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Should NASA Send Astronauts On Voluntary One-Way Missions?

Displaying poll results.
Absolutely, for any mission the astronauts are willing to take.
  6691 votes / 32%
Only for high value missions.
  1263 votes / 6%
Only if the astronauts have a reasonable chance of surviving where they end up.
  4714 votes / 22%
I don't see a good reason, but I could be convinced.
  1544 votes / 7%
No. Never.
  1251 votes / 6%
One-way missions should be the purview of private space companies.
  380 votes / 1%
Can I volunteer?
  951 votes / 4%
Can I volunteer somebody else?
  3940 votes / 19%
20734 total votes.
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  • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
  • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
  • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
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Should NASA Send Astronauts On Voluntary One-Way Missions?

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  • by war4peace (1628283) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:30AM (#46649687)

    It's as simple as asking: "do you want to take that risk"?
    There's plenty of people in the world willing to participate to something that will likely end their lives, as long as they perceive it as heroic. It's one of the freedoms I value in a civilized world.

    With that being said, 15 years ago I would have volunteered, but today, for the sake of my family, I wouldn't.

    • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @11:19AM (#46650249)

      I disagree, at least in the extent to which survival at the end of the trip (be it one way or not) is not a reasonable probability. It's not as simple as "do you want to take that risk?" Risk implies probability, but planning for a one-way trip is a certainty.

      An organization does not have the ethical right to ask for this certainty, especially when there is no chance that the asking could be done without some form of coercion (i.e. implicit do it for your country/honor/science/show you're not a coward/etc...). We don't even ask this of our armed forces. When people join, they know there's a risk (i.e. probability) that they may die - and in fact that they may later be ordered into a very bad situation - but those are situations (often in the heat) where plans went very wrong, or situations involving the kind of math where you spend infinity to gain infinity [wikipedia.org]. And even in that example, the action was voluntary by situation, not by designed plan. We have no such pressing desperation in scientific exploration.

      We can design exploration plans that allow for something other than suffocation or starvation as an end point. I would say that exploration with pioneering and settlement are ethically reasonable places to solicit volunteers. Even sustained exploration where limited resources are not an assurance of death (i.e. "an ongoing mission to seek out...") could be reasonable. But I think any mission which involves planting a flag, running a few experiments, and then opening one's helmet is ethically flawed - especially when patience will let us solve the intrinsic survival problems.

      • by war4peace (1628283) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @01:45PM (#46651839)

        This is the mentality of modern (western) civilization, where comfort (or its perception) supersedes the willingness to risk your life or even face certain death after a task is accomplished. People from other countries might not exhibit the same mentality, though. They would see life and achievement differently, and that's mainly because they haven't "advanced" that much, therefore their minds aren't fully set on that "life is sacred" BS. Sorry, but I think that's utter BS.
        Many technological and scientific advances from the past were done with sacrifice (e.g. Marie Curie, reaching North Pole, South Pole, exploration of Africa). Of course, today's scientific exploration has been made more secure, and we've gotten accustomed to that idea. And we're right, in most cases, but there's still the odd activity which would only be possible through taking huge risks, including volunteers marching to certain death for the purpose of scientific breakthrough. The alternative would be to just curl up in a corner and ignore that scientific branch until further notice, aka "when it's safe" - and in a small amount of cases that would equal "never" or "in hundreds of years".
        Which leads us to this specific thing we're talking about, which is space exploration. You can't "simulate" that, you have to go out there and do it. That involves risks, and there's plenty examples from our recent past where space exploration made victims. True, they weren't sent to "certain death" but the outcome was the same nevertheless.
        This whole "it's unethical to have such a mission" thing is artificial, and is a byproduct of modern, Western mentality which values life more than anything else, including an activity which might literally "save the planet" someday (space exploration, that is). I find it ironic that one is willing to sacrifice themselves for things such as religious or political belief but at the same time science is a big no-no of a reason.

    • Sending them on a one way trip turns risk into reality. It's one thing to say there's a 20% chance of survival and another to say, we're not bringing you back. Short of suicidal people, there aren't many I know who would choose to die (not to possibly die) for the sake of science.
      • Yeah well, maybe you don't know the right people.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      It's as simple as asking: "do you want to take that risk"?

      We have entire Federal Agencies tasked with managing food and product safety, because "do you want to take that risk" is something that society has decided is not a valid way to frame the debate.

      • Actually, these only regulates standards when the consumer can't assess the risk.

        If you want to eat poison, go nuts. No regulation will stop you. Drink bleach, mix mercury with your coffee, shave lead onto your food, or quite literally eat shit and die. FDA doesn't care.

        But if you want to sell food that is contaminated with poison, without bothering to tell buyers that it's not suitable for human consumption, then yes society should stop you.

    • I think the whole question is a misunderstanding of analysis, caused by the idiotic Mars ONE bullshit/hype.

      Besides the exception of some kind of emergency mission to save the planet like in the Hollywood film Armageddon, there really is no reason so send anyone on a suicide mission.

      It's a waste of resources to send a 'suicide mission'....space is the most expensive thing humans do...

      Also, If we have the ability to travel to another planet, we have the ability to return or begin permanent colonization.

      All "r

      • by MrMickS (568778)

        I think the whole question is a misunderstanding of analysis, caused by the idiotic Mars ONE bullshit/hype.

        Besides the exception of some kind of emergency mission to save the planet like in the Hollywood film Armageddon, there really is no reason so send anyone on a suicide mission.

        It's a waste of resources to send a 'suicide mission'....space is the most expensive thing humans do...

        Also, If we have the ability to travel to another planet, we have the ability to return or begin permanent colonization.

        All "risk" is a question of engineering.

        The Mars ONE hype has brought focus on things, one of which is why is space the most expensive thing that humans do. Its expensive because of the assumption that you have to engineer for every possibility imaginable. If you reduce the possibilities then the engineering simplifies and the cost reduces.

        Its not necessarily a 'suicide mission' just a mission that would not involve a planned return to Earth. If such a mission has quantifiable aims and those are met wouldn't that stop it being a waste of resource

        • i'm all for colonizing the moon and other planets....maybe I misunderstood TFA...

          ts not necessarily a 'suicide mission' just a mission that would not involve a planned return to Earth

          now, if it's a "one way" trip, that means they either have a plan to colonize and live indefinitely...or not

          I thought TFA was addressing the latter...a mission that is *not* planned to function indefinitely...one that is essentially a 'suicide mission'

          now the Mars One thing...no...it has **NOT** brought focus...quite the opposi

        • one of which is why is space the most expensive thing that humans do. Its expensive because of the assumption that you have to engineer for every possibility imaginable. If you reduce the possibilities then the engineering simplifies and the cost reduces.

          No, it's expensive because it serves little or no purpose.

          Ships are expensive. Jet airliners are expensive. But they don't need "inspiration" to justify their existence. [And they are a hell of a lot less expensive than they would be if a single minor government agency was their sole source of revenue.]

          Focus the US space program on developing a commercial industry, not on government funded stunts. (**) Just as NACA (NASA's 1930's predecessor) focused on developing US commercial aviation, not on developing o

    • It's as simple as asking: "do you want to take that risk"?
      There's plenty of people in the world willing to participate to something that will likely end their lives, as long as they perceive it as heroic. It's one of the freedoms I value in a civilized world.

      With that being said, 15 years ago I would have volunteered, but today, for the sake of my family, I wouldn't.

      on earh, that person may be a paraplegic, but in space, he would become as agile as the person with legs. Ergo, for this individual (a Steven Hawkins ) health category of person, it would be advantageous.
      If the trip has the high risk of failing (death), then why should I be complicit in the risk?

    • We would never discover the New World today.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Manned one-way missions are a desperation tactic. You know what you should be aiming for? Getting a man to the Martian surface and returning him back to Earth alive and well.

    Space exploration doesn't need to take place in your lifetime. Solve the engineering challenges and the rest will follow.

    • Certainly worked for Apollo. Immediately opened up the moon for human settlement. 50 years later, we can go out at night and look up at the glittering cities on the moon and be proud of our half century of achievement.

  • A better solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Save our astronauts - send politicians instead. Do the world a favor or two...

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @11:22AM (#46650297) Journal
    ..where possible. Otherwise, what does that say about us as a spacefaring sentient race? Also, safety should continue to always be a consideration, regardless of whether we're sending someone to live permanently elsewhere in our planetary system or not.

    Government-funded or privately-funded, the first permanent colonies off-world absolutely need to be 100% successes, and by that I mean no deaths, otherwise it'll be like nuclear power all over again: it gets a bad reputation due to something like mis-management, and people in general will sour on the idea for a long time to come. It is my belief that we need to start getting the hell off this planet Real Soon Now, as well as start controlling our rate of reproduction, before we're so overcrowded and so short of resources everywhere that the War to End All Wars starts.
    • Government-funded or privately-funded, the first permanent colonies off-world absolutely need to be 100% successes, and by that I mean no deaths,

      Considering that humans have finite lifespans, I'd say that requirement dooms the entire concept to failure before it even gets off the ground.

      • OK, new plan then. We can found a turtle colony in space!
        Immortal space turtles just sound amazing.

      • Don't be disingenuous. He means no deaths directly resulting from the exploration/habitation venture (habitat loss, equipment malfunction, starving to death, CO2 poisoning, cosmic radiation, etc). Obviously everyone eventually dies.
      • by kheldan (1460303)
        Don't be so goddamned pedantic.
    • by bughunter (10093)

      I voted (3), but really, the answer depends on the purpose of the mission, and the overall purpose of the space program.

      If the point is to colonize other worlds, open new frontiers, escape the confines of this single planet in order to ensure the survival of humans and other terrestrial species, then there's no point. If you can't establish a viable colony, then you're not ready yet. Send robots until you are. Build and expand in stages.

      If the purpose is commercial, then the answer is similar but for a d

      • by Lazere (2809091)
        I don't agree with your first point. Building colonies is something we aren't going to be able to test and perfect on earth or with robots. It has to be done off planet and it has to be done with real humans or we can't know if it will succeed. Second, a one way trip doesn't have to entail death from asphyxiation or starvation, it could entail dying of more natural causes after reproducing. Plus, it's not a very effective colony if we bring everybody back, is it?
        • it has to be done with real humans or we can't know if it will succeed

          Maybe I can help with some rules of thumb:

          1 - If there is no breathable athmosphere, it will not succeed.
          2 - If you don't produce anything to eat, it will not succeed.
          3 - If there is no local manufacturing, it will not succeed.
          4 - If you can not keep a rabbit, dog, rat, or whatever alive, it will not succeed.

          After you do all that, yes, maybe you'll have a reason to test it with people.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2014 @01:42PM (#46651813)

      Death is INEVITABLE. Death is useful to the species. Death facilitates Evolution.

      Death is not unjust, and the choice to sacrifice "some life time" in return for furthering valuable goals should be open to those who wish to make it.

      Why should you, I or anyone else be cruelly denied the chance to expend some of our lives in return for the greater good
      of our species?

      If a soldier diving on a grenade for his buddies deserves the Medal of Honor, why should free choice to make a vastly more valuable sacrifice be denied???

    • by suutar (1860506)
      Eh. The pioneers will go despite risk. The rest won't go no matter what.
    • by MrMickS (568778)

      the first permanent colonies off-world absolutely need to be 100% successes, and by that I mean no deaths

      We can't even guarantee that building football stadia [google.co.uk] here on Earth. Given that any colonisation would be taking place in a hostile environment your requirement absolutely rule out any attempt.

      Given you believe that we have to start getting off the planet your requirements will have to be relaxed, in which case it becomes a question of what is the acceptable risk. There is an assumption being made in the negative comments that a one-way mission would be a short one that would involve a premature death. I'm

  • An only if the earth needs to be saved from an Asteroid with bad physics.

  • With the "Fearless Leader", of course. Turkey's Erdogan could be the co-pilot

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2014 @01:10PM (#46651483)

    Fact is, the "Age of Exploration" involved MANY men sailing farther away from home in terms of real support (opposite side of the world?) and many didn't return, including Magellan himself. They volunteered for various reasons: money, fame, employment, nothing better to do, loyalty to the monarch, etc. One could easily say space is that next "Age of Exploration."

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      The difference being that they had a hope of returning in the "Age of Exploration". One way trips have no hope of returning. Also, sending people was the only way to explore in the "Age of Exploration". Today we have alternatives. Sending a people to their death to do something robots can do is unreasonable.

    • Not the same thing. Probably the *most* isolated ships in history were whaling ships who weren't out at see to hit other ports or engage other ships. And even those ships still had large crews for socialization, relatively huge open spaces to move about, access to the sea to supplement their food, rain for water, and knew in a pinch they could hit an island for repairs or supplies.

      A near-future trip to Mars would be unprecedented in its isolation, margin of error, and cramped quarters. IMO, the reason it

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @01:30PM (#46651707)

    If it's a permanent colony, then of course. That's one-way, but with a solid intent and good odds of dying only when old age catches up.

    If it's a long-term mission, but with only X years of supplies and no plans for return, then there needs to be some strong benefit. Altering the course of an Earth-bound asteroid? Worth it. Perhaps some extremely useful science could also justify this - if we somehow get a sudden radio broadcast from Europa, sending a crew on a suicide mission to investigate might be worth it. But the xenogeology and such that we'd be doing on a Mars mission would not really justify a suicide mission, unless we can continually resupply them (but at that point, they're basically a colony without population growth).

    If it's just a "put feet on the rock to claim it", hell no.

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @03:03PM (#46652567) Homepage

    I mean, realisticly -- if NASA sends someone on a one-way trip ... are they then obligated to keep paying them until they die?

    What about once they get old, and the other people on the mission have to start taking care of them?

    Or do you have to implement a euthenasia policy? And then the federal government has to approve it, which would likely open all sorts of protests, etc.

  • After listening to a guy on the radio slowly losing his mind from the isolation. It'll never happen...on purpose.

  • ... de facto one-way. If there's a chance of living to a ripe old age where you're going, then voluntary one-way missions are perfectly fine, especially when they come with the opportunity to stake a claim.

    If "one-way" implies using your favorite method of suicide after a few months, then no.

  • Going there to die is a bit like proving you can survive in the wilderness as long as you don't run out of canned food or that man can fly by being shot out of a catapult. We can put you in a bunker and as long as you don't get exposed to too much heat or cold or radiation or G-forces and have food and water and breathable air you won't die, whether we do it here or ship it to Mars. If survival is not important we can point a rocket in almost any direction, it's keeping you alive that is the accomplishment.

  • by deathcloset (626704) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @04:53PM (#46654515) Journal
    I'm such a huge space nut but I seriously can't see how sending people to their probable deaths offers a scientific or societal benefit.

    Are they better than robots? No.

    Change "reasonable chance of survival" into "very likely chance of survival" and I would change my mind, but "reasonable chance of survival" in NASA and space exploration terms means something like a 1/1000 chance of death (just pulling a number out of the air).

    If you want something organic up there quick then send a monkey. Then, after the monkey has not died a horrible death, send a person.

    I want to live in space. I want space colonies. But I don't want space exploration and colonies to be built on the graves of those who came before us.

    I just don't see the benefit. Furthermore I feel that suicidal space exploration has a very dark economic shadow to it.

    send more and better robots. That way we don't kill heroes and we also get advances in robotics.

    I can't believe I'm even saying this, but it's how I feel.
  • Google up on articles on the Lazarus Doctor (he works on patients who have nominally died of hypothermia) and on the new experimental saline blood substitute for potentially fatal injuries (the paramedics swap the patient's blood for the solution, deep-freeze the patient and reverse the process at hospital, eliminating all stress and trauma to the body in transit).

    The theoretical duration you can perform suspended animation in real life is unknown, but is estimated to be many months.

    The practical duration i

  • .. I reckon that any volunteer would need to be carefully assessed to make sure that he's not crazy (defined as follows...) and is doing this for a socially acceptable reason.

    Sorry to bring it up, but it was a one-way mission for the zealots who crashed the planes into the two towers, back in 2001. If we want a volunteer for a suicide mission, then we don't want a suicide-bomber sort-of guy, we want a sacrifice-for-the-common-good sort-of guy. Now, how we do find that sort of person, with questions...
  • I'd volunteer AGW deniers except I'm afraid they'd screw up Mars too.

  • by ark1 (873448) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:17PM (#46657287)
    A recruitment ad could look something like this:

    Aspiring Astronaut, why join NASA?
    -Experience blazing speed* inside one of our rockets
    -Survivor rate up to 100%
    -Professional customer support associate available 24/7.

    *Upload speed may be significantly faster than download back to Earth, other conditions apply.
  • You're sending them to live somewhere else until they die. Or, they can stay here and die, too.

    Let's let it be by choice, if there is a benefit to mankind.

  • No, it's not exactly the same, but when Europeans set sail for the Americas, they had no intention, nor any guarantee, of going back. I'm not in favor of a "suicide mission", but if there's a reasonable expectation that we can keep them alive for the rest of their natural lives, then yes, we should consider investigating it. That being said, that's a massive financial commitment, and I'd much prefer a return method be an option.
    • That being said, that's a massive financial commitment, and I'd much prefer a return method be an option.

      If humanity spent on science and exploration half the money spent on killing each other we'd probably have FTL capability by now.

  • by coastal984 (847795) on Friday April 04, 2014 @08:11AM (#46660077) Journal
    Can we send the Slashdot Beta?
  • I wish we could get past this obsession of feeling like we have to send humans everywhere (in the short run). (I'm thinking of long distance missions more than popping up to the ISS.)

    If you look at the overall costs associated with programs sending humans versus programs that are all robotic, we could fund many times as many robotic missions for the cost of one human-containing mission. How many Hubble's or Cassini's could we fund for the cost of one manned Mars mission? I'm as big a fan of the space progra

    • by kwiecmmm (1527631)

      I agree that robot missions are important, but I think it is more about a push to force humans to expand their knowledge into these areas. Our human space travel knowledge has not really expanded a lot in the last 40 years.

      And the only way that we seem to force ourselves to consider the issues you discuss here is to push toward a long term goal like this. If the Russians hadn't launched Sputnik, I don't think our satellite technology, human space knowledge and all of the secondary technologies that were c

  • by BlackPignouf (1017012) on Saturday April 05, 2014 @11:13AM (#46670091)

    PROTIP: None of us has any chance of surviving, wherever we end up.

Old programmers never die, they just hit account block limit.

 



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