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NASA Can't Ethically Send Astronauts On One-Way Missions To Deep Space

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the but-everyone-else-is-doing-it dept.

NASA 402

Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "If NASA is serious about deep space missions, it's going to have to change its safety guidelines, because there's no conceivable way that, within the next few years, our engineering capabilities or understanding of things like radiation exposure in space are going to advance far enough for a mission to Mars to be acceptably "safe" for NASA. So, instead, the agency commissioned the National Academies Institute of Medicine to take a look at how it can ethically go about changing those standards. The answer? It likely can't.

In a report released today, the National Academies said that there are essentially three ways NASA can go about doing this, besides completely abandoning deep space forever: It can completely liberalize its health standards, it can establish more permissive "long duration and exploration health standards," or it can create a process by which certain missions are exempt from its safety standards. The team, led by Johns Hopkins University professor Jeffrey Kahn, concluded that only the third option is remotely acceptable."

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oblig... (4, Funny)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 7 months ago | (#46644591)

The only danger is if they send [them] to that terrible Planet of the Apes.

Wait a minute....

Ethical is irrelevant. (5, Insightful)

Darth Muffin (781947) | about 7 months ago | (#46644637)

Whether sending a willing astronaut, who understands and chose to do this of his own free will, on a dangerous or even one-way mission is ethical is not a question for anyone except the astronaut. It's like trying to decide if gay marriage is "ethical". Unless you're one of the ones involved, nonya business trying to define ethics.

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (5, Interesting)

BitterOak (537666) | about 7 months ago | (#46644733)

Whether sending a willing astronaut, who understands and chose to do this of his own free will, on a dangerous or even one-way mission is ethical is not a question for anyone except the astronaut.

Can the astronaut accomplish the mission all by him or herself? Or does he/she need a ground crew and a team of engineers to design and build the rocket? If so, then they would all be participants in the astronaut's death. If I decide I want to die and I hand you a gun and ask you to shoot me, is it ethical for you to do so?

It's like trying to decide if gay marriage is "ethical". Unless you're one of the ones involved, nonya business trying to define ethics

But therein lies the problem. There are other people involved.

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (2)

bob_super (3391281) | about 7 months ago | (#46644755)

Use your gun analogy properly: make the astronaut push the launch button, and the manufacturer is immune from any harm...

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (1)

MobSwatter (2884921) | about 7 months ago | (#46644801)

Or the government can just dig out the technology they have been working on that is decades ahead of public knowledge...

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (1)

JDeane (1402533) | about 7 months ago | (#46645453)

This would cause panic and confusion....

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645001)

So long as the others involved in the mission do so voluntarily, what's the problem? An astronaut's decision to accept a one-way mission does not preclude the mission control staff from opting out. Of course, the employer may decide that it's no longer beneficial to employ individuals who refuse to participate in certain missions. It's really more complicated because NASA is a public institution. If it were private, the lines are black and white, so long as you ignore the legal precedence established in the early 20th century that deem individuals do not actually have the right to contract and, apparently, do not own their own person.

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (2)

cheater512 (783349) | about 7 months ago | (#46645135)

I have no problem killing you if you have made a informed decision.

You want a one way ticket to mars? You are mentally stable, aware of the implications, told your family and waited a cool off period? Great welcome aboard!

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 7 months ago | (#46645281)

I've told my family I would be willing to go on a one-way mission to Mars. Providing I'm the first to do it, not the twentieth or so. And providing that they are given a house and my daughter's education is paid through college.

So I wouldn't do it if it left my family destitute, but otherwise, what's the problem with this choice?

Ethics is Relative. PERIOD. (4, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 7 months ago | (#46645157)

If I decide I want to die and I hand you a gun and ask you to shoot me, is it ethical for you to do so?

Yes. Of course. Wouldn't it be ethical for me to inject your life-ending serum were you in terrible pain and wanted to die? OK, what if the pain is mental? What if there is no pain and you're sacrificing yourself for science? Look, just because some folks have a problem with killing people that want to die doesn't mean it's unethical to end people's lives when they really do want to die. That's their life, it's their choice.

You had better wise up quick. Our technological progress may eventually render us immortal. We already have stem-cell brain injections and neuroplasticity drugs to help repair and improve brain function. We'll probably have lab grown 3D printed replacement organs in a decade or so (12 years was the time-line I last saw). Our machine complexity is increasing at an exponential rate. Machines have gained capabilities in a few short decades that took us organic lifeforms billions of years to achieve. So, what happen when you're an immortal? Everyone lives forever whether they want to or not? Fuck. That. Hard.

I've got a game plot I'm working on where we deal with some of these ethical issues. Perhaps in a post-death world old timers will be the ones doing the really risky jobs that machines still can't do because they've been everywhere, done everything, and they aren't all geniuses constantly contributing to science. The ones who want to benefit their society best may decide to do so by taking really dangerous jobs or even suicide missions, boldly going where no man has gone before instead of just wasting resources thinking the same old thoughts and seeing the same old things. Whereas others explore the limits of understanding, they may choose to become daredevils exploring the limits of reality and life itself. In death they can become heroes and die knowing they have sacrificed themselves for the greater good of all.

We don't have to wait for immortality to realize these are noble causes. It's not like we have a shortage of humans that it would cripple us if a few decided to give their lives in the name of science.

If you don't have the freedom to peacefully sacrifice yourself for your species, planet, country, family, etc... then you don't have free will. No one is obliged to help you off yourself, but if they do it's not unethical. Are you even aware of the history of space exploration, or exploration in general? You sound like one of those brain-washed fools who advocate against free will of the terminally ill just to make the medical establishment a huge fortune, profiting via human suffering; Meanwhile staving kids fight wars over diamonds, electronics scraps, or food, with AK47s in Africa and you're not lobbying congress to do jack shit about it. I sure hope I'm wrong about you. Someday you might be one who's begging for death. If you keep that bullshit opinion of yours now, I hope that happens and your kids say, "Sorry gramps, looks like another 8-10 years of excruciating pain. You're not in control of your own life anymore because Pfizer has to make a buck somehow!"

Seriously. How the fuck did this moron get rated so highly is beyond me. Dying for piddling oil wars is somehow acceptable, but to advance the human space frontier is questionably not ethical?! Fuck all those mods, apparently you're not the same species as me after all.

Re:Ethics is Relative. PERIOD. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645323)

Seriously. How the fuck did this moron get rated so highly is beyond me.

Perhaps because instead of being a self righteous prick he expressed a valid point very clearly and simply. You on the other hand....

Re:Ethics is Relative. PERIOD. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645491)

WAT? Somehow you managed to turn a rational discussion about the ethics of space travel into a strawman argument about euthanasia. There are plenty of ways to make a name for yourself and go out with a bang here on Earth. We don't need (or want) astronauts that just want to be the first ones to die outside the solar system.

Humans will travel into deep space when it's "safe". By safe we don't mean "0% chance the trip will end in a fireball," and not even "not a one way trip / eventual lonely death in cold space mission." By safe, we mean that the crew will have the ability to sustain themselves for the remainder of a "natural" life expectancy. In order for that to happen, it means we'll hvae to send them packing with enough enough oxygen, food and water + recycling of all waste products, decades worth of various types of medication, radiation and particle shielding, and a reactor powerful enough to sustain "comforable" living conditions for decades.

There are always "others involved"... so what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645201)

Gay people have at least a few other people involved in getting married too ( minister/justice of the peace/whatever to perform the ceremony, two other people to witness it ). That doesn't change anything. People also like to do dangerous things like jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. It is not immoral for the parachute manufacturer to sell them a parachute, nor for the pilot of the plane to fly them up. It is their choice. Your analogy about asking someone to shoot you isn't applicable here since they are doing their best to make sure they survive, even thuogh they have no chance of coming home. In the end, the risks are probably a lot less than those faced by early settlers of the new world.

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (1)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 7 months ago | (#46645331)

But therein lies the problem. There are other people involved.

So what if there's other people involved? Perhaps something like asking for volunteers to work on the project rather than threatening to fire somebody who doesn't want to work on the project would solve that issue. I'm sure there would be plenty of people already working at NASA who would love to work on the project and who wouldn't have a problem with an astronaut volunteering for a one way trip.

And, why can the military kill people who didn't even volunteer to die? Why can the military use aggressive and deceptive recruiting tactics and then put its own people in situations where other people are trying really, really hard to kill them, but NASA can't send volunteers who know what they're getting into on a one-way trip? In the military, once you sign the 4-year contract you can't opt-out of specific missions. In this case, people would be volunteering for a specific mission, and could even opt-out at any time before launch without going to federal prison.

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644739)

My college "business ethics" class spent the last half of the semester being told that hiring the best person for the job, if you haven't hired enough of a given array of protected groups, is "unethical".

Somewhere "ethics" became the businessman's "morals". Then, later on, when businessmen abandoned "ethics", liberals picked it up to mean "stuff that I agree with." Religious people are trying to take it back, by making suicide "unethical", because they aren't allowed to talk about suicide being "immoral". Which the social workers love, because every town, county, state, school district, and military branch needs a suicide prevention coordinator now. How would it look if NASA had a suicide promotion coordinator?

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644747)

Unless you're one of the ones involved, nonya business trying to define ethics.

Careful now, that's a slippery slope you are heading down there.. Why write down laws at all? Just let the affected parties figure it out.

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (2)

taustin (171655) | about 7 months ago | (#46644765)

When the taxpayer is paying for it, and in NASA's case, the taxpayer is always paying for it, it is most certainly the taxpayer's business. And the American public will not take well to suicide missions. First in space death followed by the talking heads wringing their hands about "well, we planned that," and NASA is gone, by public demand.

(I, personally, do not entirely disagree with you, but the political reality is that it's not going to happen.)

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644829)

How many soldiers do we send every year on possibly one way missions?

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644971)

Brilliant. Send soldiers into space for exploration. Sounds like a blockbuster movie!

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645555)

Can we send politicians instead? I like the soldiers.

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (5, Interesting)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 7 months ago | (#46644881)

You will always find people willing to die for fame. Every high publicity serial killer generates people who what to take their place on the electric chair. That does not make it ethical to kill them, just because they want you to.

They could replace "America's Got Talent" with, "I Want to Kill Myself on Live TV" and they would not have any problem finding contestants. Would you really consider that an ethical reality TV show?

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645375)

It'd be a helluva lot more interesting than the vast majority of tripe that's on there now, anyway.

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (0)

flyneye (84093) | about 7 months ago | (#46645251)

It would be a cause of ethical unrest for those facilitating the mission and their role as enablers.
This however could be overcome if only we would change the word Astronaut to Politician, Prisoner, Tax Collector, Reporter or anyone else in a position of variance to mankind.
Simply, quit sending Astronauts on dangerous missions and save them for the more domestic work. Send undesirables forth into the void. It is indisputably logical to do so for a plethora of reasons that do not EVEN need discussed.
Present it to the board and LETS PUT HILLARY ON MARS FOR GOOD!

Then (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about 7 months ago | (#46644619)

If they can't send them ethically, then send them unethically. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure THAT out.

Re:Then (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644823)

They seem to want to rewrite the rules so what was previously unethical is now ehtical. So yes, that is exactly what they will do (except they do not call the "new ethical" by its true name "unethical")

Re:Then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645181)

Or you know, use robots to build a base on the moon, or focus on real science missions that actually enhance our understanding of the universe, or many other interesting things that could be done in space with all that money, instead of obsessing with sending canned humans to mars.

To me this is good news. The sooner we get past this humans on mars fetish the better it is. China ? Watch out, i bet they are going to take steps to colonize the moon, and don't really give a crap about mars missions. We'll see.

Re:Then (1)

demachina (71715) | about 7 months ago | (#46645385)

Chances of NASA sending an astronaut anywhere are approximately zero at this point so whether is ethical or not is kind of a moot point.

Option #4 (5, Funny)

digitalPhant0m (1424687) | about 7 months ago | (#46644621)

Let China go first.

that's why China will do it and we won't. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644625)

We've lost all tolerance for risk or voluntary harm in the pursuit of a larger objective.

But no worries. China is picking up where the USA left off on a lot of fronts.

Re:that's why China will do it and we won't. (2)

rtb61 (674572) | about 7 months ago | (#46644851)

The US is pretty much being bogged down in will it generate a profit even to the point of escalating costs because of course your costs are some else's profits, really self destructive stuff.

Re:that's why China will do it and we won't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645033)

Costs != another's profits. Profits are what's left after paying all of your own costs. Pretty big difference. I'm confused, though, how this has anything to do with profits, losses, or costs: NASA is a public institution and need not adhere to the laws of supply and demand.

Re:that's why China will do it and we won't. (1)

kylemonger (686302) | about 7 months ago | (#46644937)

We've lost all tolerance for risk or voluntary harm in the pursuit of a larger objective.

Last month I watched the Sochi Olympics and before that the Winter X Games. People are willing to break their arms, legs and backs and yes, even die for my entertainment, in exchange for little fame. People who climb and die on high mountains pay to suffer. We have no shortage of risk takers. What we lack are any stated objectives worthy of someone putting their life on the line.

Permanent human settlement is the only goal worth someone risking their lives in long term exposure to the hellish conditions of space. Instead of pussy-footing around with more flag planting missions, just say that we are going to do it. If we're not going for that, then we might as well leave it to the robots.

Re:that's why China will do it and we won't. (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 7 months ago | (#46645167)

People are willing to break their arms, legs and backs and yes, even die for my entertainment,

The participants in the Olympics are not there for your entertainment. They're there because they want to excel and need to compete against others to do so. There are many other events that they compete in that aren't globally televised, and their chance of death or injury is just as great for those.

People who climb and die on high mountains pay to suffer.

You clearly have no idea why people strive to be the best at something, or to do things that others cannot.

Re:that's why China will do it and we won't. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645009)

When the "larger objective" is dying on a lifeless, barren frozen rock millions of miles away, you better believe I have no tolerance for your mental illness.

"China is picking up where the USA left off on a lot of fronts."

So some sort of imaginary international scrotal size contest is what this is about. How about fixing your infrastructure, your sick economic system, your health care system, your energy sources?

Let China play catch-up to stuff you and the Russians did half a century ago. They'll find the same limits you did. They won't have magical technology, or impossible materials either.

And Russia is the perfect example that space doesn't have magical benefits for a society. Russia beat America for almost every space milestone. Where are the miraculous benefits and spinoffs for them?

Re:that's why China will do it and we won't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645235)

Wrong: you've lost all sense of reality. There was a time when science could not be done except by humans. Now we could do much more science much sooner by sending a bunch of expendable robots. Ethics aside, sending people to Mars with near-term (50 years) is just STOOPID and useless. OK, so you don't want to bring the back alive, but the cost and logistics of getting them there alive is monumental all by itself, and will take well more than a decade in prep. We can send robots every damned six months NOW if we want. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PEOPLE THINKING!!!

Manned Mars mission is just about bragging rights, it serves no other purpose whatsoever.

captcha: fooled (no foolin')

3rd world Oligarchy starving in pollution (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 7 months ago | (#46645287)

Someone said the following in regards to any "forget the USA, China's all over X b/c the USA has Y failing"

Wake me up when these 3rd world countries don't have people shitting in the streets

Re:3rd world Oligarchy starving in pollution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645379)

Look in Detroit or Chicago, and you will find people shitting in the streets. Literally shitting, in the fucking streets. The first world is a myth built upon a metaphorical mountain of American lies.

Re:that's why China will do it and we won't. (1)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 7 months ago | (#46645413)

Posting to undo wrong moderation.

Other option? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644631)

Ask North Korea for volunteers. I bet they'd gladly go just for the food alone.

Re:Other option? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644721)

I wouldn't mind going, a lot of people wouldn't mind.
not everyone values their life as much as the oh-so superior feeling american...

Think of the Children!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644659)

If we start sending legal adults who can make their own decisions in to deep space, it is a slippery slope that leads to sending children and people married to hamsters too!

Re:Think of the Children!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644723)

You kidding? This is America we're talking about here.... The place where a healthy child can be aborted mid-birth for no given reason but a 95 year old sane adult in the final throws of cancer can't legally have himself terminated.
 
Look for no logic in this land.

Re:Think of the Children!! (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 7 months ago | (#46644743)

I apologize for not having mod points.

But but but (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644719)

3D printing and computers got better? Surely every other technology got better too? We must get the species off this rock! Because those other rocks is where it's at!

beta redirect. wtf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644725)

off topic... I know... but I just got redirected to beta again... Wtf? I thought we were finished with this shit? It doesn't even look like they have bothered to make any of the changes everyone has been recommending...

Realistically (4, Insightful)

painandgreed (692585) | about 7 months ago | (#46644759)

There's no conceivable way that, within the next few years, our engineering capabilities or understanding of things will be able to do a manned deep space mission to Mars, safe or not. We could try to just put a bunch of guys in a box and send it that way. I doubt we could design, build, orbit, and then get the box on it's way in the "next few years". Let's be serious. Nobody with space capability is looking at a Mars mission any time soon (next few decades*). The level of complexity needed will take time, research, and money. We didn't go to the moon till Apollo 11. Once you start seeing your Mars missions planned, let alone counting up, then we can start being serious about going to Mars. Seriously, we need to test deep space habitats. Long term independent space habitats. Long range movement of large structural objects in space. I bet we will have a deep space station and have sent something similar in a long trip around the moon long before we attempt Mars.

*Elon Musk said it's possible in the next 10-12 years. I think he is just being overly optimistic, and that is overly optimistic, to get in the papers.

Re:Realistically (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#46644963)

We didn't go to the moon till Apollo 11.

Which was, it must be noted, only eight years after the first American went into space.

It's now been 40+ years since a human went beyond LEO...which is sad.

Re:Realistically (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 7 months ago | (#46644993)

We could, we just don't want to. It would take an Apollo program style effort and we don't have the will to do that anymore.

We have reasonably long term habitation in the ISS. We can dust off old NERVA designs, they were about ready to fly test articles. Huge amounts of work to do, hundreds of billions of dollars, but we could do it for less than the cost of the Iraq war.

The answer to the Fermi paradox is that we simply aren't worth talking to.

Re:Realistically (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 7 months ago | (#46645511)

We could, we just don't want to.

Personally, I find it very amusing that you're having serious discussions about the ethics of long distance space missions when you can't even get their astronauts to ISS without the Russians, and you're imposing sanctions on them this very moment.
 
Not real sanctions, more like those really annoying passive aggressive types that you tell them to do something, they give you the finger, then they go do it while muttering under their breath.
 
The US is a joke.

Re:Realistically (1)

somepunk (720296) | about 7 months ago | (#46645005)

Nobod's suggesting we send colonists! Well, nobody serious.

We've sent a lot of probes to Mars in the last couple of decades, a number of which soft-landed. A mission to take astronaust to Martian orbit could be done in a few years, with proper funding. A more likely scenario is landing and getting back, that would take a couple of decades to plan and develop, but it isn't really that far fetched.

Re:Realistically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645273)

We can keep sending cameras on wheels. We could even send a sample return mission. The Russians sent an automated sample return mission to the Moon in 1970.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

The whole manned mission to Mars thing is just a hopelessly naive romantic vision that won't die for some reason. I mean people thought Venus was just a very humid tropical planet in the 1950s until they measured a few things... No one wants to colonize Venus anymore...

Just make them sign an agreement (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#46644767)

"I understand and agree that taking part in this mission will result my death"

Re:Just make them sign an agreement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645035)

Signing such an agreement demonstrates a clear and present danger to self, and results in imprisonment. Health care providers use trick questions to maneuver people into committing themselves all the time. It's the American way.

What About Seniors And The Terminally Ill? (1)

NotSanguine (1917456) | about 7 months ago | (#46644777)

Surely, given the activity level of many seniors, they could take on the really dangerous missions. Same goes for terminally ill people. If they're more concerned with science and discovery than with coming home, we'd all be better off. I'd guess that there are many seniors/terminally ill folks who be willing to take on a dangerous mission with little or no chance of returning. I'm not either of those and I would jump at such a chance. Why should we waste all that human potential?

Just sayin'.

Re:What About Seniors And The Terminally Ill? (4, Funny)

MrP- (45616) | about 7 months ago | (#46644841)

"NASA's 70 year long mission sadly ended today, day 93 of 25567, as the last terminally ill astronaut succumbed to his illness.

A backup mission was planned but had to be scrapped because the commander broke his hip."

Ethics? Bullshit. (4, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 7 months ago | (#46644791)

The hell you can't. What that's saying is "we refuse to honor the wishes of educated, rational adults to make decisions we wouldn't". I guarantee that all of the Mercury astronauts knew there was a good chance they were going to die during each mission. They knew the failure modes, the risks, the potential ways they might get splattered across our planet in fiery ashes. And they still wanted to go! I cannot understand how it could possibly be unethical to explain the dangers and still give candidates the right to say, "yeah, I know I'm not coming back. For personal pride, for adventure, for my country, and for humanity I choose to go anyway. Now step aside and light this candle."

Re:Ethics? Bullshit. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 7 months ago | (#46645061)

I cannot understand how it could possibly be unethical to explain the dangers and still give candidates the right to say, "yeah, I know I'm not coming back. For personal pride, for adventure, for my country, and for humanity I choose to go anyway. Now step aside and light this candle."

It's NASA's candle and the Astronauts don't get to choose if it gets lit.

Re:Ethics? Bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645349)

Chance of death != sure death. Risk vs. assurance is a very different discussion.

Risk versus certainty (1)

Livius (318358) | about 7 months ago | (#46645531)

There is a difference between a risky endeavour and certain death.

Instinctively, we accept risk of death when the reward justifies it. Being a successful astronaut is rewarding - in terms of prestige if nothing else.

A compelling scientific mission that will add to human knowledge is arguably more rewarding for civilization, but not for the individual who dies, and the reward is too abstract for our instinctive response.

Plus it's not obvious that there is a lot that live astronauts can do that do that robots can't. Simply 'being first' will not be a compelling reason for others to enable suicide, or be left to watch it helplessly from a distance.

U.S. can not ethically send soldiers to Iraq... (3, Interesting)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 7 months ago | (#46644793)

...otherwise it is guaranteed that thousands will die. I like this line of reasoning.

Re:U.S. can not ethically send soldiers to Iraq... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644917)

The Iraq War ended more than two years ago, idiot. If you want to protest war, that's fine, but at least pick a current war, like this:

The U.S. has been unethically sending soldiers to Afghanistan for over 12 years. Thousands have died. By this line of reasoning, sending a mere handful of astronauts to their deaths is no different, ethically.

robots (5, Informative)

gronofer (838299) | about 7 months ago | (#46644795)

Stick to robotic missions, which are better value for money anyway. Humans are tied to Earth more strongly than science fiction would have you believe.

Re:robots (1)

haggus71 (1051238) | about 7 months ago | (#46644995)

Great short-term thinking. We have 7 billion plus people on this rock. Every great scientific mind in recent times has said, if we are to survive as a species, we must leave the binds of the Earth for other worlds. The Chinese look at things a lot more long-term than you, or most Americans, do. In ten years, they already have the basics of a space station, and have a long-term plan for Mars. If you take the long view, you see that robots alone aren't gonna cut it. The whole point, down the road, is colonization and resources. That way, you don't have all your eggs in one basket when or if we make this world uninhabitable, or fall into chaos. Of course, when you are worried about the yearly budget and quarterly profits, it makes a mind too small to see these realities.

Re:robots (1)

gronofer (838299) | about 7 months ago | (#46645297)

"Every great scientific mind", I find that unlikely, how would you even enumerate such, and surely at least one of them has never even commented on the issue or disagrees? I don't see any Chinese colonies in space. How could Earth possibly become less inhabitable than every other planet in the Solar System already is? Even the deserts of Earth or the Antarctic would be more attractive than Mars or the Moon, and I don't see people rushing to build self-contained domed cities in such places.

Re:robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645519)

It would be a lot cheaper and better for all the other species on this planet if we could work out how to limit our out of control population. It is profoundly incompetent and irresponsible to simple give up on this planet because we are unwilling to manage our population and the rapacious demands on resources we make.

Re:robots (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#46645011)

Humans are tied to Earth more strongly than science fiction would have you believe.

And you know this how?

It's not like we've ever experimented with living on another planet or anything.

And another thing, why is the National Academy acting like they have any control over NASA? It's not like they're an arm of the US Government or anything....

Re:robots (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 7 months ago | (#46645367)

Stick to robotic missions, which are better value for money anyway.

I know that's the common belief, but is it true?

Robotic missions are cheaper. But robotic missions seem to beget more robotic missions to answer questions that the first robotic missions weren't able to answer. And so on and so on and so on.

Did we learn more about the Moon from the 6 Apollo missions that landed than we did from the 18 or so successful Soviet Lunar probes?

Let's say it would take us 20 years to prepare a Mars mission. Would it be better to spend that money and have scientists on Mars who could answer all of these questions once and for all or to spend half that money over the next 20 years shooting probes at Mars and hoping we eventually get some answers?

Robotic missions aren't necessarily better. They are, however, cheaper, and can be done faster. Keeping the national will pointed at Mars for 20 years in order to receive funding would be difficult. The amount of money to spend would be even more difficult to come up with. It is politically easier to get less money to send a probe to Mars for three years. Which is why we do it. We can try for the impossible and fail or we can try for the doable and succeed.

I'm sure there isn't one NASA Geologist who would say that robots are better than he/she is. It's just that robots are all we're willing to afford.

Re:robots (2)

gronofer (838299) | about 7 months ago | (#46645419)

The robot missions are limited to using the equipment that they've taken with them. Woudn't a human mission have exactly the same limitation? There's a limit to what you can achieve with a pickaxe and a screwdriver. Anyway, I expect that a human mission would be so tied up in just keeping the humans alive, that they'd have little time or resources for any actual research.

Re:robots (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 7 months ago | (#46645387)

Exactly. Even if some evidence exists that life on Earth is originally from Mars.

Robots ftw!

Re:robots (1)

Livius (318358) | about 7 months ago | (#46645537)

There was a time when attempting to cross an ocean was suicide, but the technology get better. Well, the financial rewards got better and technology caught up.

In any case, the analogous space travel technology is not there yet.

ethics is a lie (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644809)

Only money is important. Tax money cannot be extracted from people who leave the Earth on on-way missions. Tax money cannot be extracted from deceased people who are not alive to pay taxes. Government authority has a directly selfish financial motivation to keep people Earthbound and alive. Ethics is a fabricated fiction of government greed.

Spam in a can (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about 7 months ago | (#46644817)

In this case, microwaved spam.

So Stop Calling It "A One Way Mission" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644839)

They can be the first settlers on Mars. Did most early voyagers to the New World worry about how they'll get back? They were going to live there. We can do the same for Mars.

Re:So Stop Calling It "A One Way Mission" (2)

Dominare (856385) | about 7 months ago | (#46644955)

Most early voyagers to the New World knew they were basically heading to a vast mass of untouched wilderness. People going to Mars will be heading for a cold, barren desert with no oxygen, and there won't be any natives to bail them out when they starve either.

Re:So Stop Calling It "A One Way Mission" (4, Funny)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 months ago | (#46645017)

OTOH, there are no natives to eat them either.

Re:So Stop Calling It "A One Way Mission" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645197)

K'Breel begs to differ. You are fortunate he doesn't have your gel-sacs ruptured.

Re:So Stop Calling It "A One Way Mission" (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46645031)

They can be the first settlers on Mars. Did most early voyagers to the New World worry about how they'll get back? They were going to live there. We can do the same for Mars.

Oh great, so for this to work out, we need to be able to provide a reasonable expectation that the people going one way will be able to survive though what remains of their natural lives. So if you are sending some group with an average age of about 30, you are going to have to provide 60 years or so of equipment and supplies, get it all on the surface of Mars in the general vicinity of where your colony will be located. No, you just made this a whole lot worse.

The real issue is radiation exposure during the trip and on the surface of Mars. Long term, moderate dose radiation effects are fairly well known. And sending people to the surface of Mars for any meaningful length of time is going to cause extremely dangerous levels of total exposure. High enough exposure levels to pretty much make it a foregone conclusion of serious harm, even on the surface of Mars.

Remember the issue is radiation exposure both during the trip and on the surface of Mars. Mars has no magnetic field to speak of and a very thin atmosphere, so it provides very little natural shielding for radiation. So just going one way, really doesn't help the ethics of the situation.

Re:So Stop Calling It "A One Way Mission" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645159)

You don't send people there with 60 years of supplies.
You figure out how to send supplies first, and start doing that regularly.
Then you build a base underground (to help with radiation) using robots.
Only then send people, because you've already built them a place to live.

THIS IS SIMPLE.... (1)

PortHaven (242123) | about 7 months ago | (#46644847)

You send astronaughts who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Particularly, those with a number of years left of health, but for which eventually, will die anyways.

Re:THIS IS SIMPLE.... (4, Insightful)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | about 7 months ago | (#46644903)

Particularly, those with a number of years left of health, but for which eventually, will die anyways.

Good news! That already describes all of our astronauts.

Exploration isn't safe (4, Interesting)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 7 months ago | (#46644855)

Magellan didn't survive Magellan's expedition. Scott died trying to get to the South Pole. Mallory died climbing Mt Everest.

How many still die climbing everest even though its been climbed thousands of times? How many people die in bat-suits?

We are not talking about forcing people to take risks, but rather of looking for people who are willing to risk death to become immortalized in history. Have we become such collective cowards that we will not accept risks that daredevils accept daily for fun?

Take volunteers. Make sure that they understand the risk and are not in any way coerced. Send them out. If they die, build a grand monument to their heroism, and look for more volunteers. If they succeed build grand monuments, and bury them there when they die later - as they inevitably will.

In a hundred years everyone reading this will be dead. Give a few of them a chance to do die doing something magnificent.

Re:Exploration isn't safe (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46645163)

Problem here is that you cannot ethically send anybody to certain death just to go explore Mars first hand.

The radiation exposure required for a trip to Mars is significant. The total expected dose is high enough to warrant asking ethical questions about what risks we are asking people to take to make the trip. Where I am sure all of the space going crew members would be totally aware of the risks and agree to them, that still doesn't exempt NASA from the moral and ethical obligation to asses the risks and mediate them.

At some point, somebody needs to draw a line and say, over there is too much risk to be acceptable, we will stay on this side of the line. If we don't have boundaries and stick by them, things like Challenger or Apollo 1 will happen and we will have needless loss of life because we didn't asses risks properly or take them seriously enough.

Re:Exploration isn't safe (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 7 months ago | (#46645301)

Problem here is that you cannot ethically send anybody to certain death just to go explore Mars first hand.

Of course you can. This whole argument is ridiculous. YOUR ethical system may not allow YOU to voluntarily go to your death that way, or YOUR ethical system may not allow people to be forced to go, but MY ethical system says if they CHOOSE to go KNOWING the danger then let them. Why should you make that choice for them?

The radiation exposure required for a trip to Mars is significant. The total expected dose is high enough to warrant asking ethical questions about what risks we are asking people to take to make the trip.

The risks they will be facing on that trip are TECHNICAL issues, not ethical ones. Whether they want to risk it and whether we want to allow them to risk it are ethical issues, and it is reasonable to allow grown adults to make choices that allow then to face risks they freely accept. Remember that the next time you get behind the wheel of a car, or maybe decide you want to go skydiving. People DIE doing both activities, and can we ethically allow you to choose that you want to do either one? According to you, no, we cannot.

At some point, somebody needs to draw a line and say, over there is too much risk to be acceptable,

That task belongs to the persons taking the risks, not you.

If we don't have boundaries and stick by them, things like Challenger or Apollo 1 will happen and we will have needless loss of life because we didn't asses risks properly or take them seriously enough.

Things like Challenger can always happen. We're not perfect. Everyone on that vehicle knew there were risks. But we're not talking about accidents, we're talking about a deliberate decision to send someone where we know they won't come back. Guess what? We KNOW for a FACT that everyone we send on a long-term mission to another star system will die before they get back to Earth. If we cannot send out such missions when they become technically feasible then we might as well not bother making them technically feasible. Just stop right now. Resign ourselves to never going anywhere but to the corner grocery store for another six pack and then sit back and watch "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here" on the telly.

Re:Exploration isn't safe (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 7 months ago | (#46645483)

The interesting question is did they need to be sent?

To me, exploration is about seeing what has never been seen. That can easily be done with robotic probes that have cameras and we would see what has never been seen on our screens at home. I've enjoyed the various views of Mars, Venus, Titan, and the Moon. There's not a great reason to send people out there to explore the Solar System.

However, if we want to learn about what we're seeing, I think people are a better choice than probes.

I Volunteer. (3, Insightful)

ASDFnz (472824) | about 7 months ago | (#46644871)

I have a chronic disease that can be controlled through medication that already limits my lifespan.

Because of this I deliberately have no children or spouse and I avoid developing long term relationships.

My Parents are old and are unlikely to outlive me anyway.

I am aware of the implications of a one way trip to Mars and realise I wont be coming back and wont have any new companions for at least 10 years... if ever.

Send me.

Make it a normal two away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644873)

Accidentally dump 90% of the fuel so they can't return, leave enough for maneuvering/corrections, blame the cheap valves or dried orings, win-win.

Congress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644895)

Congress is not mentioned above, in the summary, or in TFA. I suggest this is because we are officially a nation of men, not a nation of laws.

Though you might smirk at the suggestion. This is a non-military (non-commander-in-chief) decision. I don't think it falls to SCOTUS here nor NASA administrators themselves. Ask Congress, live (or die) with the answer.

Or... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 7 months ago | (#46645015)

...it could be done privately, perhaps?

Re:Or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645079)

There aren't any aliens to scam with advertising. Private enterprise doesn't do anything unless there's an opportunity to do it fraudulently.

Re:Or... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 7 months ago | (#46645207)

And government is different how?

Ethically? (1)

dimethylxanthine (946092) | about 7 months ago | (#46645089)

If we had done anything ethically on this planet we wouldn't have to be looking for a new one to move to in the first place...

Re:Ethically? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645119)

No need to move, there's nothing wrong with this planet that can't be solved by exterminating the infestation of human scum.

Could it be a dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645117)

As living in Detroit? Or New York City? or has everyone just been given the life extension pill, so you can live forever?
Does NASA have employee health care, or are they exempt because the Dr's may kill the patient accidentally?

moon base (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645161)

I think we should start with establishing a self-sustaining base on the moon before we even start talking about trying to colonize mars. That way when things inevitably go wrong, we can just send the astronauts back to Earth instead of having them die. This will allow us to solve all of the problems with living for extended periods of time in space without the dangers of going all the way to mars.

definition of "safe" (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 7 months ago | (#46645245)

NASA can do alot of things but they suffer from "paralysis by analysis"

It comes from the assumption that "safety" as a concept can be quantified. And that's just the beginning...sure we can use data to examine possible avenues of mission failure but we put too much of our decision making process into raw numbers.

"risk assessment" as applied by NASA is a reductive concept.

Success or failure of a mission is a question of identifying & mitigating all the factors that may cause the conditions we define as "failure"

Identify & mitigate...that's all we ever do with "risk"...NASA is playing a shell game here

Re:definition of "safe" (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 7 months ago | (#46645381)

Success or failure of a mission is a question of identifying & mitigating all the factors that may cause the conditions we define as "failure"

That is what Operational Risk Management is all about.

When "success" includes "the participants don't come back" as part of the mission, then it isn't a risk management decision anymore. Saying "it's too risky" because "they won't come back" is meaningless.

It's fatalism at its worst. Nobody will come back from any of the first 100 manned missions to other star systems. We better not do them, it's "too risky" and we might "fail" because people will "die" doing this. Let's just sit back and relax and have another beer.

Sure they can (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 7 months ago | (#46645365)

We sent people up into space when we thought there was a 50/50 chance they'd die in the process.

It's called "being an astronaut".

Don't like, don't sign up.

Wimps.

Biological tests (1)

savuporo (658486) | about 7 months ago | (#46645523)

Or, we could come back to our senses and do basic animal tests for long term deep space exposure. Like, start from a small rotating artificial gravity satellite with lab rats, and if you really have balls, send a couple of chimps to loop around the mars and come back.
We did that in early days no problem, and it retired a lot of early risks for humans.

Hey, we even had a grassroots program : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org] - got no real support or funding by NASA.

In fact its super lame that we only have data points for humans spending time in microgravity and 1g, but nothing in between. So we have no curve to fit to partial or reduced gravity effects on health. After decades of multibillion dollar manned spaceflight investments, thats pathetic. The fact that we dont have a biological lab sitting outside of van Allen belts right now testing different radiation shielding approaches on rats is also pathetic.

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