Prometheus has me thinking about space travel again. The impossibility of humans traversing any meaningful distance away from Earth will not disappear anytime soon. The solution that sci fi reverts to is usually some version of ‘hypersleep’ or stasis. Personally, I don’t that will ever be feasible either. This leads to the possibility of unmanned missions, which I think offer far more promise in our current condition.
Stephen Hawking has said:
Robotic missions are much cheaper and may provide more scientific information, but they don’t catch the public imagination in the same way, and they don’t spread the human race into space, which I’m arguing should be our long-term strategy. If the human race is to continue for another million years, we will have to boldly go where no one has gone before.
While I agree that current robotic missions aren’t all that exciting (the Mars Rovers for example), I think a sustained vision of unmanned space travel could inspire us given developments on earth. The explosion of unmanned aircraft during the last decade means that we may soon adjust to flying on pilotless airplanes. There are already demonstrations of aircraft that might be able to fly in the Martian atmosphere. And given the advances of humanoid-type robots (see the video below), is it far-fetched to imagine a future crew staffed by android / robots and unmanned vehicles for the atmosphere and the ground?
I don’t know, maybe something like this?
Given that moisture farming might not be so far-fetched either, maybe we could send out missions to our neighboring planets who could do things like mining, construction, research and reconnaissance. Constructing communications sites on the Moon and other locations to build a space internet would facilitate communication for future missions deeper into space. Video transmission from robotic missions would give us the ability to do a lot of human-like things without the expense and trouble of actually sending humans into hostile environments.
This seems like a more logical first wave of off world exploration to me, and it seems pretty doable even with current technology if the will to do it arises.