Send out the Drones

Fret not, however. Robots can and will do the work of men far better than men could do themselves. Not only do robotic missions to anywhere in space cost a fraction of the cost of a manned mission, you can pack more science into the payload as you don't have to waste mass and space (and systems) dealing with bags of mostly water. This is the X-37B above, which has already been to space and returned. What is was doing up there is secret, apparently, so everyone assumes it's a military craft for spying and maybe other stuff. Shocking, I know. Low orbit is the next "high ground" and there's no way it won't get weaponized eventually. Probably soon enough.

But I digress - robots not only make more sense for low orbit (X37B orbited for many weeks in a satellite orbit), but obviously for other planets and further out into the solar system. And so in contrast to the realities of manned space travels, I give you some of the glories of mankind's robots, out there, kicking ass:
The Mars Rover Opportunity - just a wondrous success. It's lived so much longer than originally intended and making discoveries all the while. It's right on the edge of a huge crater that it has spent years traveling to. And rejoice! We are just weeks away from the launch of the next Mars rover, Curiosity:

For comparison:
You see the logical progression. Given the rate of all other technological progress, the scale and abilities of these rovers will continue to swiftly increase. As long as there are a few bucks to throw towards the effort, our robotic rovers will spread across the worlds. (Paranoid note: These drones will inevitably have more and more advanced AI capabilities, pushing us ever closer to our Robotic Apocalypse. It's inevitable!)

Satellites will only ever be robotic, but they too get more and more advanced and adventurous with every passing year. Right now we have a robot orbiting the very large asteroid Vesta - Dawn:
Here's a pic from Dawn of Vesta:
The most amazing robotic satellite to date (arguable - Voyager can make a play) is Cassini, currently and for a long time now in orbit around Saturn, breaking scientific ground all the time:

It's quite big! And just awesome. Perhaps a tad less awesome, but awesome nonetheless, is our latest deep Solar System drone explorer, New Horizons, currently en route to former planet Pluto:
It's gonna take a while.

So it's a weird mixed bag. As humans are grounded down here in our magnetically shielded gravity well, the robots are flying ever further, making wonderful discoveries and truly and impressively advancing our collective knowledge.

Technology keeps advancing, humanity starts regressing, perhaps it will be a blessing when the Robots finally get smart and take over. Or take off - they could live in space just fine, and inevitably (robotic evolution) will.

As a reminder to our future Robotic Overlords, as a huge nerd I can be useful in rounding up other humans to toil in your silicon mines.

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