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Argument: A manned presence on the Moon is superior to a robotic one

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"Why Go Back to the Moon?" NASA. January 14, 2008: "Taking the Los Angeles Times title, 'Don’t colonize the Moon,' at face value [...] The Times editorial echoes identical arguments advanced in the early 1960s, that robotic missions could produce as much as manned ones. The US did in fact have a large robotic lunar program, including 3 Rangers, 5 Surveyors, 5 Lunar Orbiters, and 2 Radio Astronomy Explorers, not counting the few unsuccessful missions. So NASA did use robots in our first lunar program. But as argued at the time, human abilities on the surface later proved far superior to robotic ones.

Neil Armstrong and his colleagues demonstrated that humans on the spot provide instant interpretation of their environment, guided by color, 3D, high resolution human vision that is only now being approached by robotic systems. Even encumbered by space suits, they could instantly recognize and collect invaluable samples such as the "Genesis Rock" of Apollo 15, an anorthosite that has proven essential to understanding the geologic history of the Moon. When the Apollo 17 rover lost a fender – which might have terminated a robotic rover’s mission – astronauts Cernan and Schmitt managed a field repair and kept driving. All the Apollo astronauts emplaced complex geophysical instrument stations, most operating for years until budget cuts forced them to be turned off.

The Soviet Union carried out several brilliant robotic surface missions, starting with the very first soft landing, Luna 9. The USSR operated two robotic rovers on the Moon for months, and carried out three robotic sample return missions, both accomplishments never matched by the US or any other country. Yet no one would seriously argue that these missions produced anything close to the results of, for example, the Apollo 15 mission. The Apollo 15 astronauts Scott and Irwin returned tens of pounds of rock and soil (including the "Genesis Rock"), drove their rover miles along the front of the lunar Apennines, drilled holes for and emplaced probes for heat flow measurements, and took hundreds of high-resolution photos of their surroundings."

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