Feeds

Scrap space robots, government urged

Manned flights the answer, say UK boffins

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Using robots to roam the solar system is a false economy, and priority should be given to human-based space exploration, a group of UK scientists insists. They are urging the government to reconsider funding research into human missions. They claim the fringe benefits would make the investment worthwhile.

The British government is firmly opposed to funding the ESA's research into manned flights, and has been for many years. Robots are much cheaper to send to the other planets in the solar system, after all, and are capable of gathering huge amounts for data for later analysis. The risk of sending people "out there" has also been deemed too great: if a robot goes missing, it is an expensive shame, but if a pod full of people were to crash onto the surface of Mars it would be a catastrophe.

Alan North, president of the Physiological Society, explains why it is worth the risk: "The pay-offs could be enormous," he told the FT. "Not just for protecting astronauts from the effects of [zero gravity] but to learn how to prevent wasting of muscle and bone here on earth."

The group is looking to the ESA's Aurora programme - exploring the solar system with manned and unmanned missions - to spur a shift in policy, or at least open a debate on the subject. If Britain joins Aurora, at a likely cost of £25m per year, it could allow British scientists access to biomedical research in space.

Professor Michael Rennie, who leads in osteoporosis research at Nottingham University, said that access to people who have spent time in micro-gravity was important in his research. He claims that for an investment of £10m over a period of five years would lead to a much greater understanding of how space affected bone and muscle mass, and the production of the structural protein, collagen.

He argues that the costs could be shared with the pharmaceutical industry: "Astronauts...lose bone at a rate many times faster than post-menopausal women. For this money we have a good chance of making discoveries that could lead to pharmaceutical targets for osteoporosis research," he said. ®

Related stories

Medical imaging research awarded £4.5m
ESA commissions super spacesuit
FAA greenlights private spaceship

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.