapped and scratched at the surface. If we are to unlock the secrets of the Red Planet then we need to send human explorers armed with drills and rock hammers. Contrary to perceived wisdom, the human exploration of Mars is not impossible. Although fraught with risk, the cost of several such missions is less than the total cost of the International Space Station.

MR NICK CROSS: The Case for Mars
Mars is one of the nearest planets to Earth and one that has excited the imagination of scientists, writers and the general public frequently from well before the beginning of the space age. Although we don't see Mars as a planet full of intelligent beings as Percival Lowell did, we see Mars as a fascinating planet with amazing surface features and a rich geological history. We have had tantalising clues that life may have once existed there, and may still exist there. I will discuss some of the scientific questions that we have about Mars, and its relation to other bodies in the solar system, before talking about why human exploration would be beneficial to the scientific work. I will then discuss why Mars would be a more suitable target than other planetary bodies and how exploration of Mars will lead to easier exploration of the rest of the solar system.

DR ANDREW COATES: Limited by cost: the case against humans in the scientific exploration of space -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Human spaceflight represents a heady mix of bravery and drama which can be inspirational to nations and to humankind but at huge economic cost. Due to the current high launch costs only a handful of people have ventured beyond low Earth orbit and walked on the Moon, propelled by aspirations related more to the Cold War than to science. Problems with reusable launch vehicle development mean that severe launch cost limitations will exist for some time. Meanwhile, cheaper robotic probes have visited all the planets except Pluto, flown by comets, landed on Mars, Venus and an asteroid, have probed Jupiter's atmosphere and studied the Universe beyond our own solar system with telescopes. Using these data we are determining mankind's place in the Universe. Public interest in the historic Eros landing eclipsed a simultaneous spacewalk at the fledgling International Space Station and the Mars Pathfinder landing generated hundreds of millions of website hits in a few days. Given the fact that hundreds of Mars missions could be flown for the still-escalating cost of the International Space Station, the unsuitability of human bodies for deep space exploration, and the advances in 3-d and virtual reality techniques, we discuss whether human exploration needs a place in a realistic, useful and inspirational space programme.

DR IAN CRAWFORD: The Scientific Case for a Human Spaceflight Infrastructure ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
I shall argue that science stands to benefit greatly from the infrastructure developed to support a human space programme. By infrastructure, I mean all those facilities and capabilities (e.g. launch vehicles, astronauts, space stations, lunar and planetary bases) which purely scientific budgets could never afford to develop, but which nevertheless act to facilitate scientific research which would not otherwise take place. For example, the human presence on the Moon during the Apollo Project resulted in the acquisition of scientific data which would not have been obtained otherwise. There is every reason to expect that the same will hold true for future human missions to both the Moon and Mars (and indeed elsewhere), especially if these involve the establishment of permanently occupied scientific facilities. In the more distant future, an important scientific application of a well-developed human spaceflight infrastructure may be the construction of interstellar space probes (capable of travelling at, say, ten to twenty percent of the speed of light), for the exploration of the planets recently discovered around other nearby stars.