Man Or Automaton In Space ?

  • K. Steinbuch


Pushing forward into space can be accomplished either by manned or by unmanned space vehicles (automata). Space flight in manned vehicles is difficult be cause of the fact that the human organism can only bear small amounts of acceleration, irradiation and changes of temperature. For automata the corresponding ranges are larger. Further, it is difficult to secure respiration and nutrition for a man aboard a space vehicle, to eliminate his excrements, to control the physiological results of weightlessness on muscles and circulation, and to secure that he does not break down psychically. On the other hand, men are less sensitive than automata with respect to the perception of mechanical or electromagnetical vibrations. Only in the relatively small ranges of frequency which are adequate to the human ear and eye a comparable sensitivity of man exists.

In spite of these numerous disadvantages of human constitution it is planned to send manned vehicles into space. This is due to the fact that a large part of “functions of intelligence” cannot yet be realised by automatic systems. The basic problem is less the question of “higher” intellectual functions than to perform relatively simple functions reliably at the right moment.

Connected herewith is the important problem of recognizing “patterns” independent of their relative position in which they are presented, of their size, of whether they are upright or twisted, etc .. .

I suppose that most of the “functions of intelligence” essential for space flight will be realized by technical systems within some decades. To reach this aim two problems are especially important : 1) The development of a “technical perceptor” (solving the problem of automatic pattern recognition) and 2) the development of electronic systems with a considerably higher package density and the ability of self-correction.

These problems being “solved” there will no longer be technical reasons to equip space vehicles with human pilots.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1965

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Steinbuch
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe (Baden)Federal Republic of Germany

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