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Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel
2008 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine
Given the near incomprehensible enormity of the universe, it appears almost inevitable that humankind will one day find a planet that appears to be much like the Earth. This discovery will no doubt reignite the lure of interplanetary travel. Will we be up to the task? And, given our limited resources, biological constraints, and the general hostility of space, what shape should we expect such expeditions to take?
In Robots in Space, Roger Launius and Howard McCurdy tackle these seemingly fanciful questions with rigorous scholarship and disciplined imagination, jumping comfortably among the worlds of rocketry, engineering, public policy, and science fantasy to expound upon the possibilities and improbabilities involved in trekking across the Milky Way and beyond. They survey the literature—fictional as well as academic studies; outline the progress of space programs in the United States and other nations; and assess the current state of affairs to offer a conclusion startling only to those who haven’t spent time with Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke: to traverse the cosmos, humans must embrace and entwine themselves with advanced robotic technologies.
Their discussion is as entertaining as it is edifying and their assertions are as sound as they are fantastical. Rather than asking us to suspend disbelief, Robots in Space demands that we accept facts as they evolve.
"Excellent, eye-opening, horizon-broadening reading! Highly recommended."
"Noted space historians... breathe new life into the subject by examining its history as well as its possible future. They call for a new vision of human spaceflight—a 'transhuman' program that takes into account current trends in robotics, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and other fields that are rapidly changing the nature of both humans and machines."
"This short volume manages to capture the history of U.S. space flight, to explain the underpinnings of U.S. space policy and to plot out the possibilities for our future in space in a style that most anyone can enjoy."
"A timely and thought-provoking read, no matter what side of the humans vs. robots debate one is on. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in where our species is ultimately headed in space."
"Should interest any intelligent reader with an interest in the history and future of space exploration, whatever technology is applied. Its mix of historical background and social context, entirely due to the authors' long experience, takes the reader well beyond the usual issues of technical challenge and budget limitations, while numerous selected quotations accentuate the human element."
"An examination of the history of the various arguments for sending humans and machines into space, and their relative merits. It is an authoritative, detailed look at how these arguments evolved and what the future of humans and robots in space might hold."
"A remarkably well-written and lucid book... about the ongoing debate within the American civil space agency between proponents of human spaceflight and those who advocate robotic or 'unmanned' spaceflight."