June 2017 Astronautics

Automated or human-operated systems?

The 35 m diameter dish antenna of ESA’s deepspace tracking station at New Norcia, Australia.
The 35 m diameter dish antenna of ESA’s deepspace tracking station at New Norcia, Australia.
Alfio Mantineo ESA/ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany

In both crewed and automated spaceflight, unique exploration missions and routine services, humans conceptualise, develop, design, operate, use and manage technology. Only by understanding this as a joint ‘human-tech’ effort can the capabilities and limitations of both elements be leveraged most effectively for reliable, robust and resilient operations, systems and infrastructure.

Watching the movie The Martian recently I was captured by the creativity demonstrated by two key characters - the astronaut stranded on Mars, played by Matt Damon, and the astrodynamicist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), played by Donald Glover.

The astronaut builds a greenhouse on the red planet using all of the available material in a totally different way from its intended use — the production of water from hydrazine (rocket fuel) or the redefinition of a communication protocol with an old probe left on Mars from a previous Pathfinder mission, for example. The JPL employee redesigns the entire mission of the Hermes spacecraft using a flyby of Earth to return to Mars in a much shorter time.

System reliability is essential to the success of a mission but the external environment is a source of continuous discovery and surprises – otherwise why would we call it ‘exploration? – and to cope with this the system requires resilience.

Read more about the «human- tech» joint capabilities and how they will impact the future of space exploration in the full version of the article, available now to our subscribers.

To continue reading this premium article, subscribe now for unlimited access to all online content

If you already have a login and password to access www.room.eu.com - Please log in to be able to read all the articles of the site.

Popular articles

See also

Space Security

Future space applications and their regulatory needs

Astronautics

X-51A Waverider, hypersonics, and the potential of airbreathing engines

Space Security

Will international space law struggle to remain relevant?

Popular articles

Space Security

Humanity is moving towards a new reality

Astronautics

Space economics - industry trends and space investing

Space Environment

Recipe for success on flights to Mars