Feeds

Scrap space robots, government urged

Manned flights the answer, say UK boffins

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The next step in data security

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

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Stray positrons caught on ISS hint at DARK MATTER source
Landlubber scope-gazers squint to horizons and see anti-electron count surge
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.