Broadcast 3879 Sir Martin Rees, Donald Goldsmith

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Guest:  Sir Martin Rees and Donald Goldsmith:  Topics:  Their new book, "The End Of Astronauts: Why Robots Are The Future Of Exploration" which proposes human spaceflight BLEO should be done by the private sector, not by government.  Our guests discuss this proposal on this specific program.

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We welcomed back to the program Sir Martin Rees with Donald Goldsmith, co-author of his new book, "The End Of Astronauts: Why Robots Are The Future Of Exploration." Our full program was dedicated to their premise that "if we choose wisely, examine our motivations, and use our robotic emissaries for exploration, a better outcome awaits us than if we insist that humans must go into space." (p. 144 of their book). 

We started our discussion by quickly reviewing human spaceflight, the number of people having been to space so far, mostly to the ISS, and the accidents that cost lives.  Our guests suggested that it was not wise policy for the public sector, that is the tax payer, to fund costly and risky human spaceflight, specifically BLEO, when robots could do it safer and cheaper.  Both our guests spent time talking about the risk averse nature of the public sector, specifically NASA. Examples were provided of this risk profile using the two shuttle accidents as examples. Our guests pointed out that the risk averseness was not just with NASA and the government but also with the public if they paid for the mission. Their book states this conclusion over and over and is supported with backup showing that robots and AI advance at an increasingly faster rate while the human body does not advance.  They suggested that by the time we were ready to go BLEO with humans in any sort of routine way, AI and robotics would be more advanced than today, cheaper than today plus the robotic capability will have significantly advanced over today's robots.  That is the robots of tomorrow will likely do more than today's robots and at a lower cost.  By comparison, humans will still need food, water, air, medical and more, all of which pose their own risk factors and are associated with increasingly higher costs. 

As for settlement and tourism, even working in space, their book suggests these should be private sector activities and not government.  They explain their reasoning behind this throughout our discussion.  Several questions came in from the listeners, including one by Dr. Dewar suggesting that the use of faster nuclear propulsion would change the numbers used by the guests as such flight would be safer with a faster travel time, especially to Mars.  Both our guests responded to Jim's email so listen for it and then let us know what you think by posting your conclusions on our blog for this show.  Later in the program, Martin suggested rebranding space tourism as space adventurism as he said it was more like adventure travel such as climbing Mt. Everest, hang gliding and such.  He fully supported the private sector in voluntary human spaceflight where both Don and he suggested one could be as risky as one wanted but that was not the case for publicly financed projects involving human spaceflight even when the government astronauts volunteered to become astronauts and want to do the missions. 

Several questions came in asking our guests if government policy makers were considering this approach.  In addition, Martin was asked how such an approach would be received by the new UK space agency as well as other newer space agencies that do focus on commercial space.  Don't miss how our guest responded to this inquiry.  It is worth noting that many of those sending in emails or calling in supported the idea proposed by authors.  Let us know your thoughts on robots and AI for BLEO human spaceflight, leaving that human spaceflight, should it be wanted, to be done exclusively by the private sector.

Please post your questions/comments for our guests on our blog for this show.  If you want to reach either of our guests you can do so through me.  Remember, if you buy the book, and I strongly suggest you do so, do it through OGLF/The Space Show on Amazon or Amazon Smile and Amazon will donate a percentage of the selling price to The Space Show  (




Our guests discuss their new book, "The End of Astronauts" plus much more especially with robotics and future space exploration

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17 Jun 2022 Sir Martin Rees, Donald Goldsmith
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