About 50 years after the first person walked on the moon, our morals are still stuck on the earth.
The metal nap is flying faster than bullets; Space shuttle broke pieces; Astronauts were killed or removed in space. Criminal? Space Wreck – Remnants of a Russian satellite fired by the Russian missile. One surviving person, Ryan Stone, has failed to supply oxygen and has to return to earth with the closest viable spacecraft hundreds of miles away.
On Mars, in the future 20 years, an exploration mission from Earth is going wrong. A heavy storm forces the other astronauts to leave the planet, leaving one of the astronauts, Mark Watani, who is considered dead. He has to defend how to increase food while waiting for rescue.
Hollywood Films such as Gravity (2013) and The Martian (2015) put the current place at risk for hostile, who have the courage to operation outside the hostile boundaries of the Earth.
It is only a part of the story, though, with the center stage of the people a little bit. Of course, in any space astronauts do not want to be killed or stranded. And we want to enjoy the fruits of all successful planetary sciences, determining which planets can host human life or simply whether we are alone in the universe or not.
But should we care about the universe, how does it affect us as humans? This is a big question – call it Question # 1 of external environmental ethics, in a region many people have ignored for a very long time. I am one of the researchers at the University of St Andrews who is trying to change it. How the importance of the universe should be given, depends on two other interesting philosophical questions.
Question # 2: The type of life we are likely to find elsewhere is microbial – so how should we look at this life-form? Most people will accept that all humans have internal value, and not only for their use in respect to their utility Accept this and it is such that ethics depends on how we can treat them and their places of living.
Question # 3: Planets and other places are not hospitalized for life, what should we value on our environment? Rationally we care about our environment mainly on earth because it supports the species that live here. If so, then we can expand the same thinking for other planets and moons that can support life.
But it does not work for “dead” planets.
Question # 4: Is there any duty to protect the environment another planet? When it comes to sending astronauts and robots to other worlds, there are clearly scientific reasons to ensure that they do not take terrestrial animals along with them and allow them to be deposited there.
Otherwise, if we discovered life, then we would not know that it was indigenous – there is no risk of completely erasing it. But does scientific clarity matter all, or do we need to think about the Galactic Environmental Protection?
Question # 5: In addition to biological pollution, with respect to the environment of that planet, will it be counted as a violation of such obligation? Drilling for core samples, perhaps leaving the device behind, or putting tire track in the dirt?
Question # 6: What about asteroids? The race is going well to develop the technology to harvest countless trillion pounds of minerals that exist on the asteroids, as has been said in the conversation beforehand. It helps that no one appears to think about such asteroids that we need to preserve.
Question # 7: Arguments in favor of behaving ethically in space, can arguments offset? There may be many reasons to go there – intellectual / scientific, utilitarian – are we strong enough to override our obligations?
We also need to factor in unavoidable risks and uncertainties here. We do not know what the benefits of the space mission will be. We cannot be sure of not biologically contaminating those planets that we see. What risks / rewards should we stop trading?
The benefit of discussion about outer space is that we have very little attachment from there. Therefore, these ethical questions can only be few, which humans can address on an enormous scale of emotional distances. For this reason, answering them may help us to progress with issues related to earth like global warming, mass extinction and nuclear waste disposal.
Question # 8: Considering that Earth is not the only possible house for humans, once we can go somewhere else in reality, what will be the reason for the protection of its environment?
Benjamin Sachs is the Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of St. Andrews