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What are the pros and cons of space exploration?

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Quick Answer

Positive attributes of space exploration include identifying potentially habitable planets, locating non-renewable resources and driving technological advancement; however, space exploration has negative attributes, such as exposure to radiation and vacuum, and a high cost of access. The continued exploration of space by humans demonstrates that the rewards outweigh the risks.

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Full Answer

Space exploration missions can use manned and unmanned spacecraft, with each having its own unique positive and negative attributes.

Manned spacecraft, such as the International Space Station and the now-defunct Space Shuttle, offer scientists the opportunity to perform orbital experiments that examine the physiological and psychological effects of living in micro-gravity on the human body. These experiments, and the data gained as a result, can spur technological innovations that aim to increase the safety and efficiency of human space exploration. The negative attributes of manned spacecraft missions include danger of exposure to high levels of radiation while in orbit, loss of spacecraft and crew due to human error or mechanical malfunction and the high cost of putting humans and life support systems into orbit. As of 2015, the farthest a manned spacecraft has ever traveled is around the far side of the moon.

Unmanned spacecraft, such as the Lunar Prospector, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Stardust, allow for deeper space exploration that is currently out of reach for manned missions. Unlike manned missions, unmanned space exploration missions do not require human life support systems, which allows for more equipment, sensors and fuel, and thus a greater range and exploration potential. The negative attributes of unmanned spacecraft include high cost of launch and mission management, and risk of damage or failure.

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