One of the big space stories this week is a study published in Science showing the levels of radiation in deep space can be hazardous to your health. NASA’s reaction to this data (that was measured by the Curiosity rover on it’s way to Mars – very cool) is just another example of NASA’s risk aversion. I sadly feel that the agency doesn’t embody the spirit of the explorers it once did, but instead reflects our increasingly paternalistic society.
Oh no! The astronauts might not be able to have children!
Has anybody asked the astronauts whether the risk is worth it?
Our paternalistic society frowns upon people deciding their own acceptable levels of risk and volunteering themselves for science and exploration.
A quote from the Washington Post illustrates part of the presumptuous, paternalistic attitude that is holding back exploration:
“Of all the hazards facing a human mission to Mars — something NASA and countless space buffs would love to see at some point — one of the hardest to solve is the radiation that saturates interplanetary space”
They assume that of course, one can know all the hazards before actually trying.
We can’t let each risk consideration continue to delay our conquest of space – for each known risk that sets timetables back, there are probably twenty that we don’t even know about. Just as in anything else, you could literally spend forever weighing the options, practicing and optimizing.
Sometimes you just need to jump.