Given the near incomprehensible enormity of the universe, it appears almost inevitable that humankind will one day find a planet that appears to be much like the Earth. This discovery will no doubt reignite the lure of interplanetary travel. Will we be up to the task? And, given our limited resources, biological constraints, and the general hostility of space, what shape should we expect such expeditions to take? In Robots in Space, Roger Launius and Howard McCurdy tackle these seemingly fanciful questions with rigorous scholarship and disciplined imagination, jumping comfortably among the worlds of rocketry, engineering, public policy, and science fantasy to expound upon the possibilities and improbabilities involved in trekking across the Milky Way and beyond. They survey the literature-fictional as well as academic studies; outline the progress of space programs in the United States and other nations; and assess the current state of affairs to offer a conclusion startling only to those who haven't spent time with Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke: to traverse the cosmos, humans must embrace and entwine themselves with advanced robotic technologies.
Their discussion is as entertaining as it is edifying and their assertions are as sound as they are fantastical. Rather than asking us to suspend disbelief, Robots in Space demands that we accept facts as they evolve.
Roger D. Launius is a senior curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum and the former chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He has authored and coauthored several books on space exploration, most recently The Smithsonian Atlas of Space Exploration. Howard E. McCurdy is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University and the author of Faster, Better, Cheaper: Low-Cost Innovation in the U.S. Space Program and Space and the American Imagination, second edition, both published by Johns Hopkins.