One of the most interesting things about space travel is the drama. Human beings place themselves into amazing vehicles and travel into a completely hostile environment that is almost beyond imagination, and then describe their experiences for us in words and pictures. Landing on the moon would not have been quite the same without the astronauts providing us with words to go along with grainy black and white pictures of the lunar landscape. They provided us with an experience that not even Hollywood could create, because it is completely real.
Photo courtesy NASA
Robonauts will be able to spend a limitless amount of time in space maintaining the space station.
However, the problem with human space exploration is that the human body is too fragile for the harsh conditions of space. We have learned that space travel can take its toll on astronauts. Temperatures in space can swing from 248 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius) to -148 F (-100 C). There also isn't the Earth's atmosphere to shield us from the sun's radiation. In order to survive, astronauts must wear bulky space suits that cost about $12 million each. Space suits are not practical for an emergency situation -- for example, if the International Space Station (ISS) were struck by an object and needed to be repaired immediately. It takes an astronaut at least three hours to prepare for a space walk to perform such repairs.
NASA has recognized the frailty of our bodies and is preparing a new breed of astronauts to perform some of the more difficult tasks in space. These new space explorers won't need space suits or oxygen to survive outside of spacecraft. In this edition of How Stuff Will Work, we will learn about the development of these robotic astronauts, or Robonauts, and how they will assist humans in future missions in space.