About Lucianne Walkowicz
Lucianne Walkowicz is an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and the 2017-2018 Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/LOC Chair in Astrobiology. Walkowicz studies the ethics of Mars exploration, stellar magnetic activity, how stars influence a planet’s suitability as a host for alien life, and how to use advanced computing to discover unusual events in large astronomical data sets. Walkowicz is the founding director of the LSSTC Data Science Fellowship Program, an initiative to provide astronomy graduate students with training in advanced computing. Walkowicz speaks and writes regularly on topics at the intersection of science and society, which have appeared on TED.com, Slate, The Washington Post, Vox, and more.
Walkowicz holds a BS in Physics and Astronomy from Johns Hopkins University, an MS and PhD in Astronomy from the University of Washington, and held postdoctoral fellowships at UC Berkeley and Princeton prior to joining the Adler Planetarium. They are also a TED Senior Fellow and a practicing artist, working in a variety of media, from performance to sound.
About Erika Nesvold
Erika Nesvold earned her Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and has conducted astrophysics research at the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, the Carnegie Institute’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, and the NASA Frontier Development Laboratory. She currently works as an Astrophysicist & Developer on the Universe Sandbox astronomy simulator game, and has written articles on astronomy, history, and other topics for Astronomy Magazine, The Planetary Society, and DamnInteresting.com. More information on her research and writing can be found on her website.
Erika produced and hosted the 13-episode Making New Worlds podcast, which explored the ethical issues involved in settling space. In 2018, Erika co-founded The JustSpace Alliance in partnership with Lucianne Walkowicz.
Co-Founders of JustSpace Alliance, Lucianne Walkowicz and Erika Nesvold join Alberto Lidji to discuss space ethics and an inclusive and ethical future in space; and implications here on Earth.
Lucianne and Erika start by dispelling the notion that space is a ‘blank canvass’. Humans bring their own perspective and history into the equation. However, when people think about systems here on earth, these can often feel very entrenched. By contrast, when one thinks about space, much more creative thinking can prevail.
JustSpace Alliance is a new organisation and has just celebrated its first anniversary in November 2019. During this time, they have partnered with likeminded thinkers, convened diverse stakeholders and organised insightful events.
In one such recent event, they explored governance in space, looking at existing legal frameworks for space and considering how these might need to be changed or expanded.
As the conversation progressed, more and more ethical issues started coming to the fore around diversity and inclusion, environmental protection and medical testing, to name a few.
Erika pondered: when we explore space, are we going to be bringing a perfectly representative sample of society? Probably not; so what are the implications? And, is space only for those who can afford the ticket or should it be accessible to everyone?
The topic of European colonisation arose during the conversation as well, with both Lucianne and Erika underscoring the need to learn lessons from this past as we look to engage with extra-terrestrial life in the future.
They note the environment is a consideration in space as well, not just here on Earth. We hear how the Moon and Mars are often looked at as potential sources for natural resources – don’t we have a responsibility to look after these bodies as well?
An ethical issue that’s present right now pertains to medical experiments in space. Those who fly into space are essentially taking part in a medical experiment.
We hear how in space, one’s health changes – eyesight changes, bone density changes etc. So, what does this mean for the provision of consent; what does it mean for one’s ability to withdraw consent while in space?
Likewise, we have no idea what the impacts are of radiation and microgravity on a developing foetus; and if we want to find out then that requires experimentation on pregnant women and foetuses in space. There is an abundance of ethical red flags that need to be addressed.
When asked where exactly does space ethics reside, the answer is unequivocal: space ethics resides everywhere.
At JustSpace Alliance they convene and foster a cross-pollination of ideas and opinions across diverse fields. Creating opportunities for this kind of dialogue to take place is one of the key reasons why Lucianne and Erika decided to launch the JustSpace Alliance.
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