What is an Astronaut's Life Worth?: An Interview with Robert Zubrin

"You're saying that you're going to give up four billion dollars to avoid a one in seven chance of killing an astronaut, you're basically saying an astronaut's life is worth twenty-eight billion dollars," says astronautical engineer and author Dr. Robert Zubrin.  

Zubrin, the author of a popular and controversial article in Reason's space-centric February 2012 Special Issue, argues that the risk of losing one of the seven astronauts who repaired and rescued the Hubble Space Telescope was well worth it. "If you put this extreme value on the life of an astronaut...then you never fly, and you get a space agency which costs seventeen billion dollars a year and accomplishes nothing."

NASA's role, according to Zubrin, should be in the pursuit of ambitious missions such as "opening Mars to humanity," rather than a bloated, safety-obsessed bureaucracy. "The mission has to come first."

Runs about 3.50 minutes.

Produced by Anthony L. Fisher. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Josh Swain.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Major Tom or Rocket Man?

  • TheZeitgeist||

    I've dug the Zube ever since The Case for Mars.

  • Flex Nasty B.I.G.||

    No way in hell I'd ever work under that dude. I'm not doing *any* job with a one-in-seven chance of dying. That's like a Russian Roulette level of risk.

  • The Other Kevin||

    Just make sure you go with 6 other astronauts, and one is named "Ensign Smith".

  • Aresen||

    And make "Ensign Smith" wear a red shirt.

  • tarran||

    Last night my son pointed out that in "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", Welshie is wearing a red shirt.

  • Brandybuck||

    That was half the joke right there. Sorry you missed it, next time we'll hold up a sign.

  • toxic||

    And that's kids want to be astronauts and not you...

  • Auric Demonocles||

    And we're not talking about forcing you to. We're talking about finding people willing to take that risk in order to be in freaking space.

  • The Derider||

    Perhaps that pool of applicants is deficient in some other quality you want in an astronaut.

  • Aresen||

    "you get a space agency which costs seventeen billion dollars a year and accomplishes nothing."


    I think I see a way to save seventeen billion right off the top.

    ---

    Seriously, however, the annual net benefit from weather satellites alone probably justifies the entire cost of the space program as it presently exists. [Note: I'm not saying it couldn't be done cheaper or more efficiently, just that the benefits of what is currently done in space are huge.]
  • Dinerboy||

    Cost/benefit wise, there is absolutely zero justification for a manned space program.

  • Zeb||

    Astronauts clearly really want to be doing what they do and completely understand the risks. If they accept the risks and the mission is worthwhile (or privately funded), I don't see any problem with whatever level of risk. People should be allowed to risk their own lives however they want to.

  • Jimbo BTR||

    Zubrin is a fool. At a time when the US government is trillions of dollars in debt, he wants to waste trillions more dollars of taxpayers money on the ignoble goal of planting a flag on another planet.

    It's cheaper to send robots and the science is better served that way. It's smarter to wait until we can find cheaper and less risky ways of getting people there before we bother trying.

  • joy||

    NASA's role, according to Zubrin, should be in the pursuit of ambitious missions such as "opening Mars to humanity," rather than a bloated, http://www.riemeninnl.com/riem.....-c-20.html safety-obsessed bureaucracy. "The mission has to come first."

  • Dinerboy||

    Met Zubrin a bunch of times. He's nothing if not passionate. But, his obsession with putting humans in space misses a big point - we don't need to. All the science we can get FAR cheaper with robotic missions.

  • Killazontherun||

    Occam's Razor is applicable to less than five percent of human behavior.

  • kram123||

    I remember a long time ago 20-30 years? Reading a Hunter S Thompson article in Rolling Stone where he contrasted the US and USSR space programs. (I'm paraphrasing) "If the US wants to launch a rocket- studies are done- astronauts are picked-trained-etc.-and 6 months later off they go! In the USSR they roll the spacecraft out of the hanger and, the next morning they launch the damn thing". The Germans of WW2 are our downfall,we became bewitched by precision and forgot about "good enough". I believe what Dr. Robert Zubrin is saying can be distilled to is,"GET ER DONE!"

  • sweeterjan||

    for downloadable versions http://www.ceinturesfr.com/cei.....i-c-8.html and subscribe to ReasonTV's YouTube Channel to receive automatic updates when new material goes live.

  • Coach Outlet123||

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