By Barbara Warmbein; European Space Agency

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However, even though these probes will continue to precede humans in the future, they will never be able to replace us. It is the combination of cognitive, sensory and motor skills, attributes like creativity and intuition, that determine our unique capabilities and distinguish us from machines. Based on my own experience during the Euromir-95 mission to the Russian Space Station Mir, I can declare that no computer, no robot or any other automatic device would have been able to deal with the technical problems that arose from time to time.

Now, eleven years later, we recognise that the results have inspired and helped many scientific groups to come up with new ideas and develop more experiments in space and on Earth. As in Earth-bound laboratories, the experiments were designed, iterated, conducted, interpreted, adjusted and led to a meaningful outcome by humans. Humans are always the source of innovation, making use of all possible facets of their perception and senses. This is why human presence is essential to carry out experiments, especially in such a unique and relatively new environment as weightlessness.

McCool, Michael P. Anderson; bottom row, from left: Kalpana Chawla, Rick D. Husband, Laurel B. Clark and Ilan Ramon. On 1 February 2003, the seven crewmembers were lost with the Space Shuttle Columbia. This picture was on a roll of unprocessed film recovered from the debris. (NASA) the missions centered around the Hubble Space Telescope. Its undisputed success, resulting in an ever better understanding of our Universe, would not have been possible without the respective service and repair missions carried out by the astronauts (including Claude Nicollier and Jean-François Clervoy from ESA).

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