“The Earth is the cradle of humanity.” Everyone knows the continuation of this phrase by Tsiolkovsky: “… but you can't live in the cradle forever.” Today his words have become the most replicated epigraph to articles on the conquest of space.
Please note: it is the "conquest" of space that is usually called the activity within which the "conquest" of interplanetary space, the lunar and Martian "races" and "rivalry" in orbit take place. In their mildest form, these words have a sporty connotation, but no one particularly hides their combat meaning. And there is nothing strange about that. Powerful rockets were born as weapons. The launch of a man into space half a century ago was of a military nature: in the pre-computer era, only a living operator could control an orbital reconnaissance station. Until now, astronautics remains in the hands of the military. Hence the originality of the language, and the direction of the tasks to be solved, and the degree of economic efficiency.
In parallel with the solution of military tasks, the ideological possibilities of cosmonautics became clear. The public is encouraged by space launches, especially the achievement of world priority, and especially with human participation. For state ideologists, this fact was an unexpected and pleasant discovery. It turned out that the mood of the inhabitants of a huge country can be changed with the help of a sports record in orbit - the first man in space, the first group flight, the first spacewalk.
The heroes of these experiments sometimes survived, sometimes died. Both deserve the highest respect as any pioneers, consciously taking risks, taking the first steps into the unknown. And the engineers who have created fantastic equipment for them are worthy of admiration.
However, over 50 years, manned space exploration has turned from a series of heroic deeds into a simply dangerous profession, from which we have the right to expect results. What does astronautics personally give you? A comfortable navigator in the car, reliable global communication, very confident weather forecasts … Where is the role of a space pilot here? Space automata do all this work.
For half a century, the possibilities of man in space have become clear - they are very limited. Human labor in near-earth orbit is ineffective and hazardous to health. When it comes to solving specific problems in space, experts prefer robots. But maybe, for the time being, it is impossible to shift the role of a human researcher, able to see new things, to make non-standard decisions, onto their iron shoulders? We remember what dangerous situations our cosmonauts and American astronauts got into, what courage and ingenuity they showed to … save their lives.
Do we remember the scientific discoveries they made? Against the background of the knowledge that we received from space automata, the role of man in this sense is insignificant.
When speaking of the need to leave the cradle of the Earth someday, Tsiolkovsky was probably right. However, in the years when he talked about this, the idea of space was not at all the same as it is today: the nearest planets seemed favorable for life, and the message about the landing of the Martians really caused panic among the population. Today we understand that space is a very harsh place. The search for cozy corners in it must be carried out as efficiently as possible, gaining knowledge with minimal costs.
Will this close the way for a person into space for a long time? I think no. Manned space exploration as sport and tourism is everyone's personal business. But for humanity as a whole, it is rapidly losing its attractiveness as any pointless waste of resources.