Cover: The End of Astronauts: Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration, from Harvard University PressCover: The End of Astronauts in HARDCOVER

The End of Astronauts

Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration

Product Details


$25.95 • £22.95 • €23.95

ISBN 9780674257726

Publication Date: 04/19/2022


192 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

Belknap Press


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Explain[s] why we should give up on manned space exploration… For anyone seriously interested in space exploration, this slaughter of impractical ideas in The End of Astronauts will be welcome.—Simon Ings, The Times

Informs us about the full cost of human space exploration and how AI and robotic missions deserve their place in this story. It’s a terrific read and an invaluable reference in the debate of human versus robotic spaceflight.BBC Sky at Night

A delightfully lucid and succinct manifesto for reforming science policy… Evidently passionate in their conviction that robots should be the ones to boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before, they present their case soberly and systematically, carefully evaluating counterarguments.—Patricia Fara, Literary Review

Make[s] a convincing case that blasting humans into space has become a wasteful indulgence. Far more can be accomplished by robotic missions of scientific discovery.—John Thornhill, Financial Times

Thought-provoking… Goldsmith and Rees make a compelling case for robotics over astronauts.—Bruce Dorminey, Forbes

[A] thought-provoking vision of the coming decades in space exploration.—Andrew Robinson, Physics World

A readable and useful contribution to this longstanding debate.—James B. Meigs, Wall Street Journal

A provoking argument for space exploration sans astronauts… A tour de force of well-written, compelling rationales. The authors believe that beyond low-Earth orbit, space exploration should proceed without humans.—Leonard David, Inside Outer Space

In this refreshingly no-nonsense brief, [Goldsmith and Rees] take a sharp-focused look at the hyperbolic aspirations of space enthusiasts who promote colonies on the Moon and Mars as the next great step for mankind… In the half century since the last footprint on the Moon, humans haven’t boldly gone any further, while robot explorers have been very busy.—Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History

One big advantage of crewed space missions is the human intelligence embodied by the astronauts—but does this benefit outweigh the costs? How far are robots from catching up to human capabilities in space? These are the sorts of questions that astrophysicists Donald Goldsmith and Martin Rees ask in The End of Astronauts, examining the pros and cons of proposals for human exploration in the Solar System.Nature Astronomy

Argue[s] that, given the vast distances and the dangers involved in space travel, it is robots, not humans, that will lead us to the stars.New Scientist

What is so interesting about this book is how it constructs or deconstructs, depending on your view, the evidence for continuing the process of sending astronauts into space… It is exceptionally well written and cleverly split into well thought out chapters. It most importantly provides evidence without siding one way or the other.Physics Education

Imagines a future where frugal humans can have their cosmic cake and eat it too—as long as they don’t mind robot bakers… The book’s main argument is convincing. Robots offer more bang for the buck, not just because they cost less but also because they can do a lot. If, eventually, robots are able to do nearly everything astronauts currently can, sending people into space may well become pure vanity.—Mike Riggs, Reason

A provocative primer on the future of space travel.Publishers Weekly

The End of Astronauts offers exquisitely formulated arguments in support of robotic exploration in space. Along the way, Goldsmith and Rees occasionally tell us what we don’t want to know, but in the end we find ourselves compelled to agree with them.—Neil deGrasse Tyson, author of Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier

A must-read for anyone wishing to debate about the human future in space. With clarity, wit, and breathtaking knowledge, Goldsmith and Rees tell of the dangers never hinted at in idyllic images of human settlement. There is a more direct route to the stars and this fascinating book plots that course with powerful, reasoned argument.—Ann Druyan, Emmy Award–winning writer, director, and producer of Cosmos

Martin Rees has always thought outside the box, and now he and Donald Goldsmith are thinking outside the boundaries of Earth. Just the way a telescope can let us see across a vast distance without leaving where we are, they show how modern machines and machine learning will take us across the solar system without having to phone home.—Alan Alda, actor, author, and advocate for science communication

Is there a balance to be struck between our species’ obsession with space and the constraints, dangers, and cost of human exploration? This utterly fascinating yet soberly realistic examination lays out our options for how to explore the solar system in the coming decades.—Jim Al-Khalili, author of The World According to Physics

A thoughtful, clear, and informed opinion on how space science and space exploration should be conducted in the future. Goldsmith and Rees treat the question of whether there will still be a role for humans in crewed spacecraft thoroughly and methodically, and the result is a fascinating read.—Mario Livio, author of Galileo and the Science Deniers

A boom in space tourism may loft more people into the heavens than ever before. But robotic probes powered by artificial intelligence are already more capable—and improving fast. Donald Goldsmith’s excellent writing draws on deep insights from renowned astrophysicist and futurist Martin Rees, making this the most thoughtful, provocative book yet about humanity’s future in space.—Nathan Myhrvold, Founder and CEO, Intellectual Ventures, and former Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft

Meticulous and vivid. Goldsmith and Rees paint a striking picture of the future of space exploration, one that might surprise you!—Jaan Tallinn, cofounder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and the Future of Life Institute

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