Library Index » Science Encyclopedia » Part 1 Space Organizations: NASA - A New Agency Is Born, Peaceful Versus Military Purposes, Nasa Shoots For The Moon, Space Science Suffers

Part 1 Space Organizations: NASA - Space Science Suffers

program exploration manned human

Putting a man on the Moon was conducted mostly for political purposes. It bolstered national pride and prestige. It was largely a symbolic endeavor. Many scientists thought the Apollo program achieved far less in scientific terms than unmanned probes could have accomplished. One reason the program was so expensive was that so many resources had to be devoted to keeping fragile humans alive and well in the harsh environment of space. Critics said this money could have been invested in robotics research and development to produce a fleet of unmanned probes and sample collectors to explore the Moon and far beyond.

The debate over human exploration versus robotic exploration began in the 1950s and still goes on in the 2000s. NASA's Ranger and Surveyor probes of the early 1960s were originally designed to collect data to support numerous research goals within astronomy and space science. Once the Apollo program began, these probes were retooled to gather data important to the manned program. This was called human factors research and was a small part of the discipline called space biology. NASA's focus on human factors at the expense of broader research in space biology, space science, and astronomy brought harsh criticism from scientists.

In 1967 a committee appointed by President Lyndon Johnson recommended that the nation establish a well-rounded space program following Apollo with more emphasis on science and less emphasis on human exploration. NASA did conduct unmanned spaceflights geared toward general space biology. In 1962 the Biosatellite program began with a series of three flights designed to test the rigors of space travel on subhuman beings. In 1969 Biosatellite III flew with a male pigtailed monkey named Bonnie aboard. The mission had to be ended early when Bonnie got sick. He died soon after returning to Earth.

During the early 1970s NASA wanted to build on its Apollo success with another ambitious manned space program. The agency lobbied Congress to allow it to transfer funds designated for the Biosatellite program to the manned program. This angered many scientists. As one historian has noted NASA pursued a plan of action that terminated "a relatively inexpensive science-oriented project in favor of a relatively expensive, exploration-oriented manned program." This type of criticism was to plague NASA for decades to come.

Part 1 Space Organizations: NASA - Nasa's First Space Station [next] [back] Part 1 Space Organizations: NASA - Nasa Shoots For The Moon

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