September 28, 2013 11:34 am

This Sunday: Neil deGrasse Tyson Discusses Human Endurance in Space

Human endurance in space, captured in this photo of an astronaut on a space walk

Photo credit: NASA

It is interesting, the morning after seeing Neil deGrasse Tyson and StarTalk Live spend the evening at The Bell House discussing Robots, to write about tomorrow night’s podcast, Cosmic Queries: Human Endurance in Space.

After all, robots don’t have to worry about wearing pressurized, temperature-controlled space suits to protect them from the freezing cold, burning hot, airless vacuum of space or any of the other myriad ways that space is hazardous to human biology.

Robots don’t need to worry about what they’re going to eat on a multi-year journey to Mars, let alone what they’ll eat if they decide to colonize the planet.

And NASA certainly wouldn’t have an entire team of psychologists and psychiatrists at the Johnson Space Center in Houston devoted to the mental and emotional well-being of astronauts that would have to endure a two-year or longer manned mission to Mars.

Then again, while a robot, or the Cassini spacecraft, could photograph the rings of Saturn (and answer one of our fan’s Cosmic Queries about what the rings of Saturn would look like from the perspective of someone looking at them from Saturn), could that robot ever describe how beautiful and amazing the site would be?

Would a robot be moved by the sight of red sunsets and blue skies and rainbows and moonbows and sunbows and starbows that could be seen from another planet to think about the home it had left behind the way a human explorer would? (Yes, starbows. You’ll have to listen to the show to find out.)

Neil and comic co-host Chuck Nice take a pretty in-depth look at the “human” component of space exploration. Endurance is about more than just the physical. They discuss the nature of leadership and the consequences of a charismatic leader on an isolated colony far from home, and the dangers that could arise if that leader turns to the dark side.

There’s even a discussion of the value of pets to human space exploration and the ultimate sustainability of human colonies on other planets, when one of our fans says that she’d be willing to go to Mars if she could bring her cat. (If you’re a cat lover, you might want to fast forward past Chuck’s answer.)

The fact is, while humanity’s robots may have reached Mars first, human beings are on their way, and we do have to address issues about the human exploration of space that concern our physical endurance, our mental and emotional conditions, and the value of the journey in very human terms.

Cosmic Queries: Human Endurance in Space will be on our website, Sunday, Sept. 29th at 7:00pm ET and on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher by 7:30pm ET.

That’s if for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons

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