This article by Dr. Cynthia Phillips @ SETI asks whether robots are better suited for space travel, and whether humans are ready to handle the fact that these tireless explorers might take "our place" on Mars. Here's an excerpt:
"On a purely scientific level, there is very little in our current solar system exploration program that can't be done just as effectively by a robot as by an astronaut. Robots excel at the tedious work of taking similar pictures or analyzing similar rocks over and over and over again, without complaint (usually!) or a need for life support systems. Robots don't need food or water, they can withstand much more damaging radiation, and, perhaps most importantly, they don't need to come home at the end of the mission. Simply put, a one-way trip requires only half the fuel of a round trip voyage, and even though you'd likely get plenty of volunteer astronauts signing up for a one-way trip to Mars, it's unlikely that our current moral and ethical code would allow us to send such a mission."
Fascinating questions. What would Maxon say? Full article here: robots in space.