The next step of an initial operational plan for Outbound would be the development of Human Analogs. (OPS.3)
That’s a stuffy term I suppose, “Human Analogs”. What does it mean? Essentially, it means developing systems that mimic some or all of the human interaction with its environment, in order to predict human responses to that environment when humans actually interact with that environment later. It’s a risk-avoidance strategy.
Human analog activities are pretty mature now, and we started such activities quite early in the history of space exploration, from 1947 onward. Ranging from all sorts of animal testing, such as insects, mice and reptiles, even cats and dogs, such as the Soviet mission with Laika in 1957. Unfortunately for the Russian pup, she never made it home. In the scheme of things, and purely as a pragmatic matter, I suppose losing a dog rather than a human being to such test flights is much preferable. It still is disappointing, though, from an emotional perspective. Aerospace engineers do like their dogs like anyone else, make no mistake. And as years have gone by, and with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the demise of Laika has taken on a softer, more regretful tone. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but now everyone is not quite so sure.
The next step in the history of human space analogs were the primate flights in the U.S. space program, most typified by Ham the chimpanzee. His one flight in 1961 was a media sensation in America to be sure, despite the relatively short 16-minute flight. He did come home and lived a relatively long life, having accomplished his mission. Through his participation, and that of his primate predecessors (not all of whom were so lucky), we learned a great deal about how primate physiology reacted to the space environment, and we even learned some significant things about how they perform in a frankly alien environment. Honestly, we knew very little about all of that, but after Ham and the all the research before him, we knew a lot more.
Of course, it seems that I’m focusing on animal testing, and I suppose that I am. Not to bash the “old guard” as it were, because they were working with the tools they had, with knowledge me now benefit from today. And we did mature enough to realize that to really know how humans react to space is to, well, fly humans. The risk had to be transferred to the real operators, astronauts and cosmonauts, and it was. Having those biological, animal analogs removed a lot of the uncertainty for human spaceflight, and who knows what would have happened without it.
Today, we have the benefit of both the animal trials and the missions of human space explorers. We owe them so much, it is difficult to quantify. From that we know a great deal what success looks like, and failure, too. Now we have many options to simulate digitally how human systems in space will work, and another stable of techniques to simulate physically how the human-in-space system operates, and we pursue that a lot now. There is no experience like being there however, and getting bogged down in simulation and testing is also a danger. Analysis Paralysis, that would be the term. Risk is a part of life in this big cosmos of ours, and Outbound is a concept not fixated on excessive introspection.