The most sophisticated tool we possess, discovered a way to make discoveries without leaving earth.
Some discoveries. Very slowly. With very limited flexibility and substantially reduced spinoff benefits. Robots are a great way to explore some things but they are not the preferred way to explore everything.
What can a human being learn about botany in space that a human can't learn on earth by controlling a robot botanist?
How digestible the plant is by people in space to start with. How the plant interacts with humans in a different environment for another. You cannot discover a lot of things that relate to humans without a human being present.
As an engineer, (and not an astronaut), I think I am far more interested in making the thing that actually goes to mars and does the work, rather than making something that is so deficient that it requires a human being to be in close physical proximity to operate it.
Who said anything about making something deficient? Strawman argument you have there my friend. Don't try to put words in my mouth.
I think we will invent good spinoff technology regardless of whether we send humans or robots. In fact I would say the *best* spinoff technology to come from the space race were the advances in automation.
Of course we'll invent good spinoff technologies. But they will be DIFFERENT technologies. There are some technologies that will only and can only be developed if you plan to send people. And this robot vs human thing is a false dilemma. It does not have to be an either/or proposition. We can and should do both. Hell we could triple NASA's budget by taking the money from our military. The obstacles are not financial or even technical, they are merely political.
As for which technologies are best I think that is a matter of opinion, not fact and you didn't clarify what criteria establishes "best". Best by what measure? And even if you come up with a measure I'm not sure that's a very useful thing to do.
I'm not saying we shouldn't have people on mars. We should when it benefits us. Automation removes the *need* to put humans on mars to actually do things on mars. We should go when there is a tangible benefit to going.
There already is a tangible benefit to sending people. I outlined a large number of them. It will also take us decades to get to the point where sending people is a realistic option. The NASA administrator was interviewed on Startalk radio recently and he claims their on pace (funding permitting) to get boots on Mars in the 2030s. I'm extremely dubious that we will get there that fast but that's ok. If it takes longer so be it. What I think would be a tragedy would be to stop funding the research for how to get a person there.
We shouldn't send people to mars to repair robots.
I never claimed that we should. Not sure who's argument you are responding to but it certainly isn't mine. We should send people to Mars to explore. There isn't a robot you can design that can do the sort of exploring that a person can do. Robots should supplement the experience, not be an avatar for it.