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The Obstacles to Human Space Exploration and the Promise of Artificial Intelligence

NASA and a cadre of cosmic cheerleaders aim to send astronauts into a lethal hell of interplanetary space—ignoring massive medical, economic, technological, political, and ethical obstacles. Earthbound: Why Humans Will Never Conquer Space details those obstacles—documenting the extensive research revealing that deep space beyond the protection of Earth orbit is invariably deadly, due to radiation, weightlessness, isolation, the foul atmosphere inside spacecraft, and other dangers.

Earthbound astronaut

The research reveals that deep space travel is a “serial killer,” as are lunar and planetary exploration. That is, they are like the serial circuits of old-time Christmas tree lights, in which the loss of one defective bulb extinguished the entire string of lights. Likewise, in deep space, the loss of one system element—oxygen supply, temperature control, food, water, or radiation protection—means catastrophic failure of the entire system, ending in death. 

And in deep space, or on the Moon or Mars, there is no option to quickly return to Earth. Reaching safety can be weeks or even years away.

In deep space a lone medical catastrophe amid untold possibilities can end in death, or cause crippling problems that leave an astronaut non-functional. Any organ—heart, lungs, immune system, brain, or eyes—could fail.

The research also reveals that  deep space is a "synergistic killer," in that these hazards could interact in ways that increase their lethality.

Earthbound reveals the political pressures that have driven the human deep space program, including advocacy by cosmic cheerleadersuncritical media, self-serving politicians, profit-seeking aerospace corporations, and space travel enthusiasts. It explains how science fiction has given a false sense that deep space travel is feasible. In reality there is no magical gravity, instant food synthesis, or infinite fuel, as depicted in science fiction from Star Wars to Star Trek to The Martian.

The book also documents the many billions of dollars wasted on past and present human space programs. And it questions whether deep space travel is ethical, given its unavoidable hazards.

Earthbound instead advocates that deep space exploration be mounted by a fleet of neuronauts—specially engineered artificially intelligent robots collaborating with human scientists on Earth. They could explore exotic realms from Martian caves to Europa’s oceans to Venus’s murky, superhot atmosphere. The data they gather could be beamed to Earth to create virtual worlds that all of humanity could explore, experiencing firsthand the wonders of the solar system.

Table of Contents

Read the Preface

Read the Introduction