So let’s everyone cross fingers for the success of this amazing piece of science: After 3 Billion Miles, Craft Returns Sunday Bearing Cosmic Dust Older Than the Sun – New York Times
This little project is fascinating, brilliant, and cheap. It’s the kind of thing we could do a lot of if we could let go, perhaps for about a century, of the romantic, expensive, and pointless idea of physically putting people into space, keeping them alive there, and getting them back. The military had a terrible time letting go of what appears to be some sort of macho “sit right on the horse” cavalry instinct–note the pilot hostility to RPV’s (remotely piloted vehicles) registered here— but a generation of videogame-savvy young men may eventually turn this around.
Actually, a fair number of useful things, like earthmoving on steep slopes or below unstable banks are better done, and often with a better view of the work, by radio control than by sitting in the device itself. Remote control poses a tradeoff between the personal satisfaction of a pilot/astronaut or operating engineer, for whom it is certainly more fun to control a vehicle from inside it, and the interests of the enterprise.
Caution: people who should know better have inexcusably inferred from these sound principles governing aviation and earthmoving that teaching might be better done by remote means, broadcasting (for example) the best sessions by the best teachers to very large classes. The implications for employment in my business make it clear to any fool what a despicable and dangerous folly this would be.