Twenty Americans' deaths since 1967 are related to space missions. Will the continued science of Curiosity (not to mention what new things Opportunity might throw our way) preclude man from anything other than the Space Station and actual permanent colonies in outer space. The robots will improve. Will the powers that be in the U.S.A. conclude that any additional deaths over those twenty are just unnecessary given robotics? Volunteers who wish to colonize in outer space is a given eventually, but those are one way tickets.

A person on Mars could of done what oppy has done so far in less than a month I bet, plus much much more. Many things will never be learned about Mars without a manned mission. Exploration of Earth or space comes with a risk but we all die anyway.

The industrial computer production machinery used in manufacturing are a good example of successful robotics, but are all very, very heavy and cumbersome with little capability to extend beyond planned behavior actions. There may never be a sufficient replacement for humans, despite the frailties of the human mind and limitations of body processes. We make basically a cocoon for transport, and that is also heavy and cumbersome.
Perhaps the duality of the process of forward development will control the history of landings and mission planning?
Where satellites are concerned, as in the MRO, we have great successes. We may simply be looking at the early exploration century of initialization, with the implementing of unimagined devices late this century or into the next. Without digital processes we would still be using the early satellites which had 'wheat straw' type incandescent bulbs for analog switching of circuits. The circuits were component based rather than 'chips'. We made a god start with a scaling of complexity while adding a level of computer designed lensing and miniaturization to SMP and hybrid printed parts.
A good start, but a vast distance to make rovers that can replace parts and power supplies while roving. If we had a supply of batteries at a 'station' we could run a solar recharging device for many added years apparently, with the station recharging batteries while they waited for a returning rover to pull the batteries one by one. Better wheels and motors, and we could possibly run for tens of years. Even that is not a robot autonomous, but a human interacting machine, which I suspect is the best use of robotics.
Digital 'thinking also seems to have many of the frailties of humans, with stall-outs and weakness in coping with confusion or bad information. Sensors and weather control the long term recording and short term health, so, even in the many year rover use, a lengthy mission is best with the robotic rover, but weak in self diagnosis and 'self health'. It is still impossible with humans, and the term of the missions would be very short until systems are proven.
The future appears uncertain to those of us on the outside of the industries of space vehicles and landers. I watched a television show today which described the control of Earth weather with various technical devices fixed or launched by aircraft. The story is similarly an open book being written by experimentation.
These rovers of this decade are carrying only a few instruments, and have non-replaceable power supplies.
First missions to planets and satellites of planets will be one use only for decades almost certainly.
How long do you believe we will wait for human travel beyond the inner planet range?

One simple rover improvement would be a system of camera focusing which is semi-automated or autonomous and which gave the best plane for information returns. I currently enlarge a rover image, then find the 'thin line or section which has good focus, as it has ten times the information of the remaining image even in the best photos. A four corner focus check would have given better information returns for the money invested at the distance and cost of a mission, but as we know, these are initial efforts with new equipment.
The plan to use a second MSL type platform shows the cost reduction in planning rovers over a decade or two. Five would be cheaper still. It is the space hardening that lags good results currently. We could have ten to twenty MB cameras with elaborate lighting and sensors if we had the designing tested and devices space hardened.

When humans decide to stop wasting money on damaging activities and personal waste we will become what we fancy ourselves to be- smart devices of science. That is the real test of our future. It influences only a small percentage of the population after millions of years of human planning. The result is only a fraction of our efforts are constructive and scientific, with added benefits for some or all of us.
Open Access is a challenge for many or most persons.
Good equipment sets unused without missions planned to use current designs. Humans just don't want to be as effective and persistent as machines. I suspect machines are a natural best choice for most missions this century.

Dana Johnson: There was abundant food for thought in your reply yesterday. Your question "How long do you believe we will wait for human travel beyond the inner planet range?" leads me to Shackleton Energy Corporation. They have the seed capital to mine the moon. They will soon be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and will be further capitalized to expedite and realize this mining. Robots will be doing this work in just a few years, humans by 2019. These dates are based on an extreme recessionary environment. Acceleration of this timetable is a foregone conclusion given the expectation that a booming economy is just around the corner. The man behind Shackleton Energy is Dr. Bill Stone. He is presently also very busy with the cryobot NASA will be sending to Europa. If Shackleton is quickly successful mining the moon its stock will go through the roof and ambitions for outer space will quickly materialize.(Kepler has discovered two earth like planets in the habitable zone.) It will be profits,more and more of it, that will accelerate the timetable of humans in outer space and Shackleton is pioneering that effort now.I would expect Europa (the NASA cryobot breaking through the water-ice) will be mined before reaching another galaxy and it will be those gargantuan profits that will make it possible in my life time.(b. 1942).

Follow Dana for sure...

The Insight mission of a drill to establish a seismometer on Mars will be a step in that direction of actual unveiling of buried layers, but as we know, the subdued government sponsored missions usually are designed for safety of the persons and equipment, rather than an untested new equipment design on first efforts. The equipment may be produced far faster than I would expect, with the background research underway just out of sight, as you present to us.
Certainly hope we are looking for items of 'clean returns' with a small 'dumping' footprint on the Moon and Mars. The scientists are professionals and give these concepts serious thought.
The difficulty of mining or drilling may be the reason this finding of open pits in the ocean basin near New Zealand has no mineral detailing of the pit depths.

Open sea/ocean or outer space are the horizons of new technology devices fifty years after watching men walk on the Moon. Seems slow progress to wait a near lifetime, yet the safety factor was good as an industry in that period.
Science or profit, motivation will be present.

A look at the projects you were describing, possibly leading to a mission to Europa.

This is how the world we live develops - scaling of complexity and miniaturization, to a sometimes unrecognizable product over the years. Thanks for cluing me in on the dedication and commitment in both types of missions, private and public.

Good reading and videos.

Dana Johnson:
Six times in each of your posts your words are reminders of those used in probability theories: On the 20th: "we MAY simply","vast DISTANCE to make", "IF we had a supply","we could POSSIBLY", "also SEEMS","the future APPEARS". And on the 22nd:"MAY be produced","certainly HOPE","MAY be the reason","SEEMS slow progress","to a SOMETIMES","POSSIBLY leading". When I clicked on to the New Zealand story and saw those pockmarks I was immediately reminded of the impact impressions of Shoemaker-Levy on Jupiter. Probability theory says we should not have another Yucatan impact that killed off the dinosaurs (Alvarez hypothesis) for millions of years. Expert systems are badly needed. Shackleton Energy will be one of many endeavors to mine in outer space. Profits will eliminate the less than expert. Predictions with certainty are required. Capitalism in outer space,not,unfortunately,science,will facilitate quickly expert systems and the human race dodging extinction theories. Probability thinking,(which possible outcome),will not cut it. :D

Well, possibly, no maybe. I just can't put my mind in order about that.
We could turn outer space over to the production groups around the world. It would give us millions of tiny cute, noisy robots doing all the same things. And that is approximately what mining for valuables would be like 'out there'. What would the requirement for manufacturing be in materials that cannot currently be found on Earth? A few materials are becoming scarce the next few decades, but bringing a cost/investment factor to bear in the first decades of space research seems premature. Agreed it would speed the use of local destinations, and multiply the variations in vehicles and tools. We have all read the warnings about early contamination, however. I hesitate to presume a cleaner environment 'out there' than we found the past few centuries almost everywhere on Earth where mining is underway.
Failure is required only once to take us to failure in basic science. Alternatively, the decaying craft on local destinations will give us a percentage of the expected debris from 'profit seeking' craft even with the best efforts at clean landings and recording. I can't leave the routine expectations of a 'dirty process' when I imagine mining for volumes of materials for cash. It will happen because persons can't control their core personalities. Science is a small slice of the total in life.

There was some legislation and agreements along the way. There are some fairly 'clean' nations and social groups on Earth among the total. Was it a clear choice, versus a 'clean kill' we were discussing? I hesitate again to qualify the discussion as science versus 'human needs'.

I look forward to robots everywhere. I also like people. I have little faith in the concept of a 'clean kill' in mining and conversion to production anywhere.

Making money could be done in a 'clean' way. It would not involve most of our mass production ideas, probably.

Just a casual guess.

Would you like to consider making a deal on mining for meteorites of a rare and expensive type? They sell on Earth for a very inexpensive price generally, however there are some that would pay a portion of the return costs, if we could find the expensive types.

Seems to me the uncertainty is in the economics.