Nearer to the Stars

NASA's last shuttle mission has flown, and with no administrative fervor to put a human on Mars, what is humanity's place in space? On Life at the SETI Institute, Dr. Cynthia Phillips says that for scientific exploration of our solar system, "robots don't need food or water, they can withstand much more damaging radiation, and, perhaps most importantly, they don't need to come home at the end of the mission." Plus, "for the cost of putting two astronauts on the surface of a planet like Mars for a few days or weeks, you could afford an army of robots that could comb the surface of the planet for years." Yet some of us would rather leave a footprint or plant a flag. Meanwhile private industry will fly the ferries and garbage scows needed to foster life in low Earth orbit.

And on Starts With a Bang, Ethan Siegel picks through galaxies to simulate what no human will ever see: the amalgamation of our galaxy with Andromeda, currently approaching at 100,000 miles per hour.

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