Skip to main content Skip to footer content

Melissa Drobenare

Student Letter to U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner

By: Melissa Drobenare
College Now Course - SCI 1

December 2003

Congressman Anthony Weiner
1122 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-6616

Dear Mr. Weiner:

The world endured a great tragedy as we watched the space shuttle "Columbia" explode in air moments before it was expected to land. This was a horrible event in American history, and one that will live on forever. Seven astronauts lost their lives on that most heartbreaking day. The crash of Columbia led to a much heated debated over whether NASA should continue to send manned space shuttles into space. Personally, I believe the notion of sending unmanned rather than manned space shuttles into space is absurd. Sure, there are many risks involved in sending living people up to space. However, sending robots instead could hinder space exploration as we know it. A robot, as sophisticated as it may be, could never accomplish what a human being can. Therefore, why should we leave such an important, possibly life-changing, not to mention costly, mission in the hands of robots? The answer is simple, we shouldn't.

Sending a robot to space would be a waste of money and time. "We have to go into space. There is absolutely no alternative," says Columbia University astronomy Professor David Helfand. Although manned space travel is much more expensive, it has advantages. Humans have a lot more capability than any machine, and there are an unlimited number of examples of that. History proves over and over again, that in many shuttle missions, if there had not been humans on board, the mission would not have succeeded. One prime example of this involves the Skylab space station. When NASA first launched Skylab, it became immediately apparent that all was not well with the space station. In fact, the structure could have fallen back to Earth sooner than it did. A group of astronauts managed, not only to discover precisely what had gone wrong, but also to improvise repairs that restored the space station to working order. No robot could have ever done that, even with today's technology.

Scientists can improve robots again and again. However, they can never provide a robot with what may be the most important thing for one to possess while on a space mission. That is, the human eye. A robot's findings could never replace what could be seen with the human eye. A robot could not go out of a space ship and explore any place to the depths in which a human could. If you think about the benefits a manned space flight could bring, and have brought in the past, as opposed to an unmanned space flight, the difference would amaze you. So many great advances and attributes to American life can be accredited to manned space flight alone. Such things include Velcro, calculators, computers, and great advancements in meteorology, geography, and medicine.

Stepping away from the scientific reasoning for manned space flights, I wish to propose a more sentimental argument. I recently viewed the movie, "October Sky", as part of a school assignment. This movie was based on a true story of a boy named, Homer Hickam, who wished nothing more than to become involved in space exploration. There are many young boys and girls just like Homer who dream of one day blasting off into space. Replacing human astronauts with robots would crush many people's dreams of becoming astronauts. Seeing Homer's determination in the movie made me more convinced than ever that no one must ever take away the opportunity for a person to accomplish their dreams. It takes a lot for a person to be able to have the chance to explore space first hand. A person must have extreme determination to do so; therefore, once they are given the chance to go on a space mission, they will be adamant to make it worthwhile. Robots could never possess the kind of determination that humans have. They do not know what failure is, therefore, you will not be disappointed if they do fail. A human being will never settle for failure, and will try with all their might to succeed at everything, and make sure they come back from space having benefited society in some way.

Manned space exploration definitely has its risks. As we've seen with the Challenger in 1986, and now Columbia, great tragedy can come from human exploration of space. When you think about it, however, two major crashes in a period of 16 years really isn't a bad track record. In fact there is a greater risk involved in driving a car, flying an airplane, or even just going out of your house in the morning. Manned space flight must be kept alive or else the future of space exploration will surely be doomed.

The human race has depended upon manned exploration of new frontiers for the advancement of its condition and the preservation of its existence. Unmanned exploration is purely a Twentieth Century phenomena. Replacing human exploration would decrease the rate of technological advancement and discourage new inventions, which could lead to the further advancement of living standards for all humans. Not even the most sophisticated robot can supply the uniquely human attributes of discovery. Humans created the art of space exploration, humans advanced the art of space exploration, and humans should be the ones to continue it.


Melissa Drobenare